Freed Sheep

The Free Sheep Foundation had a final party at its Belltown location last Friday (it's moving to as-yet-unknown new digs), but there wasn't much to report. FCS, playing their first show in several months, have apparently dropped not just the "North" from their band name but also keyboardist/guitarist/CD turntablist Mune Yamakawa. They're working on new material, but the bare-bones live setup (bass, drums, laptop, congas) and Free Sheep's not exactly overwhelming PA didn't make for any revelatory introductions. Foscil were skilled, smooth, and satisfying, as usual—my colleague Dave Segal is correct in his assessment that these guys deserve every bit as much shine as their more raucous incarnation Truckasauras—but by the time they played, a few rounds from the bar, as well as the generosity of some of the Shameless crew, had my own FoCuS and attention span a bit too impaired to fully appreciate their jazzy electro acoustics. My bad.

Over the Ice

'Tis the season, but if you're, like me, feeling more seasonally affected than jolly and festive this time of year, you could probably do without hearing any more Christmas songs. (And before y'all call me Scrooge: I like Christmas just fine, especially the parts about family and togetherness, it's just that I can do without the shopping, the Christ, and the carols, or the punked/indied versions of same—apologies to Rosie Thomas's presumably terrific A Very Rosie Christmas.) Instead, let me suggest some albums and songs that are perfect for the wintry weather without being about Santa or Jesus or traditional spinning tops (this list will, for reasons of space and time, be woefully noncomprehensive but hopefully a good start).

Support The Stranger

At the first sight of snow each winter, there's no album I want to hear more than the Aislers Set's The Last Match. I have stumped for this album before around here, but it is worth the repetition. From the obvious "Hit the Snow" and "Christmas Song" (which gets a pass for being an instrumental) to less blatant seasonal jams like "The Walk" and the title track, the whole album feels perfectly bundled up against the bracing cold, faint sleigh bells keeping time, vocal harmonies, guitars, and organ all alternately frosty and warm. Sigh.

Swedish techno minimalist the Field fits here as well, not just for song titles "Over the Ice" or "Sun & Ice" but also for his fittingly frozen, slippery vocal microsamples and skittering beats. The Pixies' "Dig for Fire" comes to mind (and not just because I had occasion to watch Singles recently—don't ask). There are other obvious picks: the Dismemberment Plan's ode to a cold, lonely, anticlimatic New Year's Eve, "The Ice of Boston"; the Postal Service's entire chilly discography; Belle and Sebastian's "The Fox in the Snow," which I usually can't stand but actually longed to hear the other night walking across the ice after the batteries ran down in my MP3 player. Newer and local: the acoustic instrumental "Crushed Ice" by Exohxo, the new project from Speaker Speaker's Jasen Samford and Danny Oleson. recommended