Wintergreen, the 1997 album by Swan Dive – the duo of Bill DeMain and Molly Felder – doesn’t come out and say it’s a Christmas album. The title, the inclusion of two Christmas songs, and the snowflakes artwork lean it heavily in that direction, though. Yet, the rest of the album has nothing to do with the holiday. In fact, it was recorded in the dog days of a Nashville summer. So what’s going on here?
I asked DeMain about Wintergreen, and apparently they had an EP of new material mostly done when record company marketing plans intervened. Their label decided they wanted to wait and release it to coincide with the upcoming Christmas season and promote it as a holiday album. Hence, two holiday-appropriate songs were recorded.
One is a somewhat goofy everybody-in-the-studio style sing-a-long of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. The other, sung by Felder in a voice that could melt a snowman, is called “Santa, Can’t You Bring Me a Man”. Though it’s a Swan Dive composition, it sounds like a standard. You know, the kind of sultry, jazzy number that somebody like Dusty Springfield or Julie London would have crooned/purred back in the 50’s or 60’s. The song is ripe for covering by someone like Diana Krall.
DeMain says the ‘Wintergreen’ title came from a jingle called “Wintergreen Kisses” that they did for J-Wave, Tokyo’s largest radio station, about the same time they were recording the EP tracks.
Though we’re calling it an EP, the two Christmas songs stretch the length closer to a full album. We’ve talked about those two tracks (after all it is that time of year), but what about the rest?
Wintergreen was the debut of “Groovy Tuesday”- one of Swan Dive’s best known songs, and it also contains well-chosen covers of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Burt Bacharach’s “In the Land of Make Believe”. These take their place nicely alongside the other Bossa and Bacharach inspired originals, “Words”, “I Know Myself Too Well” and “You Lose” (which contains the memorable lyrics “You could choke a dinosaur / As you tango ‘cross the floor / In your thousand dollar shoes”).
In a career that’s been marked by consistently strong songwriting, Swan Dive took a break after 2009’s Mayfair. Word is that we’ll see new music from the pair in 2014, as they go into the studio in January with producer Brad Jones (Josh Rouse, Matthew Sweet, Marshall Crenshaw).
Bonus- all five of the J-Wave jingles: