December 21, 2013

Hang A String Of Lights: The Fuel/Friends 2013 Christmas Mix


Coming in juuust under the wire with mere days left to go before Christmas (hey, I haven’t done any shopping yet either!), the holiday spirit finally bit me the other night in earnest, sitting by the tree with eggnog and delving through the songs I was considering assembling into this year’s mix. I wasn’t sure I would get a mix done this year, but I started marveling over the really solid crop of songs to choose from this year and it quickly became a no-brainer of wonderfulness.

I’m so thankful for so many things this year, including all of you, and I love being part of your holiday celebrations. Here’s to all the non-annoying seasonal tunes out there — the ones that light up the darkness on this, the longest night of the year. Hang a string of lights, strike a candle, and let’s banish some of this darkness together. Merry Christmas.


(download the whole thing as a zip)

It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop (choir version) – Frightened Rabbit
The original version of this song appeared on my Christmas mix in 2008, when I was listening to a lot of Frightened Rabbit and being very sad about things. I’m just hearing this celestial b-side rendition, and is almost 100% just simple choral magnificence. Wayy better psychological ramifications.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – Sleeping At Last
Ryan O’Neal puts out an entire Christmas song collection every year (“Snow” was last year’s terrific contribution to this mix), and his Lennon cover is a standout of 2013′s. With every passing year, I am more strongly drawn to the simplicity in this song, especially the way Ryan sings it. Two songs into the mix and I already have something in my eye.

Mvmt IV, Every Bell On Earth Will Ring – The Oh Hellos
Stop reading this right now and go download the new Oh Hellos Family Christmas EP right now. It is the best thing out there this season, free or otherwise. They’re playing a few Colorado shows around the holidays, guys. I want them to come to my house because — listen to this.

I Believe In Santa Claus – Dr Dog
From their marvelous little new EP of original Christmas songs that you must get right away. Quirky, melodic goodness, as one would expect from these gents.

Hang A String Of Lights – Great Lake Swimmers
This is kind of what Christmas in California used to sound like. From Nettwerk’s Christmas 2012 collection.

Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan is the reigning king of all Christmas songs now and forevermore (but hey, I can’t put “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever” on every year’s mix, so I am branching out). This is from his Silver & Gold EPs, a sampling of which is now free over on Noisetrade.

Tennessee Christmas – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives
Dude, Drew — circa 1983 Amy Grant covers? Bold. Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives are now reincarnated as Modern Kin (with an excellent album this year), but this is an old recording from a few years ago. When Drew sings those lyrics about Colo-raaaa-do and our deep snows, I have to swoon.

O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Folk Angel
This Dallas band offers up their stomping take on this traditional carol, from a free sampler on Noisetrade. Noisetrade is killin’ it this Christmas.

Silver Bells – Edmund Wayne
Curt (frontman of Edmund Wayne) is one of my favorite souls I’ve hosted for a house show – a pure and piercing presence, with gorgeously-crafted songs. This quiet lo-fi Christmas EP fell in my lap yesterday, and not only includes this song, but you must must must check out “1616” (it made me cry at my house show last weekend / a perfect song).

Maybe This Christmas (Ron Sexsmith) – Paul Jacobsen & The Madison Arm
I feel lucky to have a wonderful community of folk musician friends in Salt Lake City (backstory/mix), and some of them got together to do up a richly sweet cover of Ron Sexsmith. Sarah Sample also joins in here on vocals – she’s got a lullaby album in the making, too.

You Never Come Home For Christmas – Caitlin Rose & Keegan DeWitt
Caitlin’s not yet a friend, but we have a lot of folks in common, so I took a special listen to her playful duet here with her neighbor Keegan, which delivers a zing of a lyrical punch: “You never come home for Christmas — and maybe it’s better that way.”

In The Bleak Midwinter – Andrew Greer
The thoughtful and wonderful Cover Lay Down blog described Andrew Greer as “heavenly folk tenor reminiscent of an early Paul Simon,” and so yep, I’m on board.

Are You Coming Over for Christmas? – Belle & Sebastian
The feyest of all fey Christmas songs, in such an endearing way. Yes Stuart, I am coming over. Keep the fire in the kitchen going.

O Holy Night – Kalai
I have listened a hundred times or more to the only other Kalai song I have, a James-Taylor doppelganger ballad that exudes a simple grace. So I was excited to see him on the free MetCom Studios Eggnog Sampler this year with a cover of my favorite Christmas carol.

Still, Still, Still – The Lower Lights
The Lower Lights are a folk collective of those aforementioned good folks in Salt Lake City, and this year again they got roughly 463 musicians together and just released their second Christmas album, with marvelous album art from Hatch Show Print. The ladies of The Souvenirs sing here.

Merry Christmas, I’m Yours – Prairie Empire
This time last year Brittain Ashford of Prairie Empire came through Denver and treated a small lucky group to a special subterranean show that I remember well. This breathy song is from last year’s free Auld Lang Syne EP.

Blue Christmas – Vandaveer
This year I got to welcome Rose & Mark into my home for a concert and into the chapel to record their (almost-next-up) chapel session, and it was a thorough joy. I love how Mark’s voice here sounds like a sultry jazz lady. From 2010′s free 3-song Christmas EP.

Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band
There are a lot of covers of this song floating around out there, but somehow I’ve never posted the original and it is still my favorite.

Xmas Eve – The Damnwells
I used this song on my mix way back in 2007, but I have been revisiting it on the regular in the last few weeks, since Alex Dezen of The Damnwells graced us with a tremendous house show. This is just a really good song, Christmastime or no, and I always appreciate those contributions to this mix. I am glad the original lineup is making a new album.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Elvis Presley
You can’t not feel a pang in your chest when you hear this one, especially the way Elvis croons it.

Carol of the Banjos – Beta Radio
From their free Christmas EP this year; 2011′s “The Song The Season Brings” still sounds so very good too.

Our World (Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas) – Kyle Zantos & Bryan John Appleby
Several of my favorite Seattle musicians take on this song from the 1977 Jim Henson classic, and it is so humble and just perfect. From the new, free Santa’s Slay EP.


[the mix cover art, as usual, by the wonderful and generous Ryan Hollingsworth, from a photo I took last Christmas under lights at the Broadmoor Hotel with Megan from the Music vs Misery blog, Winston from Night Beds, Adam from Songsfortheday, and my good friend Andrew. Here’s to warm twinkly nights and another beauty-filled year.]

December 12, 2012

All is calm / All is bright :: The Fuel/Friends 2012 Holiday Mix

It finally snowed full-force in Colorado this weekend, enough to divert me off the highway in a flurry of white, and to a roadside La Quinta on Saturday night coming home from the Patty Griffin concert. The temps hovered consistently at a lush 19º Sunday, and is currently at 7º. All is calm and bright because no one wants to move outside their electric blankets, so it’s been a good weekend for me to road-test these songs. I am very pleased to report that this is my favorite December mix I’ve yet made.

When it comes to music I can handle in December, I have a suuuper low threshold for annoying. We talk about this every year, you and me (and anyone who has the bad luck of walking into a retail establishment with me). No chipmunks, no Spanish cantantes with clacky castanets, no cloying duets, and we shall not speak of synthesizers.

I have subjected myself to some of these unpalatable things in my quest to screen out the perfect holiday mix to soundtrack your season, but the good news is that sites like Bandcamp are making is very easy for musicians to release quality originals to their fans for the holidays. This year I had the bonus-really-good idea to ask some musician friends of mine who have been loved by Fuel/Friends over the years if they had anything lying around that they’d like to contribute. A surprising number of them said yes (!!). Ben Kyle of Romantica sent me an original song of his, and Eef Barzelay (of Clem Snide) replied with his pensive version of a Christmas classic. Denison Witmer had lost his copy of “The Gift of Grace” (one of my favorite original Christmas songs in a long time) so I dug it up to put on this mix and sent him a copy.

I’ve been raving to friends all week about the high proportion of just really good SONGS in this year’s mix — holidays, or no. Some of these I might sneak a listen to all year ’round. At the very minimum, I have some new artists in my stable now. This mix also fits on a CD, with gorgeous album art by Ryan Hollingsworth (can we give him a round of applause for donating his design skills for all of my mixes for the last couple/many seasons?) and a photograph taken by my friend Jewel in Portland. Burn copies for all your friends, for the best kind of gift you can give them.

