Introducing "I Don't Want Anything For Christmas" - a Traffic Sounds release

The festive season isn't just a time for blatant consumerism, excessive alcohol consumption and explosive family gatherings. That time off, just as the weather hots up and the pace slows down, is also rather conducive to a good ol' fashioned contemplation about the meaning of the silly season, and what's transpired in the year gone past. So when Traffic Sounds decided to ask some local artists of a certain introspective calibre to write and record exclusive tracks for an end-of-year extravaganza that became "I Don't Want Anything For Christmas", what resulted is a very different take on the usual cheesy Christmas record.

In fact each offering is a gorgeous slice of the Australian reality - sure there are the odd sleigh bells in the mix but you certainly won't find themes of roasting chestnuts or watching the snow flakes here. These artists were encouraged to remain true to their own festive experience as well as their own sound - no forced yuletide cheer.

Yet in light of this, we still find ourselves in relatively sanguine territory, from the wry humour of Kid Cornered's 'Dean versus Bing' where "all of the brothers-in-law are standing around eyeing off each other's wife" to the heartwarming ode of a daughter's first Christmas from The Woods Themselves in 'Saturnalia'.

We haven't even mentioned the tunes. Oh the music. If ever there was a reason to be humming Christmas themed songs in April, it could well be due to the gentle persuasion of 'Boxing Day '99' from El Mopa, its languid delivery disguising the beautifully discordant pop melody punctuated with an aching horn breakdown over the guitar solo.

Then there's the ecstatic release of guitars over the minimalist electronic arpeggio of Tugboat's 'Two Summers', reflecting the line "I wake up in the southern sun … there's so much summer falling on me" and transforming it into a stunning swirling pop song.

And let's not forget that the season continues on well past December 25. As Matt McBeath reminds us "I guess it's not the best time to fight as we approach the year's last night" on the lovelorn ballad 'New Year', it's good to keep it all in mind when the first of the first comes around.

So much can be left unsaid at this time of the year, but with any luck, this fine selection of songs with their lyrical brilliance and understated arrangements will find just the right words for you this Christmas.

BEEP2. Available December 2007. Compiled by Leigh Tran. Mastered by Casey Rice.
Launching in Melbourne - Saturday 8 December at Edinburgh Castle, Brunswick. Aleks and the Ramps, El Mopa, Single Twin, Matt McBeath, 8pm.

1. Kid Cornered - Dean versus Bing 3:44
Kid Cornered is the work of Matt Toohey, the chief songwriter for brooding Sydney band Browning, who found their feet in the early 2000s playing with peers Bluebottle Kiss, Deloris, The Rebel Astronauts, Sea Life Park and Sounds Like Sunset. Since then, Matt has released two fine albums under the Kid moniker, the most recent a self-titled effort on Half a Cow which offered warming country tinged pop sounds and a gentle turn of phrase.

Reading about Matt's experience of the season might provide some insight into the vivid portrait in the song that opens this compilation: Christmas is … being woken up early, kids pulling presents from a mothball pillowcase, family, hot meal on a hot day, a drink at 10 in the morning. Then it's taking left-overs home and reconvening with JL and Sorro - wherever the best yard is for backyard cricket, whiskey, and for dinner - sharing everyone's left-overs from lunch. Hopefully this year I can dress up Monkey (the cat) in some sort of reindeer outfit too.

2. El Mopa - Boxing Day '99 3:33
Sydney's El Mopa, fronted by Simon Wooldridge are more than just your usual guitar rock band. Combining swinging dynamics and some deconstruction in the mix, the result is a poppy base with country tinges, art rock pretensions and (occasionally) schmaltzy swing, with a surety and strength that few others in this country can lay claim to (as noted by Cyclic Defrost magazine).

3. afxjim - Assassination on Xmas Eve 5:15
afxjim is Travis Baird, one third of Sydney instrumental darlings Founder. He often finds himself playing in many other bands like The Woods Themselves, Kid Cornered and El Mopa because of his ability to command practically any instrument he picks up. As afxjim, he plays guitars and loops, drums and programming, piano and horns, pump organ and synths, percussion and samples, building fluid pieces that traverse the line between melodic electronic dreamscapes and brooding post-rock compositions.

