Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Very Standard Christmas (Standard Recording Co.)

This is the very last Christmas CD I received as a present last December. It came from my best friend Joel who took a brief moment from his Indianapolis holiday getaway with his charming wife Samantha to check out a used CD store to see if there was something inside that I didn't have.

Joel actually called me from the store itself to read off titles to see what I had and didn't have (with Sam standing alongside, bored to tears). After reading off the limited Christmas LP titles, Joel scanned through the holiday CDs and found this particular compilation that I had never heard of.

Back in the early part of this decade, two guys named Mark Latta & Kevin Phillips decided to help out Habitat For Humanity in Indianapolis with a benefit CD. And that's how Standard Recording Company began. Since then, Mark & Kevin have improvised running an indie label as they've gone along, getting distribution deals, signing up talented Indy bands, and issuing releases when and where they want.

Back in August of 2006, they decided to release this Christmas compilation by asking their then-roster of bands for tracks. According to the liner notes, this was "the culmination of two very quick months of recording by these twelve artists and two and a half very quick days of mixing and mastering in November, 2006."


1.) BIGBIGcar - All I Want For Christmas (Is You)
I really thought Bee Gees falsettos went out of style 25 years ago. However, if you're covering Mariah Carey's Christmas tune, it works splendidly! A good time was had by all - including me!

2.) Everything, Now! - Jesus Christ / Nuclear War
Take Alex Chilton's song "Jesus Christ", add elements of Sun Ra's "Nuclear War", and you get an amazing sounding song that's extremely light on Christmas but fascinating to listen to.

3.) Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Plasma for Christmas
The simple tale of giving blood for extra money at the holidays. Unique rock, folky type of sound from Rev. Peyton.

4.) More Animals Of The Arctic - I Tell Lies
Alan Parsons-type ambient folk song (wow!) that's not very Christmas-ey at all. Seldom do Christmas songs work when the "F" bomb is dropped.

5.) Red Queen Hypothesis - Crockpot Barbeque
Much like the title, this one has everything - a garage band, a chorus, horn section, kazoo solo, and a fun tale of Christmas all told in just under 2:15.

6.) This Story - Themes From Christmas
An instrumental track, the simple theme builds to a crescendo around the 3 minute mark. The final 1:15 is kitchen utensils, pots, and pans being thrown around like jingle bells with the theme underlying it all. Strange.

7.) Elephant Micah - Jesus Christ
Alex Chilton strikes again - a good cover of his Big Star Christmas song. "We're gonna get born now..."

8.) Arrah & The Ferns - Merry Christmas, Not X-mas
One electric piano, a smatter of drums, and Arrah's fine vocals make this original song a cut above the rest. The song seemingly ends at 2:30 but they end it with a fast flourish exclamation point.

9.) Harley Poe - It's Christmas Time Again
What starts out as a cautionary tale on being caught by Santa turns into a laundry list of evil things the Big Guy will do if he catches you awake: "Down the chimney with all his might, you're lucky if you live tonight!". Funny and disturbing all at once.

10.) Everthus the Deadbeats - Deadbeat Christmas
With lyrics like "It's Christmas time again and they just shut off the heat", this is a tale of woe and misery. A slacker's Christmas anthem indeed.

11.) Chad Serhal - When The First Snow Comes
GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS! Chad takes his simple song and layers on harmonies and counterpoint to amazing effect! Two and a half minutes of pure vocal - refreshing and mystical.

12.) Dean Plays Hardball - Little Retail Boy
With some help from Red Queen Hypothesis (see #5 above), Dean reworks "Little Drummer Boy" as a reverent, materialistic shopping list for the newborn King.

This is a very solid Christmas comp with surprises and something for everyone - even the non-Christmas stuff had me listening. If you're interested in this comp, Standard has it available for $6 at their site - not too shabby!

Even though this comp is over three years old, most of the bands listed here are still associated or on speaking terms with Standard Recording. In the ever-changing world of indie rock, that must be a record for sure. Mark & Brian, keep doing what you're doing!

Joel, thank Sam for going into that used CD store with you! Thanks for the add!


1 comment:

M. Latta said...

Hi there- thanks for the wonderful review; we're happy you liked the album. Just wanted to let you know that we have a Christmas follow up to A Very Standard Christmas coming out called A Very Standard Christmas, Vol. 2. Clever title, eh? Vol. 2 is a digital release. We're teaming up with Nuvo Newsweekly to offer the album, and we're using a "pay what you want" pricing model, or, conversely, pay nothing if you want. But all proceeds from the album go to FACE, an animal clinic here in Indianapolis. Anyone who's interested can preview the tracks and download the album at

Happy Turkey Day!