Danielle Cormier Eases Holiday Heartache with “This Time Last Year”

Credit: Anthony Romano

From what we typically see on TV and hear on the radio, the holidays are supposed to be a happy time. But for many people right now, that’s just not the case, largely because they’ve had to reassess the safety of long-held family traditions due to the pandemic, or, more tragically, have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Every winter for the past two years, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Danielle Cormier has written a Christmas song, and this year, she chose to sing about the sadness of celebrating the holidays after the death of a family member.

Cormier co-wrote the song, “This Time Last Year,” with singer-songwriter Karlie Bartholomew. Both of them had unexpectedly lost loved ones this year — Cormier lost her father, and Bartholomew lost her grandfather — and though neither of those deaths were due to COVID, the song was written with those who lost family members to the pandemic in mind.

“After my father passed away, I knew this was what I wanted to write a Christmas song about. A lot of people unfortunately can relate to not having a loved one there for them during Christmas, especially this year,” she says.

The single shares many typical elements of holiday songs: minimalistic piano and strings, lyrics about stockings and snow angels, and even sleigh bells. But unlike the cheery mood of your usual Christmas music, Cormier somberly sings about holidays that “aren’t the same” and “presents wrapped without your name.” Perhaps the most poignant line is, “I keep expecting you to walk through the door/Just like every winter before.”

Writing the song was an emotional process for Cormier and Bartholomew. “We shared our experiences of what our holidays have been like in our families and just let it all out on the paper,” says Cormier. “And then recording it, especially singing it, I tried to not block it out but not let it get me too carried away while singing. But then every time I would listen back to the recording, it would feel really emotional. It was definitely therapeutic to create this song.”

She hopes that people who listen to the song feel less alone and know they’re not the only ones having a difficult time accepting that the holidays won’t be the same as before. “The lyrics themselves talk about how our traditions are changing for the holidays — nothing is traditional anymore because you’ve lost someone — so I hope there will be people who are able to find comfort in that and be able to relate to it,” she says.

Cormier has been singing and playing instruments since she was little and studied musical theater at New York City’s American Music and Drama Academy. She dreamed of starring on Broadway, until she realized she didn’t want to act anymore. So, she moved to Nashville and began releasing music in 2016, working with producer Adam Lester, who was Peter Frampton’s lead guitarist on tour. Her first full-length album, 2018’s Fire and Ice, features Frampton on the track “Can’t Quit You,” a country breakup song.

“My producer sent me an email one day and said, ‘here’s the final mix for ‘Can’t Quit You’ — by the way, Peter Frampton put a solo on it.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s nice, thank Mr. Frampton for me.’ But my jaw just dropped,” she remembers.

Today, Cormier is continuing her education online through the New School and works part time processing shipments in the warehouse of a boutique in Nashville.

She began her annual tradition of writing holiday songs in 2018, after someone at a radio station told her they couldn’t play her songs unless they were either top 40 hits or Christmas songs. “Christmas songs have been the hardest for me to write, just to get into that mindset and trying not to repeat things,” she says. “I’d like to record a classic Christmas song as well, but it’s been really fun trying to create new Christmas songs or write a holiday song that hasn’t been said or hasn’t been done before while still carrying the message of the holiday spirit.”

Her first foray into holiday songs was “Christmas Is You,” which has gotten over three million plays on Spotify and was featured on the platform’s Christmas hits playlist in 2018. In it, she sings about her desire for the company of loved ones over Christmas, rather than material things. The following year, she released “Coming Home This Christmas,” a song about visiting family over the holidays.

She’s also hoping to release an EP next year consisting of five songs written in 2020. In the meantime, she’s compiled a mini EP called This Time Last Year consisting of all three of her Christmas songs, which each in their own way speak to the importance of spending time with loved ones over the holidays — and of appreciating any loved ones we will get to share the holidays with this year.

Follow Danielle Cormier on Instagram for ongoing updates.

5 Christmas Songs by the Women of Country Music You Need to Hear

Katie Pruitt, YouTube

Year after year, the same holiday standards come pouring through our speakers when the calendar flips to December (or before Halloween in recent years). While these often become ubiquitous, there are several artists who deliver original renditions of these holiday standards, in addition to offering new classics of their own.

The women featured below deliver a mix of original songs and covers that uniquely shine, whether it’s three superstars uniting for an iconic holiday number or a burgeoning superstar penning one of the saddest Christmas songs you’ve ever heard. Check out Audiofemme’s pick of five Christmas songs by the women of country music.

Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire – “Silent Night”

When Clarkson, Yearwood and McEntire took the stage during Clarkson’s 2013 special, Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale, they delivered one of the most beautiful renditions of the holiday standard regarded as “the most beautiful song ever written.” The trio defines the word “perfection” with their performance, as Yearwood’s powerful voice reaches new heights, while Clarkson provides enchanting harmonies. And when McEntire joins in, her voice adds even more magical layers. When they end the performance a capella, their harmonies knock the wind right out of you.

Kacey Musgraves – “Christmas Makes Me Cry”

Challenge: Try not to tear up when listening to “Christmas Makes Me Cry.” Between singing about broken hearts and those who couldn’t make it home for the holidays, Musgraves doesn’t try to disguise the fact that there’s a somber side to Christmas that’s often forgotten. “I wonder if I’m the only one/Whose broken heart still has broken parts/Just wrapped in pretty paper/And it’s always sad/Seeing mom and dad getting a little grayer,” she sings. What I appreciate most about the track is how Musgraves extends a hand to those experiencing grief during the Christmas season, and this compelling country queen recognizes them with this gem. “Christmas Makes Me Cry” is poignant, emotional and beautiful, reflecting the intense emotions of the Christmas season and the foundation that Musgraves builds her artistry on.

Loretta Lynn – “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas”

Before Musgraves, Loretta Lynn set the precedent for melancholy Christmas tunes, and “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” has all the makings of a Christmas classic. Penned solely by the country icon, Lynn turns tear-in-my-beer mainstay country lyrics into her own Christmas original. Between the twinkling of the piano keys and her timeless voice, she paints a peaceful scene of decorative Christmas trees and flying snowflakes. But the pain inside her is anything but peaceful as she sings of missing the person she loves. “It Won’t Seem Like Christmas” is a highlight on her 1966 Country Christmas album that features six original numbers, including heartbreaker “Gift of the Blues” and sassy “To Heck With Ole Santa Claus.”

Cam – “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

Get ready to be stunned when you press “play” on Cam’s cover of this holiday classic. With a voice that’s timeless and modern at the same time, Cam truly captures the sadness and longing expressed in the song in a way that resonates. While I’ve heard the track countless times during the holiday season, Cam’s version made me realize how heartbreaking this standard is, written from the perspective of a solider who hopes, but ultimately doesn’t make it home for the holiday, making for one of the most powerful renditions of the popular hit I’ve heard.

Katie Pruitt – “Merry Christmas, Mary Jane”

If you want a Christmas song that’s original and modern with a dash of humor, then look no further than Katie Pruitt’s “Merry Christtmas, Mary Jane.” With a soulful voice that cuts like a knife, Pruitt tips a cheetah-print Santa hat to the one thing that’ll take her spirits high: marijuana. Her voice is so striking you almost miss the humorous little gems she sprinkles in (“All these Christmas lights would look twice as good/As we hotbox around your neighborhood”), all of which she expresses in the midst of bluesy guitar riffs. This unique holiday tribute demands a spot on your playlist.

SHEL and Jars of Clay Collaborate for “A Family Christmas” EP

Photo by David Braud

The way that SHEL – a folk group comprised of sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook – met Christian rock band Jars of Clay is like a scene out of a movie. The two acts were eating at the same restaurant in Nashville when Jars of Clay frontman Dan Haseltine approached their table, asking if they were a different female-fronted indie group, Lucius. The serendipitous encounter prompted the sisters to go back to his table and share how they’ve been longtime fans of the Grammy winning rock-gospel group, working up the courage to give him a CD of their work. “He listened to the CD and he got back to me and he’s like, ‘It’d be so fun to work together,’” Eva Holbrook recalls to Audiofemme via phone interview from a recording studio in Nashville.