Christmas hugs to all of you, from me. That sweater looks really nice on you.


Christmas Song – Yarn
This song is what would happen if “The Weight” was a holiday carol, and is just so perfectly bittersweet. You know, in a really sentimental good way though. Yarn from Brooklyn released this last year.

Carry Me Home – Hey Rosetta!
This was written in the summer in Australia, but it was after the band had been on tour for a while, and so the sentiments of wanting to be close to family ring true this time of year. This also reminds me of a terrific Graceland outtake or something. I love this band so much x1000. From their new Christmas EP.

Do You Hear What I Hear – Tyler Heath (of The Oh Hellos)
Finding this Christmas EP from Tyler Heath was kind of like hitting the jackpot, since I am extremely fond of the new Oh Hellos record (get it here; they were also on my Fall mix)

Let The Snow Fall – Andrew and the North American Grizzly
This song just walked into my holiday party and won me over with a wink. “These songs are red and green / so let’s sing ‘em.” I swear it wasn’t just the eggnog. From Bandcamp.

Snow – Sleeping at Last
Okay. SO. This Wheaton, Illinois band is just one guy, Ryan O’Neal, and he is two-for-two at totally knocking me for a loop with the unassuming splendor and insight of his songs. I first featured him on my springtime mix (and pulled the mix title itself from one of his lyrics). He spent last year releasing regular EPs all year on a subscription model through his “Yearbook” project, with a whole free album of Christmas music out now. I don’t usually post entire lyrics in the dead-center of a mix, but this is pretty much the best wish any of us can hope for this holiday season. When I burn this mix for friends, I am going to print these lyrics out as a benediction for each one of them.

The branches have traded their leaves for white sleeves
all warm-blooded creatures make ghosts as they breathe
scarves are wrapped tightly like gifts under trees
christmas lights tangle in knots annually

Our families huddled closely, betting warmth against the cold
and our bruises seem to surface like mud beneath the snow
so we sing carols softly, as sweet as we know
and pray that our burdens will lift as we go
like young love still waiting under mistletoe
welcome December, with tireless hope

Let our bells keep on ringing, making angels in the snow
and may the melody disarm us when the cracks begin to show
like the petals in our pockets, may we remember who we are:
unconditionally cared for by those who share our broken hearts

The table is set and all glasses are full
no pieces go missing, may we still a feel a hole
we’ll build new traditions in place of the old
’cause life without revision will silence our souls

Let the bells keep on ringing, making angels in the snow
and may the melody surround us when the cracks begin to show
like the petals in our pockets, may we remember who we are:
unconditionally cared for by those who share our broken hearts

As gentle as feathers the snow piles high
our world gets rewritten, and retraced every time
like fresh paints and clean slates, our future is white
new year’s resolutions will reset tonight.

Come – Oh, Starling
A Christmas original that weaves together a lot of carols you know, and filters them through a warm haze like falling asleep on the backseat of your parents’ car on the way home from church services when you were seven. Oh, Starling is one of Denver’s finest pairings, of Jessica Sonner and Dan Craig, who both make wonderful music also on their own, and have two holiday EPs.

Rebel Jesus (Jackson Browne) – The Wood Brothers
Also from these Colorado mountains, the Wood Brothers (as in Medeski, Martin, and Wood) offer up their slightly broken, roadworn take on Jackson Browne’s classic hymn to the pagan heathens and the true rebellion inherent in the Jesus that some of us celebrate this season.

Joy To The World – Eef Barzelay
Since Eef (of Clem Snide) does such magical things with his music, both his originals and his reinvented covers, I asked him what he had for the season and he replied with this. There is no triumphant majesty here, but there is a quiet peace.

Brightly Above – The Prairie Empire
The seasonal EP from this Brooklyn band is so lovely that I broke form and put them on here twice. Their full-length debut record has also been on Fuel/Friends rotation.

O Holy Night – Branches
Everyone probably has their favorite Christmas song and this is mine. I especially favor ones I can sing along with at the top of my lungs, so the prominent alto harmonies here are my jam. Branches are doing this cool California mini-tour next week of singing along to Christmas songs. If I still lived there, I would go and belt it. From their Christmas EP on Bandcamp.

