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New York singer-songwriter Mal originally posted a version of this song in 2010, but he's re-recorded it with a band for 2016. You can read his blog post to see what he was thinking, and then you can decide for yourself whether it pertains more this year than ever before, or not. Also note that paying to download it from Bandcamp generates money for the Ali Forney Center, which aids homeless LGBTQ kids in New York City.
More artistic expression regarding the soon-gone year of 2016, and just like your Facebook feed it's upset, angry and hopeful all at the same time. Stream it, no download I can see. UPDATE: Stubby found it on Bandcamp, and it's free. (Clean version with the one epithet removed also available.)
 
While stumbling around looking for things to cover, I discovered this, which was actually on the flip side of the vinyl single of 2012's "The Season's Upon Us" but somehow never came to my attention when I covered the A-side back in the day. It's clearly a throwaway, as it's more of a punk thrash than these Celtic-influenced roughnecks usually perform, but heck, you may need a song with this subject for a future holiday playlist.

 
Not much in the way of novelties crossed my path this Christmas, but this did. Chris, of Northwich, UK, apparently hasn't been at this long, but he likes to take the comedic approach to his music, and this is a well-thought-out music/video presentation on, well, selling out for Christmas. Good fun. Listen, and go buy on Bandcamp.

 

"Last Christmas," Wham! (Columbia)

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I would have been remiss not to at least mention this man's passing. See also this and this. UPDATE: Howard Cogswell reminds me I should have linked to this, as well. And here's the YouTube for that as well.

Merry Christmas once again

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If you've been keeping track of the occasional asides I've made in this year's postings, not to mention the liner notes to Manger Things, you probably already have a handle on how I feel about 2016, a year in which rock fans lost so many great and near-great performers, many before their time. Not to mention the recent events since November 8. It's almost enough for me to want to simply leave you with this bit of cacophony for the holiday:
   

But no, we want to enjoy our holiday, even rock out, as has always been the overarching theme of this website. We want to thumb our nose at the idea that Prince's "1999" simply came 17 years late. And we want to go into the new year energized, because we can't afford not to. So take your cue from this ancient rockin' classic, and press on regardless. I wish you all a Merry Christmas in the most sincere possible way, not in the Fox News way that really means "fuck off" because your holiday celebration isn't the same as Bill O'Reilly's. Come back after the holiday, I'll still have some posts going into the new year so you can prepare for next Christmas.

 

Felice Navidad, The Felice Brothers (Dualtone)

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This Americana band dropped an EP for 2015 consisting of five original songs, although they fall more on the side of country and folk than rock, and on the downbeat side of things lyrically. "Carriage" is a violin-driven complaint of hard times set in the modern day (name-checking 2015 in fact) that drops a couple expletives as it tells its sad story. "Country Ham" is more nostalgic about Christmas feelings, dropping a few song titles and a reference to Bing Crosby along the way. "Clarence," as you might guess, plays off "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Dollar Store" recalls the Christmas-gift venue of last resort, and "Breaking Up Christmas" wraps things up with a hoedown. A fine holiday effort, though not a particularly festive one. They previously did "Murder By Mistletoe" on their self-titled album from 2008, another downbeat number, although one with a bit more rhythm to it. UPDATE: "Country Ham" and "Murder By Mistletoe" are out on a vinyl single for 2016.

Sun Studio Sessions, Jack Skuller (Mint 400)

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sunsession.jpgSeriously old school rock 'n roll for the holidays, 1950s style, on a real live single (current availability uncertain) from this New Jersey guy who specializes in the rock music of this era. "Stuck in This Holiday" is the jumping A-side and "Empty Stocking Blues" is the slower B-side. This is really great stuff.

These guys have been throwing Christmas rock songs at us annually, and for 2016 they give us a changeup with this gentle shuffle. Looks like it's only on YouTube for now.

 

"Mistress For Christmas," Halestorm (Atlantic)

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The popular metal group from Central PA takes on the AC/DC Christmas "carol" for 2016. It's a little odd to hear this from a girl singer, not that there's anything wrong with that, but well, she's not far off Bon Scott's vocal sound. So dig in and enjoy.

"MCGA," Sad13 (self-issued)

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Sadie Dupuis, formerly of the band Speedy Ortiz and currently solo under the name in the headline, is apparently bracing for a big argument over the holiday dinner table with this topical little blast of guitar noises. It's freely downloadable from Soundcloud, where the lyrics are also posted, so as to avoid any ambiguity over what it's about. I'm down with the emotion; hope when this track comes up as a Facebook Memory we'll be able to say the sentiments are dated, but I wouldn't bet money on that outcome.
 