Haseltine put these words to action, inviting SHEL to perform as part of Jars of Clay’s Family Christmas concert in Nashville in 2018, their chemistry and mutual love for the holiday sparking the idea for a collaborative EP, A Family Christmas, released on Nov. 22. “So much of the time that we spent bonding as bands happened at the Family Christmas show,” Eva explains. “I think we also shared this love of Christmas music and doing unique arrangements, as well as writing original Christmas music. That was something both bands were really excited about.”

The two acts wrote and recorded the festive EP this summer. The six-song endeavor features covers of two powerful classics, “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and “What Child is This,” alongside four original songs written by the band members. In the midst of working on the project, Eva was recovering from skin cancer removal surgery that left her with 20 stitches underneath her left eye. But still she persisted, making her way to the studio to lend her voice to the project that she describes as one of her favorite experiences in the studio. “I think I expected to feel really self-conscious about my appearance, but I was more caught up in the joy of creating, and it was a very fresh experience for our band,” she shares. “It reminded me what is important and what really brings us joy.”

Sharing joy is one of the messages interwoven into the EP, particularly on two of the original numbers penned by Haseltine. “Something New” is a cheerful letter to Santa with a dash of social awareness mixed in, as Haseltine sings “I don’t want anything made of plastic” and a member of SHEL echoes “straws get stuck in turtle’s noses,” while Hannah and Haseltine glow on the duet “Happy For the Holidays” that follows a shipwrecked couple happily secluded on an island during the overwhelming time of year.

“The holidays become so much about gifts and superficial things, but underneath all of that, I feel like there’s this feeling that we all remember from our childhood that we’re trying to get to,” Eva notes. “When I heard those songs, it brought up that emotion again.”

But the EP’s true standout shines in the form of the dreamy “Wonderful Feeling.” The whimsical folk tune touches on the nostalgic feeling of seeing Christmas through innocent eyes. Written by Liza in 2018, the song sees her taking lead vocals for the first time. “It’s a wonderful feeling/Draw near to those dear/And let the world hear/All of our hearts are singing,” she sings angelically, with a twinkling harp and fiddle supporting her along with her collaborators’ peaceful harmonies. Though Liza was originally tepid about incorporating “Wonderful Feeling” into the project, it quickly became a favorite among both groups, so much so they released it as the EP’s first single.

“I think for all of us, it really captures the magic of Christmas this time of year,” Eva observes. “I think life for everybody right now is so chaotic and can be very disconnected. But when you put your devices down and when you’re all in one room and you’re sharing stories, sharing the beautiful and delicate experiences that come from winter and the celebration of joy and hope and rebirth, all of these beautiful things, I think it touched that subconscious feeling inside of every single one of us.”

Having the opportunity to work with a group they’ve admired since childhood was a dream come true for the sister quartet. Eva uses striking words from 19th century Scottish poet George McDonald to frame how she hopes listeners will be impacted by A Family Christmas: “The best thing you can do for your fellow man, next to rousing his conscience, is not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him.”

“I feel like that’s my goal with every project – if it’s touching something deep inside of me and that awakens joy or sadness or anything on the spectrum of those essential human emotions, then I’ve done my job as a vessel for inspiration,” Eva determines. “I hope that it awakens beautiful things inside of people.”

SHEL and Jars of Clay will present the second annual Family Christmas concert at Liberty Hall in Franklin, Tenn. on Dec. 7.

Kacey Musgraves Glows in New Christmas Special

With her new holiday special, The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show, Kacey Musgraves proves that her star power only continues to grow.

The idea for the made-for-TV event arose from a conversation Musgraves had with her band leader last year about creating a classic holiday special that brings her 2016 album A Very Kacey Christmas to life. Musgraves and her team transformed this vision into an elaborate set of pink glistening Christmas trees, gorgeous ensembles that her stylist Erica Cloud describes as “Wes Anderson meets Gucci” and range from a chic, tan Western suit to a gorgeous red gown, and a star-studded cast that includes Fred Armisen, Zooey Deschanel, James Corden, Lana Del Rey, Camilla Cabello and more, with beloved Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy serving as narrator. Musgraves’ nana, Barbara Dean, also makes a special appearance.

Musgraves delivers on this clever, creative concept  that’s set up like a telethon, complete with a live studio audience and a team of operators in the control room. Combined with an elaborate set that looks like the interior of a Victorian dollhouse, Musgraves achieves the classic feel that she was aiming for while stepping out of her comfort zone, sharpening her new acting and scripted comedy skills.

She sets the stage by opening the show singing “Let it Snow” with James Corden in the middle of an artificial snowstorm that blasts through the windows of her makeshift home before trying to sing “Silent Night” with Fred Armisen while an intrusive handyman carries out his nosiest chores in the background. The “High Horse” singer also allows her band to step into the spotlight, engaging in playful banter with them as they step from behind their instruments to test out their own comedic chops.

Her unique ideas shine throughout the special, whether floating upside down on the ceiling as she sings “Present Without a Bow” with Leon Bridges or adding fiddle, steel guitar and accordion to give “Silent Night” a country edge while still capturing its beauty. But the purest moment, one that is distinctly Musgraves, is when she sings “Christmas Makes Me Cry.” “It feels like we’re supposed to be happy during the holidays, but sometimes they just make you really sad,” she begins. “So I wrote this song for anybody who might be feeling a little bit lonely.” With just her guitar and a microphone, sitting poised in a bedroom set with giant tree in the corner, the gentle, but heartbreaking song feels like a moment separate from the glamor and flash around her. Musgraves steps outside of the extravagance of it all to deliver a human message, speaking to the outliers and lonely souls as she so poetically does.

The heartfelt moment is curtailed with a snarky comment from Levy (“so Kacey had an emo moment in her bedroom…”), leading into the second half of the show that feels more natural and confident, demonstrated by a series of solid one-liners shared between Musgraves and the Schitt’s Creek star, such as when he hands her a tin of “homemade” cookies that were “processed in a factory” (“that’s what I call my kitchen,” he says) and expired in 2017 (“always looking out for your health,” he replies). Musgraves rounds out the show with the debut of her charming new duet with Troye Sivan, “Glittery,” and a dreamlike rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with Lana Del Rey. And when the final, and arguably most precious, guest star appears at show’s end – her nana – Musgraves brings it back to that human place that makes her so beloved.

The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show reflects what the Grammy winner does best: creating a classic aesthetic that mixes her own brand of western flair, country music and 70s style with a modern look, demonstrating her ability to compellingly reimagine holiday standards while creating some of her own. With this special, Musgraves proves how the success of Golden Hour has positioned her as a burgeoning superstar with the gift to draw all walks of life to her – a power she’s always possessed, but one that glow even brighter in this dynamic and celebratory event.

The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show premieres on Amazon Prime Video on Fri., Nov. 29.







AUDIOMAMA: A Very Indie Christmas

The second Monday of every month, we explore the trappings of the millennial mama with parenting tips and tricks that are more Tycho than Tangled.

My son giving Santa the “Who are you again?” eyes.

If you’re like my family, the holidays are spent watching the same movies (Muppet Christmas Carol on repeat), eating the same food (#homemadefudge4life), and listening to the same holiday music. This is our son’s first Christmas and we’ve been hard at work, creating our own traditions by infusing our music taste into the mix.

In order to bring you the best and brightest Indie Christmas playlist, I had to comb through some fairly terrible holiday tunes. Did you know that Oasis managed to get it together long enough to make “Merry Christmas Everybody”? Or that The Killers composed the jaunty tune “Don’t Shoot Me Santa”? These are just a few of the gems I would not expose my child to.

We’ve laid out some of our favorite new classics below, with even more in the AudioMama Vol 3 playlist. Turn on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, pop some Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies in the oven, and listen to the sweet sounds of Bright Eyes moping around on Christmas Eve.

“Christmas Is Going To The Dogs” – Eels

Plum fairies are replaced with chew toys in this playful tune made for your favorite pup! Indie artists tend toward the morose (we’re looking at you, Bright Eyes), so this is a rare uplifter.

“Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past” –  Sufjan Stevens

Remember that year you drunkenly told your office crush  ____ while ____ and after that he / she totally _____? The memories may never fade, but at least you’ve perfected the perfect smile-while-avoiding-direct-eye-contact.