Christmas Night – Justin Jones
This is a love song camouflaged as a Christmas song, kind of like how my favorite Jason Anderson song is only peripherally-related to the 4th of July. Justin Jones is from Washington D.C. and he has an Americana record out called Fading Light.

In The Bleak Midwinter – The Weather Station
Good job on making this song actually feel a bit bleak and midwintery, in the quiet delivery that feels a little like a Nico song (they also make records that look like it). This song came from 2010′s Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada Deux free mix from some neighbs to the north.

Christmas Eve Can Kill You (The Everly Brothers) – Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Dawn McCarthy
I’m not sure anyone, ever, done better harmonies than the Everly Brothers, and Will Oldham nails it here with Dawn McCarthy, also his collaborator on The Letting Go. They make being stuck in the snow trying to hitchhike home almost sound good. And ooh, you can buy this song (and another) on 7″ vinyl now; I think it would sound real nice on the turntable this time of year.

Winter Eclipse – Beta Radio
These guys contributed “The Song The Season Brings” on last year’s December mix, and it was probably one of my most listened-to of the bunch. They’ve released another seasonal EP for free on Bandcamp this year.

The Gift of Grace – Denison Witmer
Denison remembers this song as one of his first experiments with home recording, and I remember it as one of my favorite original Christmas songs ever written; so pure, so clear. So humanizing. You might have recently seen this bit of majesty from Denison last week, alongside his longtime bud Sufjan Stevens (promoting Suf’s Friendship Slay Ride), and I think he should make me more holiday songs. Maybe in white spandex.

Winter’s Night – Joshua Hyslop
If it’s cold in Colorado, I hear it’s even colder in Canada, where Joshua Hyslop hails from, and his voice sounds like the way a warm sweater feels. I want to snuggle into it. Joshua’s debut record Where The Mountain Meets the Valley came out this year.

Bring A Little Light – Ben Kyle
I met Ben in 2007, along with his Minneapolis band Romantica, after a recording surfaced online of a duet he did with Ryan Adams, which wormed his music deeply into my ear. Ben is from Belfast with his lovely lilt, and has a solo record out now (featured on my MPLS mix). He sent me this haunting original for this mix.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel – The Gundersen Family
I want to be around Noah and Abby and the rest of the Gundersens all the damn time. This is from their holiday party last year at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle. [watch]

Silent Night – Prairie Empire
And this one — this song is the sound of the deepest peace to me, in all of its forms.


December 9, 2011

Fuel/Friends’ 2011 Midnight-Clear December Mix

Pine trees and icicles and carolers — check. But can we please just talk for a moment about how it was -2 degrees the other night in Colorado? TWO BELOW, with howling winds. I like the beer, but man alive that makes for some cold sleeping.

All the golden loveliness of autumn is gone, and in its place we have this icy, silent cocoon all around us, luminescent and silvery-blue. Perhaps I just have to survive these next two weeks of school, and maybe go on a little cookie-baking binge, and then the season will feel like it is here. We are celebrating a very spartan (Little House On The Prairie-style) Christmas this year (everyone gets an orange, maybe a button). I am hoping that on the bright side it will make me remember, as Charlie Brown says, what Christmas is really all about.

I’m pleased to collate twenty-five songs for you, for late nights in December. Assembled together the last few evenings over generous glasses of BotaBox red wine and a happy heart (because really, what is more fun than making a seasonal mix?) — Merry Christmas and happy wintering to you all. I am thankful for you, and glad you read what I have to share; this is absolutely my utter favorite of these holiday mixes so far.

Now go get me the electric blanket; it’s on the couch.