"Blue Christmas," The Lumineers (Dualtone)

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lumineers.jpgThe popular folk-rockers give us their cover of the classic tune for 2016 ahead of their upcoming world tour. No surprises, if you've heard them sing "Ho Hey" or "Ophelia," you'll recognize them doing this song.

"Go Santa Go," Priscilla's Revenge (self-issued)

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So at this point in the holiday season you're saying, "You know, Rudolph, what we really need right at this moment is some serious blues-rocking Christmas music from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories." Why, you read my mind. Check this out.

I'm going to admit finally that I don't know what the young people are on about when they talk about "mixtapes." I used to make mixtapes in the cassette days; now I make mix discs out of other people's songs. I'm told I should be making mix thumb drives nowadays, but never mind. This, by contrast, appears to be new original hip-hop Christmas music for 2016 created by Chance the Rapper and Jeremih along with special guests. We used to call these things "albums," but in today's ADHD musical world nobody listens to albums. So mixtapes it is, I guess. And this is a really cool mixtape. Special mention to "Stranger at the Table," a repurposing of the Jackson 5ive's "I Want You Back" with new lyrics. It's all mostly mid-tempo or slower, almost slow-jam styled modern R'nB but with a fair amount of rapping. On "All the Way," comedian Hannibal Buress jokes about wanting more auto-tune put on his voice, and "I Shoulda Left You" isn't particularly holiday oriented. "The Tragedy" addresses a homeless man's plight in winter, and while it's a nice ballad and rap I'm still going to state the vinyl record crackling was a cliché back when people were putting it on CDs. "Chi Town Christmas" repurposes "Carol of the Bells" into something befitting a hip-hop record, and the title song wraps things up with the title being used as a mantra. A few stray expletives turn up here, but otherwise this is quite listenable even if you're not particularly oriented toward hip-hop. It's only on Soundcloud.
 

"Merry Christmastime," Lost Cosmos (Ah-Love)

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Not sure how I stumbled onto this. It's a nice 70s-style rock shuffle celebrating the holiday from an Austin, Texas group. Currently it appears to only be available on Soundcloud, so here it is. It's freely downloadable if you want it.
 
christmas5fight.jpgAs with this act's major 9/11-era hit "Superman (It's Not Easy)," this 2016 Christmas song is a warm piano ballad about being with the one you love. Not much to say beyond that; check it out for yourself by clicking the cover.

PINS is an English band, and their dreamy 2016 holiday tune got added to Amazon's Indie For the Holidays playlist this year. Apparently it's an exclusive for the online store. Listen here, stream it or buy it.

Two quick hits

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  • Kurt Vile put some Christmas lyrics to his song "Wakin' On a Pretty Day" during an IFC network special the other day, with Lisa Loeb along for the ride. As I can't embed it, this will have to do for a mention.
  • And Manger Things is the name of this year's Mistletunes mix disc, and the liner notes for it are in the sidebar.
  • I lied, here's a third one. Jethro Tull has an album, The String Quartets, due out in March. It's available for pre-orders, and there are two Christmas songs, a new version of their "Ring Out Solstice Bells" and "Pass the Bottle (A Christmas Song)." You can download them now. But given the string quartets of the title, these numbers are more likely appropriate for your authentic Victorian Christmas than for rocking out.
8bitmullet.jpgThe Santastic series of holiday mash-ups ended with Vol. 9, but 8-Bit Mullet, a D.C.-area DJ, has revived the idea for 2016, offering the work of many of the DJs who provided their work for the Santastic albums. He's mashed them up himself into a 61-minute supercut, so I'm having a little trouble distinguishing where one DJ's work ends and another's begins. I guess that plays against my natural tendency to highlight particular cuts, but just as that didn't stop 8-Bit Mullet from mashing them together, that surely won't stop anybody from ripping them back apart. I'll point out that several of the cuts on here, like "No Sleep Till Christmas" by Divide & Kreate, "Insane Wonderland" by DJ Flack, "Cold Chillin' with Stevie at Christmastime" by DJ BC, "Jingle Bells Pon De Floor" and "Tommy's Royal Christmas" by DJ Schmolli, have already been on Santastic collections. It also appears that Mojochronic's Led Zeppelin mashups are on here uncredited. From among the rest, I'm enjoying "Frosty DMC" by Sam Flanagan, "Funky Christmas" by Brat, "Pumping Up Christmas" by DJ Schmolli, "Xmasploitation" by Mojochronic, and "Sister Christmas" by DJ Lobsterdust. If you'd like to see what 8-Bit Mullet has wrought here, by all means download this sucker free of charge.
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Michael's the frontman of the indie synth-pop band Passion Pit. For 2016, he's put together a combination audio-video project that celebrates Christmas as a way to respond to the growth of terrorism around the world with "sanity and unity, not panic and division." Proceeds from the record are earmarked for charity, including donations to the Nichols School arts department, which is the singer's alma mater and the location for the shooting of the visual element. I'll point out at the start that not all of the songs are directly Christmas-oriented, such as "Evergreen," "Weather the Storm," "And Never Be Afraid" or "Permission to Audition," though if you listen to the whole thing in one sitting you will get the spirit of the holiday. Possible playlist picks include "December to Remember," "Stained Glass Windows," "Wake Up, It's Christmas," "Christmas in Your Arms," and the title song. These would definitely be change-of-pace tunes in a playlist, as this isn't really party music; it's more inspirational and earnest. You can purchase or stream the album, however you like to roll. As for the video content, that's only on YouTube for now.

Winter Lives, Matt Pond PA (131 Records)

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Matt's been around as an indie rock artist for a long time, and this 2016 album is actually his second offering of "winter music" after 2004's Winter Songs EP, which featured covers of Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road," Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," Neil Young's "Winterlong," and Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the See." This time around, everything is original material. "The Glow" opens up on a folky note evoking children playing in the run-up to the holiday, "Fotzepolitic" uses the guitar figure from "2000 Miles" to great effect on a song that's otherwise unrelated to that classic tune, "Force of Nature" is a full-on rocker, and "Whoa," repeated quite a bit as the chorus, is an impressionistic lyrical take on sled riding. The banjos are brought out for the ballad "Dirty Looks," and acoustic folk is the approach on "Used to Be." That leaves the title song, an impressively orchestrated number that relates daily life in the last season of the year. The rest of the album is short instrumentals. This is a fine album, and though it may not work for you as holiday music, some of the songs may fit as selections on your holiday playlists.

Christmas, Night Flowers (self-issued)

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This indie London band has only been around a few years, but they've got several releases up at Bandcamp. This 2016 single is intended to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust and Mind charities. "To Rest" is a pensive indie-pop ballad, while "Christmas Eve" is a fine rocker with fuzzed-up guitar driving it along. Listen to great music and help some worthy charities.
Hair metal, y'all! I have been unable to find out much of anything about these guys other than their home is the Bay Area. They have Facebook and Flickr pages, which haven't been updated lately. And Guff.com names them among 20 real life bands with unfortunate names. But this thumping take on the popular carol has only been up for the past 18 days on Soundcloud, so here you go. No independent audio I'm aware of.

deadgwynne2016.jpgKeeping up their string of annual releases, these guys give us two free songs in 2016. "Christmas Time" is an upbeat acoustic ditty with bongos, and "Christmas Flow" brings in some fuzzy electric guitar crunch. As always, these guys' complete Christmas discography is freely downloadable from the link.
The boys from Brooklyn have a history of making the very occasional Christmas tune, and for 2016 they've penned a new one, a pensive little acoustic ditty about a holiday in stir. It's nice, but so far YouTube is the only way to hear it. UPDATE: Go to their website, donate your email address, and it's yours.

 
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A bit of 70s rock, a bit of music hall, a tiny bit of Elvis in the vocals, combined with lyrics that offer a holiday come-on, and these swinging Brits suck you in with a great 2016 single. There's a different mix on the B-side, too.

"Father Christmas," Jon McDevitt (Cattleprod)

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Not the Kinks classic, but a perfectly enjoyable original tune in an indie-pop vein with a lot of classic touches from the 50s and 60s thrown in. The lyrics are mostly impressionistic, but they have a warm vibe to them. Check him out.

"Naughty Christmas," Lacuna Coil (Century Media)

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I don't follow metal, but I am aware that it is still a thing, and I had heard of this Italian goth metal group before. Didn't realize they've been in business for 20 years, though. Anyway, if goth metal was a genre radio stations were interested in playing, this 2016 holiday tune could be considered a single. It's your basic naughty-or-nice Christmas premise, except in this case being naughty means being hunted by Krampus. It's kind of bouncy in a minor key, hammer-the-ax way, and it'll definitely put some roughage in your holiday playlists.

This is from last year's It's a Holiday Soul Party album, but they just made this video for it this year. I'm posting it because the late Sharon Jones is a talent who should never be forgotten.

 
Nice slow-jam hip-hop record for 2016. The artists say they were looking to highlight the special time of year with positivity, and it looks like they succeeded in this story of a family supporting each other through the tough times. Looks like it's only on Soundcloud for the moment.
 
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