Week in Pop: 209 Xmas, Mane, SILENTSHOUT

Sjimon Gompers

Film still from Mane's "New World Order" video; courtesy of Elektra Johnson & Tay Rey.

209 & Friends

209 & Friends Xmas Compilation 2017 cover; artwork by Erin Halligan.

Following up the previous compilation titled The 209 & Friends Xmas Compilation 2013, the Stockton bunch is back with their latest assortment of eclectic goodies titled 209 & Friends 2017 Compilation that finds the crew gathering their artist favorites from local folks around the Pacific to creative counterparts found the world over. With a local movement that has stretched to the Bay Area, the PNW, to Italy & everywhere—the prolific expansion from the 209 area code carries on an inclusive trend to unite the world’s most innovative artists.

The heralding of holiday sentiment arrives with Laurel Saints’ sax studded lead-off single “Wish List”. The duo of Chema Jose Medina with Marcos Gonzalez manufacture the cadence of timeless seasonal bliss that defies conventional chronology where the present becomes chrystalized in a moment that feels made to last in the infamy of forever. The compilation continues in the quest to make permanent memories of relentless joy as Cohosts lay it on with the endearing “Clean. Repeat” that sends out a message of good living, with Seagazer basking in the romantic mistletoe glow of “Christmas as a Pair”, as the collective Boy Band brings the high-pitched chorus with the shmaltz of their *NSync cover of “Merry Christmas Happy Holidays”. Evan from False Priest shares an atmospheric & solemn take on the classic “Silent Night” that matches rattling dissonance with church organ adherences that takes on the feeling of a woke candle light service on Christmas Eve. Electric adventures in fidelity are heard & felt on the Woozles’ take on Sufjan Stevens’ “Lumberjack Christmas” that questions conundrums of the heart, as Diego and Javier in the Streets Inc. bring the holiday interlude home for the season with “Merry Christmas and a Trappy New Year”.

Baseball Gregg’s Luca Lovisetto & Sam Regan bring a call for all to join them by the crackle & spark from the lit glow of inflamed kindling & brush with “Fireside” that finds the Italy by Stockton/Bay Area band tapping into a subtle & sublime sense of balladeering. Jake Bellissimo appears on the compilation with “Mariah Carey’s X-Mas Album” that finds the Rochester based artist reflecting on the true meaning of the iconic singer’s holiday record, that is found off Bellissimo’s recently released If I Die on Christmas EP. Headbelly harks with the angelic strums on “A Bird with Forty Feathers”, right as Setti sets the season alight with “Questo Natale” that brings about a romantic & timeless toe-tapper with “Questo Natale” with sentiments, vocals & synths that set sail straight for the hearts of all who hear. The 209 & Friends 2017 Compilation closes out with a holiday jingle from local Stockton cult group Kismet Aura that decks the halls with the holly addled bells of “Chrishuh” to keep us wondering what might be next from this lesser known staple of the 209 scenes.

Artwork by Erin Halligan, with the j-card layout by Eli Wengrin.

Baseball Gregg shared the following introduction to their new holiday single “Fireside”:

“Fireside” is a simple song about two people warming up after being caught in a winter storm. I wanted to write a vague romantic vignette, something that is simultaneously ideal and relatable. I wanted to write a song that doesn’t think as much as it feels.

Unfortunately thinking always gets the best of me, and I have begun to wonder what else this song could mean at the end of such a tumultuous year. In today’s world where information is immediate, it can be ironically difficult to actually live in the moment. “Fireside” is a meditation on a single moment in a fantasy world where the only antagonist is simple weather. A simple storm, not a catastrophe. “Fireside” is escapism.

But I kept thinking about the song, and I wasn’t satisfied with this explanation either. Even a topic as seemingly innocuous as the weather has become complex and nuanced. This year we have seen countless examples of weather that is much more than a simple inconvenience we can wait out with a hot cup of tea. Weather has become an unnatural and violent force.

Over the summer, I worked at a summer camp in Hong Kong. I’ve never been good at checking the forecast, and so on the day of a typhoon I was walking to work when a crossing guard stopped me and asked where my umbrella was. When I told him that I didn’t have one, he insisted that I take his spare umbrella. I bought him some chocolate to thank him. After that, I stopped each day to talk with him on my way to and from work. By the end of my 3 weeks in the city he took me to lunch at his families restaurant, and I now feel like I can call him my friend. Sudha if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well and I miss you! <3 Some of us frequently neglect to check the forecast. We got caught in the storm of 2017 without an umbrella. Here, take mine! I insist! Don’t worry, I have an extra. I hope this compilation helps to keep you dry, and I hope you won’t let the cold world numb your feelings. We will light some fires to keep us warm. We will burn this storm to the fucking ground, together.

Getting into the holiday groove with Laurel Saints’ (from left) Jose & Marcos; press photo courtesy of the artists.

Delivering a warm happy holidays message to the world, Stockton by the Bay’s Laurel Saints bring a bastion of tidings of great joy & gracious cheer with “Wish List”. Featuring instrumentation & vocals from Chema Jose Medina with lyrics & vocals supplied by Marcos Gonzales (both of Stockton’s legendary group Surf Club), this is the single that we hope is set to be played at every mall, strip-mall & shopping center everywhere.

Basking in the glow of day with Laurel Saints’ Jose Medina; press photo courtesy of the artist.

Cover for Jake Bellissimo’s If I Die on Christmas EP.

Also experience Rochester, NY artist Jake Bellissimo’s recent If I Die on Christmas EP that is a benefit for the Albany Damien Center that assists those living with HIV & AIDS. The title track exhibits the artist’s eternal baroque style & sensibility that pours all electric emotions outward—coupled as well with the minimalist piano-drawn demo that clocks-in just below a minute & a half.

Jake Bellissimo offered the following reflections on the new holiday songs:

Christmas feels complicated. I was raised Catholic and am now distanced from Christianity but can get upset when I hear people say Remember, kids, Jesus is the real reason for the season before running to a tree to pillage for gifts. Though those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, it still feels hypocritical and fruitless.

But to view only that as being representative of Christmas or the general holiday season (I’m just speaking about Christmas because of the personal context but this can be applied to any religious celebration that can be nestled within consumerism) gives into the culture we live in that encourages us to calculate the conversion rate between money and our feelings towards someone…this cynicism always makes me feel like I’m taking away something rather than giving it.

Instead, I think it’s cool to take time off and make a gift for someone, write a friend a song, or walk in the snow with a loved one after dark. Then I think about my friends who appreciate that while also celebrating their deity and I think that is cool as well.

To get to these moments I have to sometimes think about a larger picture, tugging at something that might be melancholic (not necessarily a bad thing) so I snap back and run to hug a friend.

The brand new 209 & Friends 2017 Compilation is available now.

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