Merry Xmas Anyways – Typhoon
(A PDXmas comp)
Just Like Christmas (Low) – David Bazan
Oh Come All Ye Faithful – The Lower Lights
(so good)
Snow Is Falling – Darker My Love
Christmas Must Be Tonight (The Band) – Bahamas
(Vol. 2)
Remember When It Snowed – Rosie Thomas (new song!)
O Holy Night – Quiet Company (from their free Holiday EP)
The Christmas Waltz – She & Him
When The Bells Start Ringing – My Morning Jacket
(new EP)
The Ice and Snow Haunt Me Still – Brown Bird (via)
I Saw Three Ships – Megafaun (from Hometapes)
The Song The Season Brings – Beta Radio (love this)
Christmas Eve For Two – Summer Fiction
It’s Christmas Time – Matthew Ryan
Go Tell It On The Mountain (feat. Mark Apel) – Seryn (via)
Hey Parker, It’s Christmas – Ryan Adams
(old song, overdue)
The Blizzard – Camera Obscura
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Travel By Sea
Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi) – Dawes
New Year’s Eve – Haunting Party
(free xmas tape)
It’s Christmas. Go on and say hello – Roman Candle (via)
When The Thames Froze – Smith & Burrows
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Chris Martin
Snowed In Seattle – Josiah Johnson
(of The Head and The Heart, wonderfully long ago)
Silent Night – Sufjan Stevens (with Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, and Richard Parry of Arcade Fire)


Hey! The last four years of mixes are still online too. I take my holly-jollying seriously.

[album art, as always, by the marvelous Ryan Hollingsworth, who has a chilly-evocative wonderful winter mix of his own up here]

December 12, 2010

Fuel/Friends 2010 Mix for a Wintry December

Christmas Mix 2010

Despite a somewhat peculiar lack of snow so far this December, I went ahead tonight and made myself a White Russian and felt very mysterious (like the kind of girl who makes herself White Russians on a quiet Sunday evening) and sifted through my favorite seasonal music by the twinkling tree for this year’s Christmasy/wintry mix.

As I say every year, and as we are reminded in every lonely drugstore and crowded mall, there is a colossal amount of craptastic holiday music that should never be played again, ever. Synthesizers, no. Chipmunks, no. Every year I wonder if I will be able to find enough good new songs to use for a complete mix of meaningful, pensive, spirited Christmas music. Every year find that with some searching and selective culling, I can.

This year’s mix ranges from the brand-new to quite-old melodies, but all are road tested by yours truly, and I hope they add a pleasing lilt to your holiday celebrations. Last month marked five years of Fuel/Friends, and this is a little year-end gift to you all. Thank you for reading and listening.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Wheat
(new 2010 Christmas single)

It’s Christmas – Coconut Records (oh, Jason, I’ve missed ye)

You Are A Gift – Basia Bulat (from this free holiday sampler)

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – R.E.M. (new 2010 Christmas single)

Snow Day – Matt Pond PA (Winter Songs EP)

It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas (Sam Phillips) – Toad The Wet Sprocket (new for 2010!)

I Heard The Bells On Christmas – Pedro The Lion

O Holy Night – Benji Cossa (from this album)

White Christmas – Otis Redding

Listening to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas – Okkervil River

Just Like Christmas (Low) – Fanfarlo (from the 2009 NPR Tiny Desk Concert)

River (Joni Mitchell) – Rosie Thomas (also this might be my favorite winter song of hers, ever)

Happy Christmas (War is Over) – Teitur (Scandinavian singer covered Lennon last week for a Christmas youtube delight)

Tiny Tree Christmas – Guster (from that Target comp)

Snow Will Fall Tonight – Peter Bradley Adams (eastmountainsouth singer’s new song)

Christmas Is Coming Soon – Blitzen Trapper

The Snow Angel and The Icicle Sword – Ian McGlynn (fundraiser for ill Baby Jaq)

A Long December (Counting Crows) – John Craigie (free covers album)

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Laura Gibson

Only At Christmas Time – Sufjan Stevens

Fairytale of New York (Pogues) – Matthew And The Atlas (new for 2010!)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – David Bazan
(live on Daytrotter)

Wanting And Regret – Jason Anderson (I love this part)

Winter Song – The Head and The Heart

I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Leif Vollebekk

Gonna Make It Through The Year – Great Lake Swimmers

This Will Be Our Year (Zombies) – The Mynabirds w/ J. Tom Hnatow (2010 Christmas single)

Auld Lang Syne – Kate & James Taylor (from this comp)

Silent Night – My Morning Jacket (live on WFPK)


PS – Hey, the last three years’ mixes are still online!

