For the many musicians who make their way in and out of South Jersey’s Gradwell House Recording over the course of the year, Christmas is a special time. For the past 13 years, the indie and emo-centric studio has released Arbor Christmas comp, a free downloadable of Christmas songs from a variety of bands, ranging from those who just got together to record Christmas music – that’s how Ages got its start – to popular names in the DIY circuit – Young Statues, Into It. Over It., Aspiga and more. This year’s compilation was released to Bandcamp today as a free download – you can listen to it below, and get yourself a copy here. Tonight, the crew celebrates its release in the 13th Annual Arbor Christmas Concert and Pageant, which was conceived in the late 90s by the crew’s scene buddy Jonathan Montague as a unique way for DIY punk kids to celebrate the holidays. From the website:
He wanted to throw a Christmas show, but do something different. He was thinking of the old Christmas TV specials that had the celebrity host “at home” and all of their celebrity friends would stop by and hang out and maybe perform a song. That was the basic story of the first year. It was supposed to be in Jon’s new apartment and all his friends dropped by to bring gifts and perform some songs.
Jon and I wrote the script for the first two shows together. There almost wasn’t a show the second year because Jon had been in the hospital, but he insisted on doing it when he got out. It was that following January that he had passed away. After that, I had made promises to everyone that we would continue doing shows in memory of Jon.
Proceeds from the show typically benefit the local Jonathan Montague Scholarship and the Arbor Foundation. More information on tonight’s show at the Facebook event page; listen to Volume 13 below (and download volumes 1 through 12 here).
It’s kind of funny to think about, but South Jersey four-piece Ages didn’t form to write regular old indie rock songs. It started as an excuse for four friends from the local punk scene to record original Christmas music every December. Having contributed to a baker’s dozen of the famed Arbor Christmas compilations, Ages have recently released their own anthology of all the holiday songs it has recorded over the years as a free download. It’s all here, from “Merried With Children (What to Expect When You’re Expecting Christmas)” to “Frankincense of Style” (featured on Helen Leight’s 12 Days of Christmas compilation in 2008) and the excellently-titled “Rolling Down The Ice Backwards.” Listen to it below, download it at Bandcamp and catch Ages this Saturday, December 22, as part of the 13th Annual Arbor Christmas Show.
Endor Endor is the new instrumental post-rock project of South Jersey’s Tom Ryan: lead guitarist in The Atomic Square, guitarist and keyboardist in It’s a King Thing, bassist in Young Statues. (Yeah, he’s a busy dude.) He’s also the fellow you see wandering around Philadelphia in the video above, taking a walking tour of both city lights and Christmas lights to the tune of his new song “Bedford Falls.” The video was shot by Tommy Oceanak, and the song closes out this year’s Arbor Christmas compilation, Volume 12 in the series. Grab a download of the song below, and find out more about Arbor Christmas (and peruse volumes 1 through 11) over here.
Dave Downham sure is one Christmas lovin’ guy. His band with long-time South Jersey friend Jeff Blatcher, Ages, has spun its jovial indie-pop stylings into numerous original holiday tunes over the years, appearing on practically every Arbor Records Christmas Compilation—often twice. Not familiar with Arbor House? Each year the local label/collective/scene, centered around Gradwell House Recording Studios (where Downham works), puts out a free downloadable collection of seasonal tunes by local faves like The Atomic Square, It’s A King Thing, and By Surprise. This year’s comp is the 11th in the series; the jangley whirlwind linked below, “Merried With Children (What To Expect When You’re Expecting Christmas),” appeared on the 2009 comp, while Ages’ “Frankinsence Of Style” (also from the series) was spotlighted in Helen Leicht’s 12 Days Of Christmas in 2008. Downham’s old band The Secession Movement also contributed to the earliest installments (his other old band, Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start, apparently, was not as seasonally affected). If you’re feeling particularly festive this holiday weekend, download all 11 Arbor Christmas comps to soundtrack your gatherings. For added fun and mischief, down some eggnog every time one of Downham’s songs plays—though be forewarned, that might be dangerous.