“My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)” – Regina Spektor

Sometimes an old classic gets a makeover and you remember why you loved it in the first place. Sometimes an old classic gets a makeover and you’re introduced to it for the first time. I’d never heard this Peggy Lee number, but with Regina Spektor at the helm it instantly brings to mind classic that New Year’s movie scene of a forlorn lover waiting at the doors of a party for Mr. Right to waltz in.

“Linus & Lucy” – Anderson .Paak 

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of those rare movies the whole family can enjoy. Anderson .Paak gives Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus & Lucy” a more improvisational jazz feel. It’s tight and cheery, with the perfect modern twist.

“50 Words For Snow” – Kate Bush

While it’s not directly a Christmas song, “50 Words For Snow” has the kind of magic meant for the holidays. Bush was fascinated with the claim that the Inuit people have over 50 words for snow. The song features Stephen Fry listing out Inuit words for snow while Kate eggs him on: “Come on Joe, you’ve got 32 to go.”  The words devolve into nonsense: “19 phlegm de neige / 20 mountainsob / 21 anklebreaker / 22 erase-o-dust / 23 shnamistoflopp’n / 24 terrablizza / 25 whirlissimo / 26 vanilla swarm / 27 icyskidski…” you get the drift. See what I did there?

If you’ve got a good tune for our list, tweet @AudioFemme and we’ll add it! Happy Holidays!

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Tristen “Crying on Christmas Day”

Every year I’m frustrated by the lack of new Christmas songs and wonder why we always have to listen to the same classics on repeat. I obviously haven’t been paying enough attention all these years, because this week’s playlist is dominated by new holiday jams.

My favorite of these is definitely “Crying on Christmas Day” by the Nashville transplant via Chicago singer-songwriter Tristen. While her newly released fourth studio album Sneaker Waves highlights her sophisticated, synth-laced, ’60s inspired sound, her Christmas offering has a more minimal classic folk sound that would make Joni Mitchell proud.

All proceeds from this song will be donated to Doctors Without Borders, an independent medical humanitarian organization founded in 1971, that delivers life-saving medical care to those affected by war, natural disaster, disease outbreaks, systematic neglect or exclusion, and other crises.

Download at tristen.bandcamp.com/

Listen to our entire Track of the Week playlist…


Whether you think Columbus is as cold as I do (@ me, midwesterners) or not, shorter days and darker skies can drag at anyone’s energy. And for those estranged from family or friends, this time of year is especially hard.

If the holiday festivities are draining you, fear not! Check out our Playing Columbus-approved activity guide to have *actual* fun and beat the Christmas blues. In true testament to Columbus’ burgeoning music and art scene, we’ve chosen something to do for each day this week. Grab a cocoa, strap into a sled, and find something new.

Thursday, 12/21

The Columbus Queer Open Mic featuring Tatum Michelle Maura of TTUM

Wild Goose Creative’s last open mic of 2017 will feature TTUM, the musical project of Tatum Margot, a Columbus-based multi-instrumentalist, singer, song-writer, and producer. Margot’s first electronic album, Flawless Ruby, came out in October of 2017. Along with TTUM’s performance, the community is invited to bring art, music, poetry, comedy, and story-telling to share. Sign up for a 5 minute slot at the door to bring your act onstage.

8PM, 2491 Summit St., Columbus OH

Suggested donation $5

Friday, 12/22

Jingle Jam Skate

This event is clearly marketed towards children, but I love ice skating, and I love glow sticks. Plus – it’s early! Skate to some holiday tunes in the early evening, with plenty of time to catch a later event.

7pm, Skate Zone 71

$8 (this includes skate rental *and* a glowstick!)

Saturday, 12/23

Nina West Christmas Pageant

This Saturday, local drag superstar Nina West will present her “sassiest, singiest series ever” at the Gateway. The event begins with a mixer, and is followed by a sing-along program featuring West’s comedy and performances by the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus.

4:30pm mixer, 6pm show, Gateway Film Center

$20, including a $5 donation to Kaleidoscope Youth Center

Sunday, 12/24

Christmas Eve Karaoke

Honestly…who could miss this? Excess Karaoke is hosting their weekly Sunday karaoke at Ace of Cups (that means you get to perform on a real stage!) immediately after the 9th annual “gathering of people not celebrating xmas.” Ugly sweaters are optional.

10pm – 2am, Ace of Cups

FREE 21+

Monday, 12/25

Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) in 35mm

Well, my Gateway-employee roommate isn’t happy the film center is open on Christmas, but you might be! Check out their showing of Roger Waters’ 1982 film The Wall, showing in its original 35mm.

9:30pm, Gateway Film Center


Tuesday, 12/26

Jazz Jam

If you’re wiped out from the holiday festivities, recharge at Park Street Tavern’s Tuesday Jazz Jam, which features both their own house band and rotating local musicians.

8:30pm Park Street Tavern

FREE, 21+

Wednesday, 12/27

Sad Boyz “Sad Years Eve”

Dance to pop punk, emo, hardcore and alternative all night long at Skully’s to ring in the new year. If you’d like to get the night started early, head to Bodega from 6pm-9pm; $1 of every PBR purchased will be donated to mental health advocacy and suicide prevention organizations.

Skully’s Music Diner

FREE before 10pm, $5 after 10pm, 21+

Thursday, 12/28

Co-release show with Maza Blaska and Sweet Teeth


Local bands Maza Blaska and Sweet Teeth are both celebrating new releases on Thursday night at Ace of Cups. They’ll be joined by another Columbus favorite, Corbezzolo.

8pm, Ace of Cups

$5, 18+

ONLY NOISE: Christmas Wrapping

I’m not one to jumpstart holiday season. For the previous nine years, I’ve left Christmas shopping until December 23rd – and if it weren’t for my annual Christmas Eve flight, I’d likely wait another day. As of now, I haven’t even begun making my Christmas list, on which I assign gift ideas to relatives. This usually occurs on December 22nd. Fortunately, my unquestionably kinder and more responsible older sister texted me earlier this week, asking if a certain member of our family would or would not like a couple of albums she was considering gifting them (I can’t get too specific for obvious reasons, unless I want a lump of coal for Xmas for ruining surprises).

In 2017, buying an album for someone’s Christmas present is a little weird. A staggering number of listeners can find the music they want via streaming services, and though the vinyl industry has made a robust comeback, my sister is not talking about vinyl.

In my family, a CD is still a 100% acceptable gift to give and receive. My dad still has two wooden shelves of them, towering next to his vinyl collection in the dining room-cum-office. His collection is growing, too, as a favorite weekend pastime of his involves visiting the bargain bins at the local Silver Platters. He typically gives me a report of any new purchases, including how big of a deal he scored.

In a way, the CD has simplified gift giving in my family. It’s cheaper (and more flight-friendly) than vinyl. Sure, it’s more expensive than an MP3, but you can’t exactly wrap an MP3, now can you? Regardless of your family’s preferred musical medium, here is a shopping list of new albums for the whole family: from moms to dads, brothers to cats.

Mom: Not Even Happiness by Julie Byrne

My mom would probably prefer the new Quiet Riot record, but I’m not going to recommend that for your mom, who is probably a far classier lady. Julie Byrne’s sophomore album Not Even Happiness is, dare I say, indisputably gorgeous. Byrne’s lyrics are devastating and poignant, formed from her wind-song voice. Mom can do about anything to this record: drive, read a book, sip some wine, or simply listen intently on a Sunday evening.

Dad: Semper Femina by Laura Marling

I’d say it’s a pretty good time for men to listen to overtly feminist music, and this is a great feminist record by brilliant songwriter Laura Marling. Marling’s writing expertise matches her guitar playing and steely-sweet voice, of which she has astonishing control. She can reach soprano heights in one bar, and plumb the depths of early Fiona Apple in the next. Songs like “Wild Fire” and “Nothing, Not Nearly” codify Marling as a master of the craft, weaving soul, folk, and pure poetry into accessible pop melodies.

Sister: Ash by Ibeyi

A record of, by, and for sisters, brought to you by Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz. The French-Venezuelan Afro-Cuban twins give a whole new meaning to the word “sisterhood” considering their highly collaborative songwriting process. Ash, the duo’s sophomore LP, is steeped in messages of racial equality and female empowerment, the later shining through in cuts like “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms” which features samples from a Michelle Obama speech. “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls,” Obama insists. I’m sure your sister (and hopefully your entire family) will agree.