[top photo from Paris, via this blog]
December 10, 2009

The ghosts of Christmas past

christmas tree

(Ahh, memories of when it was warm enough in a California December to cut down the Christmas tree in short sleeves…)

The holly jolly person in you will be pleased to know that my Christmas mixes from the last two years are also now re-upped, after a wrestling match between me, my server, and some impudent FTP software. It got real ugly.

But these songs? These are mostly pretty, and seasonally appropriate. Please enjoy; Merry Christmas.

2007 Fuel/Friends Christmas Mixery
2008 (Naughty/Nice) Fuel/Friends Christmas Mix

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December 8, 2009

Fuel/Friends Christmas Mix 2009

christmas 2009

Well today is a snow day in my part of Colorado, bringing everything outside to a deadened, frozen, thickly-blanketed crawl. It’s gorgeous and quiet, and perfect weather for putting the finishing touches on my annual Christmas mix. I do love Christmas music, as you might remember from past years, but I also have a picky palate and am always amazed when I turn on the radio (as I did last night while we played cards) at how many many Christmas songs should have never been made. If I have to hear “Wonderful Christmastime” again, I might gouge out my eardrum with a candy cane to the beat of those synthesizers.

Even though there’s room on this mix I’ve made for the fun and light-hearted (I am in love with the opening remix track), I do tend to find myself drawn to the reflective and traditional songs at this time of year. Maybe it’s some slight seasonal affection disorder, or the natural rhythms of winter — or an internalization that this is a month of hope and light but that there is such need out there as well. I went to an ecumenical advent service this weekend at the old stone chapel on the college campus where I work, and one of the professors from the Classics department read a bit from the book of John about how the light shines into the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. I found the simplicity of that inspiring in a way that surprised me. I sat there in the candlelight thinking about dichotomies of light and dark, hope and despair, kindness vs. letting ourselves be hard and stony.

Anyways, there’s a bit of reflection from me on how this season is wrapping itself into my thoughts, as I sit here beside this pretty twinkling Christmas tree, warm under a fuzzy blanket. I also delight in how all these music blogs have made such a rad collection of alternative holiday tunes available for the endless mixing.

Now I’m gonna go watch Elf.

…Oh! and we’ll hope Edward Hopper won’t mind the bastardization of his moody Nighthawks painting too much. It made me smile, and is exactly how I feel today.


White Christmas – Corporal Blossom (from the free Very Bootie Xmas comp)
O Christmas Tree – The Layaways (free track from their Christmas album)
Kamikaze Christmas Economy (I Owe) – Jeremy Fisher (free track from last year, great artist)
The Warmest Part of Winter – Voxtrot
River (Joni Mitchell cover) – Lex Land
Listen To The Choir Sing – Ian McGlynn
Murder by Mistletoe – Felice Brothers
First Christmas – Boyracer
(from their Christmas EP)
Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) – Laura Marling
Winter Winds – Mumford & Sons
O Holy Night – Cary Brothers
(from his Father Christmas EP)
I Know The Reason – Mindy Smith & Thad Cockrell
Grateful For Xmas – Hayes Carll
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Chad Johnston
Blue Christmas – Bright Eyes
Seasonal Persuasion – Caithlin de Marrais
Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees – Elvis Presley
I Wonder As I Wander – Woven Hand
(from the free Familyre Christmas Vol. 1)
Christmas Eve Can Kill You – The Everly Brothers
It’s Almost Christmas – Chris Garneau
Snow Angels – Boca Chica
(from the Indiecater Christmas 2009 album)
All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue – Over The Rhine
Winter (Curled Up Toes In Red Mary Janes) – Jenna Nicholls
O Little Town of Bethlehem – The Innocence Mission
(from the free Familyre Christmas Vol. 2)
New Year’s Eve – Team Five
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Amanda Rogers
Silent Night – Zach Gill
(from last year’s This Warm December comp)



2007 Fuel/Friends Christmas Mixery
2008 (Naughty/Nice) Fuel/Friends Christmas Mix

November 30, 2009

Rocking the holidays, racking up the family points

christmas tree'

A friend of a friend from Berkeley came up with a most excellent and hilarious holiday game, to while away the hours you spend with your extended family this holiday season.

Sarah’s Holiday Game Scorecard

You can also go back and award yourself points for all those awkward and wonderful interactions you remember from this weekend, too.