On this song, afxjim shows his indie rock roots with an affecting cover of the Archers of Loaf song, originally appearing on the album 'All the Nations Airport'. The song also features a guest appearance on vocals from Matt Toohey of Kid Cornered.

4. Tugboat - Two Summers 4:02
Melbourne's Tugboat expands the world most 3-piece bands inhabit by using dual vocal harmonies and experimenting with the dynamics of the songs. From simple and sweet pop to muted atmospherics and a spaciousness not seen since the likes of Galaxie 500, the band are centred by the breathy, ethereal vocals of Bek Varcoe and the chiming guitars of James Dean.

To explain their song, Bek also manages to sum up the idea behind the title of the compilation: There's something you always say at Christmas - "O I don't want anything really...." but in your heart of hearts, there's always something. Usually it's something you dare not ask for, and can't be bought in any shop. This song is about waiting and hoping for something like that.

5. The Woods Themselves - Saturnalia 5:20
The creative force behind Sydney outfit The Woods Themselves is fiery genius Davey Cotsios, who blends folkrock psychedelia with the aid of machine driven contemplation. A robot by the river looking for a drink, you might say. After releasing an exquisite self titled debut, early 2008 will see The Woods Themselves follow up with an equally impressive collection of songs.

To read of the inspiration behind Saturnalia is to understand the profound joy and new experience awaiting Davey this summer. He explains: Months ago, after a month long binge, I woke with a sharp pain in my chest. I then ran for 20km to lose it, which I did, if only briefly. Whether it was death or not remains a mystery, and within weeks my baby Alexandra gave birth to our baby Ramona Bird. Ramona took the long way out - her heart rate was way up and crazy… mother was in agony and too stubborn for drugs. Everyday I keep running. The pains are only metres behind. But Ramona Bird is there waiting when I get home.

Joseph Leonard, the Godfather, played the bass. The Kid Cornered was in Melbourne for a show that weekend. The left speaker guitar is, you will note, an approximation of the indomitable Kid Cornered style. All the horn players had to take off their shirts. I don't like hoity-toity 'classically' trained musicians messing up my shirts off vibe with their fancy shirts. They surely noticed I had, if not more, then at least better muscles.

6. Matt McBeath - New Year 4:10
Imagine trading in your distortion pedal for an acoustic guitar and blowing the dust off your dad's favourite old records again. You're just getting out of town for a while and hanging out with a couple of dogs, maybe reading or heading down to the river in the afternoons and from time to time picking up that old guitar. Well after spending years playing in avant indie rock band The Rebel Astronauts it was time for Matt McBeath to set out on his own. In two records as Initials, he roped in his old band mates as well as members of Sydney bands Purplene and Rand and Holland, and will be joined by new backing band Khancoban on a forthcoming album due out early next year.

Of this song that takes us to the end of the year, Matt says: The festive season is pretty fun all round, but the great thing about New Years is that it's all about the hanging out and indulging, no gift giving. It's the night when everyone is spouting drunken rambles about the year gone by and the one about to begin, hopefully with a sense of optimism. Never a fan of the Christmas family letter updating all the new babies, jobs and houses, I'd rather a drunken catch up with old friends slurring out their new found opinions of the world. Dan Hawkins (other credits incl. Sir, Adam Cole & The Pollen Choir) recorded and mixed this song. He also played some very nice accordion. I wrote this song on a trip down to St Leonards in Victoria and played all the other instruments.

7. Single Twin (feat. Matt Blackman) - Splinters & Seeds 4:10
"Australia has found a poet laureate for its dreams. It makes me feel my heart in my chest" described about Marcus Teague, leader of Melbourne artisans Deloris, and the talent behind Single Twin. Domestic surrealism is Teague's forte, turning ordinary moments into the extraordinary within the framework of an effortlessly graceful folk song. An album of recordings is due next year, but in the meantime, Single Twin sequestered like-minded musician Matt Blackman (from Sydney bands Charge Group, Purplene and Ukiyo-e) to join him in this delicate piece.