Brother: DAMN by Kendrick Lamar

This record needs no introduction, nor explanation. Kendrick has done it again! Plus, gifting this to your brother ensures great one-liners to pen inside the corresponding card. For example: “Why don’t you already own this, are you living under a rock?” and “Bitch, be humble.”

Aunt who’s into crystals: A Common Truth by Saltland

One of my all-time favorite joke-news headlines read: “Local Woman Believes In Crystals But Not Herself,” a hilarious dig, but one you have to shelve during the holidays. In all seriousness, Saltland’s atmospheric A Common Truth is both a stunning record and a perfect present for someone who’s into “vibes.” Cellist Rebecca Foon collages rippling soundscapes atop sparse vocals extolling environmental preservation. Also, there is literally a crystal on the album cover.

Uncle who rides a Harley: Villains by Queens of the Stone Age

I’m not going to lie, I’m not a big Queens of the Stone Age fan, and I don’t love this record… but your uncle will. Just imagine him ripping open the wrapping paper to find a dude in a motorcycle jacket and the devil himself riding on the back of his bike. He will undoubtedly shout “bitchin’!” and take you out for a spin before dinner.

Your significant other Your Ex: ÷ by Ed Sheeran 

Step one: burn Sheeran’s insufferable third album onto a blank CD. Step two: write, “Best Bands of 2017” on the disk in sharpie, mixtape style. Step three: send it anonymously. Hopefully it will take your ex a while to realize he’s been listening to Ed Sheeran unwillingly.

Your Cat: Music For Cats by David Teie

A record designed to please Mr. and Ms. Kitty. David Teie, a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, developed Music For Cats with animal scientists. The result is a lovely mélange of string swells, birdsong, and of course, purring. Though it’s “for cats,” it’s a score I’d be happy to listen to with or without a feline companion. The standout track? “Katey Moss Catwalk,” of course.

NEWS ROUNDUP: St. Vincent, Sharon Jones & Bjork


  • St. Vincent Makes a Statement On Guitar World Cover

    She Shreds magazine, a publication dedicated to covering woman guitarists and bassists, formerly called out Guitar World for its sexist “Bikini Gear Guide” for featuring scantily clad women on the cover. In a statement on the She Shreds website, founder Fabi Reyna said at the time: “Guitar World’s annual gear guide always reinforced the painful reality of the guitar industry’s historical reputation of using sex and naked women to engage with men—because to a lot of companies the idea of women even playing music was literally unheard of, so how could we be consumers and therefore why would they consider our reactions at all?” Guitar World said they’d discontinue the practice. But this week St. Vincent made a hilarious statement on their former ways when she appeared on the cover in one of those touristy bikini shirts. The guitarist has also announced a new album is on the way.

  • Watch This: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’ Xmas Video

    The video is for Sharon Jones’ cover of Charlie Brown’s “Please Come Home For Christmas,” from the Christmas album the singer released last year. The animated video, directed by  Alex Howard & David Drew Hatter, has a stop-motion feel similar to the classic Rudolph TV special and was finished before Jones died last month due to pancreatic cancer. Check it out:

  • Fiona Apple Uses Xmas Music To Diss Trump

    Do you love Christmas music, but hate Donald Trump? Well, Fiona Apple made the perfect song for you. Watch her sing the track with the alluring title of “Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire” at a recent “We Rock With Standing Rock” benefit concert:


  • Bjork Writes Open Letter To The Media

    Are women entitled to “perform” for their audiences? Some music critics may expect it, and Bjork called out that double standard in regards to the DJ sets she recently played at Houston’s Day For Night festival. Some were disappointed she played a DJ set instead of performing, and she wrote a lengthy response. Highlights include: “Some media could not get their head around that I was not “performing” and “hiding” behind desks. And my male counterparts not… Women in music are allowed to be singer-songwriters singing about their boyfriends. If they change the subject matter to atoms, galaxies, activism, nerdy math beat editing or anything else they get criticized… if we don’t cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience.”