I (mostly) successfully roasted my fourth turkey ever, except this year I couldn’t find the giblets and ended up leaving the bag in the bird. Hey, at least it was a papery bag. And that thar is my Christmas tree, which I also managed to put up this weekend. I am a holiday goddess of sorts.

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November 25, 2009

Are you gonna be mad at me if I post a Christmas song already?

I’ve been sitting on my hands since the beginning of the month waiting to revel with you in this bonus track from Julian Casablancas’ new solo album. Now that turkey day comes tomorrow, and after we are all thankful, the Christmas season officially begins — I feel ready to take this step with you and open the seasonal floodgates.

First of all, this video still makes me DIE LAUGHING:

[direct link]

The thing with the head rotating forward and to the side! Oh, Chris Kattan.

And then Casablancas goes and makes it a bonus track on his new album, and makes it sound like early Strokes — which is a good thing that we sincerely, truly wish he would do more often.

I Wish It Was Christmas Today – Julian Casablancas

(also, those opening bells hit me like the N.E.R.D./Santogold collaboration he did with “My Drive Thru” that’s still super fun for the dancing and hip-shaking)

December 25, 2008

…and a new Christmas one from Sufjan

In keeping with his prolific holiday tradition (he makes music like some folks make garlic prime rib), Sufjan Stevens has recorded a new home EP of Christmas songs for 2008.

As he’s apparently “Astral Interplanet Space Captain” this year, many of the songs are of the synth-Casio variety, and I’m kinda finding the mood a bit off-putting, compared to the way I love his banjo with my whole backwoods heart. I mean, “Wonderful Christmastime” should have never happened. Have we learned nothing from the past! Christmas means no synthesizers.

But in any case, there is one sweet piano-based tune on the new EP that has risen above the interplanetary action to warm my heart. I do hope your day was happy.

Christmas In The Room – Sufjan Stevens

Get the whole EP over on So That’s What The Volume Knob Is For.

And . . . I’m off to California for a few days of sun and fun and friends (well, maybe not the first one. It is December.)

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December 19, 2008

Your Naughty/Nice Christmas mix

Christmas is coming and kids are having fun (so said the chorus of my fifth grade play “Shaping Up Santa,” for which I still know all the words and thankfully no longer have to wear the green elf costume).

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year because of the overabundance of really bad, synthy, jingly, repetitive Christmas music that bombards me at every pass. But tonight I was listening to my friend Dainon‘s superb radio show out of Salt Lake City and he filled two and a half hours with the kind of Christmas music that reminds me why I do love it.

I tend towards the melancholy, the meaningful, the achingly pretty at this time of year, and tonight’s show inspired me to finally put the finishing touches on my own mix of music for the season. Twenty-five songs to get at the goodness under the busy surface this time of year. Enjoy.

No Christmas For Me – Zee Avi (new Malaysian artist I’m excited about)
Joy To The World – Clem Snide
Christmas Is Coming Soon – Blitzen Trapper
Egg Nog – Luna
It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop – Frightened Rabbit
It Won’t Seem Like Christmas Without You (alternate take 6) – Elvis Presley
Christmas TV – Slow Club
Sweet Secret Peace – Neil Finn
Xmas Time Is Here Again – My Morning Jacket
Gift X-Change – Calexico
This Christmastime – Mascott & Gramercy Arms
The Secret of Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald
Christmas – Leona Naess
Just Like Christmas – Low
Song For A Winter’s Night (Gordon Lightfoot) – Erica Wheeler
Icicles – Let’s Go Sailing [from the Plastic Snow compilation]
Goin Home For Christmas – Nicolai Dunger
Goin Home For Christmas – Merle Haggard
Snowfall – Josh Rouse
The First Noel – Pedro The Lion
Please Come Home For Christmas – Willie Nelson
The Gift of Grace – Denison Witmer
New Year’s Resolution – Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
Winter Wonderland – Radiohead
Silent Night – Evan Dando


If you want even more Christmas music, the excellent WXPN out in Philly is hosting 12 Days Of Christmas with local bands and free mp3s each day. Ten down, two to go, check it out.

Merry Christmas.

[image from the fabulous Anne Taintor]

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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