He notes: In my eyes, Christmas is useful mainly for rounding up all those people you only see at births, deaths and marriages, 18th's, 21st's, 30th's, and hopefully 40th's, 50th's and maybe beyond. The people that you love and love to see but never get round to actually doing as much with because life moves too fast or slow for any more than a handful of you at any one time. You recognise this and you swear to catch up more often, phone ahead and drop by but it doesn't seem to transpire until a benchmark is set. Like the ones' mentioned above. 'Splinters and Seeds' is about that. Friends and absentees and the rings you run around in.

It was written on a Monday in Sydney and recorded the same afternoon in one take by Marcus, alone at his friend Matt Blackman's house whom he was staying with. Afterwards Marcus left for a drive down the coast, and Matt came home that night, and after a few listens of this song he'd never heard before, recorded his guitar part.

8. A Gold Star Secret - Christmas Wish List 2:02
A Gold Star Secret is Geoff & Bon, beginning as an experiment in 1997 to see if they could write & record an album in a week during downtime from their 'other' band El Mopa. The fruits of that week was "Constella-Sheep" released in 1999. Geoff has previously pulled strings for the Dead Tree, Sal Paradise, El Mopa, Decoder Ring, the Darren Hanlon band & the Cannanes. He currently enjoys fatherhood & wishes he had time for Gold Star. Bon has previously hit things for Lustre 4, Godstar, Red For Go & the Darren Hanlon band. He currently does the same for El Mopa, the Cannanes, Joseph Leonard & the Family Fuse, Kid Cornered, the Woods Themselves, a gazillion other bands & wishes Geoff & he had time for Gold Star.

Geoff does have time though to explain: I wrote this song Dec 2003 after my work xmas party. I got home to meet Lea (my partner) but because she was delayed due to public transport, I ended up alone for a few hours and wrote the song as a christmas present for her. In a way it's a tribute to the Darren Hanlon school of songwriting too (if only I was ever as good as Daz, though).

9. Joseph Leonard - Golden White & Fairy Stuff 2:41
Joseph Leonard's debut 'Soft On the Small Moon' was hailed as "sinewy, loose, well-crafted, a huge wooden Ferris wheel of delight'' and brought comparisons ranging from David Sylvian to Godspeed You Black Emperor. On his most recent album 'Weather Vane Woman', Joe stepped up from the highly praised bedroom debut to a more widescreen, kaleidoscopic work, possessing skillfully orchestrated textures of loss and love; from fingered-picked morning songs to sparsely layered late-night tones.

On this Christmas song produced by himself, Joe says: I am sickened by the consumer world, but curious as to how it can affect me...this song is like if one of the wise men is about to give baby Jesus some gold or something, and at the last moment throws it on the ground and starts screaming about how he is a wise man and could use the gifts more than some miracle that have no purpose make me sad, like if someone gets you a bottle of baileys instead of scotch...who drinks baileys? me a baileys drinker and I'll show you the spirit of Christmas...probably the best thing about the Christmas period is that half of Sydney disappears for a week or gives me time to get electrified and get down with little bo peep.

I guess the title and sentiment may not fit in to the vibe of the took me a long time to realise that being different is tough but more rewarding.

10. Traffic Sounds 0:00
Traffic Sounds (the label bit) is an extension of the mailorder bit which began in 2000 and slowly built some sort of overblown reputation as the trans-Pacific place to shop for all things indiepop. In between wading through all the stock from various labels such as K, Teenbeat, Kindercore, 555, Secretly Canadian and Matinee Recordings, TS previously contributed to vinyl lovers' collections with BEEP1. And now, between new videos projects and other grand plans, we're proud to give those Christmas jingle afficianados another reason to smile with this BEEP2 compilation.

onto the mailorder and everything else | another look at the gig flyer perhaps? | you might even want to check out BEEP1 | contact