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December 2010 Archives

Get a free Beatles fan club recording from iTunes

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beatlesx.jpgLook what iTunes sneaked out two days before Christmas -- the 1963 Beatles fan club Christmas recording, free of charge no less. One of the commenters complained that it was a minute shorter than the original, and who knows why that happened; someone theorized it was actually digitized from an original flexidisc, since that's how they were issued, and perhaps there was just a bad stretch of groove. It does sound a little crackly to my ears, though I'm sure the original master tapes still exist, as they did actually put out an album of all of them, however briefly it was available. Anyway, here 'tis for your delectation, no guarantees as to how long it will be available.

Merry Christmas Baby, from the management

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It's that time when posting more and more holiday music has to bow to actually enjoying the holiday. Thanks for visiting this modest Internet way station, offering your tips and actually using the comments section. In the upcoming months I will be moving the rest of the content over from the old site to the new one, so that readers will get better use out of the search window on the main page. Plus, I've got a pile of mostly historic stuff on my desk that needs to join the site, so you'll be seeing that stuff on the main page as I process a few thoughts on each one and post it all. In the meantime, feel free to leave your tips and ask or post questions, keeping in mind that this is the ho-ho-home of a rock 'n roll Christmas.

Anyway, as I started out to say, Merry Christmas from Mistletunes.com. Tell your friends about us. And enjoy this old chestnut, which I often tell people was the start of the rock 'n roll Christmas genre. (This performance is not actually from 1947 as the singer says, just the song is. UPDATE: Ignore this parenthetical, YouTube took away this version so I found another.) Take it away, Charles Brown and your quartet:

ohhush3.jpgThis secretive musical entity marks its third entry into the Christmas realm with this 2010 EP. They had been coy about it, giving it away free if you purchased a selection of band swag, but it's now on Amazon (click cover art) and iTunes. "California Christmas" updates and tinselizes the sentiments first expressed in the similarly named Beach Boys song about that state's girls, though in a more synth-pop-rock vein with auto-tuned vocals. (When I note auto-tuning, I'm obviously referring to situations where the artist exaggerates the effect; there are plenty of folks who use auto-tune in a way that is completely unnoticeable, at least to those who don't know the person in question can't actually sing.) The title song of the collection offers no references to the National Lampoon movie in the lyrics, but it's also upbeat and fun. Capping things off is a version of "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas," lots of synths and dance beats. Glad I was able to get this in before the actual holiday.

I've noted in the past that Elvis Costello has mostly resisted Christmas songs except for his co-write with the Chieftains, "The St. Stephen's Day Murders." He's also on record as having performed "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Anne Sophie Von Otter, though that was a live performance and no recording is known to exist. Well, here's an Elvis Costello Christmas medley for you all, endorsed by the man himself as I found it on his website:

 

UPDATE: On Dec. 21, 2010, Costello performed solo in Chicago, playing "The St. Stephen's Day Murders" and also "Winter Song" by Alan Hull.

"The Christmas Song," The Roots (video)

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From Jimmy Fallon's TV show, where the Roots are the house band:

seabird.jpgThis Christian rock band from the Cincinnati region pulled together this EP for Christmas 2010, and it's an unexpected pleasure. The song roster is seven classic carols of religious provenance, from "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "Go Tell It On the Mountain" to "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night," which at first tipped me that this was nothing special. These guys, however, have re-arranged these songs to a fare-thee-well, reimagining the melodies in a more modern pop-rock idiom and taking a few liberties with the lyrics as well. Though I favor more subversive takes on the holiday, I'm quite taken with the results of this project, and you might just find these songs brightening up your holiday mix discs and shuffled playlists.

Christmas EP, Kevin Garrett (self-issued)

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kgarrett.jpgThis is a fairly unassuming collection of carols set to mostly solo acoustic guitar settings, particularly on "The Christmas Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," but Kevin puts a little funk into his performances, along with harmony vocals, cello on "White Christmas," and multiple guitars on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Free from Bandcamp. Mellow, but distinctive enough to serve as a change of pace.
cashingin.jpgI had no idea there was a Volume 1, but this 2010 sequel is a nicely subversive punk thrash through the holiday -- and a frequently explicit romp as well, so mothers hide your kiddies. The Sheckies go nuts with "Holly Jolly Christmas," but watch out what that guy does with his zipper. The 45 Adapters (do you have to be old like me to appreciate that name?) go anti-commercial with "This Xmas," in which we are exhorted to "don't buy sh-t." Dog Company wishes us a "Merry Christmas, Better New Year" in a punky reggae style, Doomed To Obscurity gets all jangly on "Yuletide Girl, and the Jukebox Zeros aver that "Christmas In the City (Ain't Too Pretty)." The Missile Toads rat out the jolly elf in "Santa's a Boozer," "White Christmas" goes explicit in the hands of the Antibodies, and you can imagine what a "Foul Mouthed Elf" might say in the hands of Nothing But Enemies/SCFF, who render the tune in a style reminiscent of the Buzzcocks. And what can we say about the Violent Society's "Merry Christmas, I [Cee-Lo'ed] Your Snowman?" I deleted the expletive myself, btw. All told, a profane noise spree you'll want to play for your friends. NSFW, but here's the 45 Adapters:

 
kanye.jpgA gang-rap for the 2010 holiday led by the King Of All Media, Mr. Ima-Let-You-Finish himself, in which the holiday plays out in that Manhattan neighborhood still considered by many flyover-country folk to be a hotbed of poverty. In reality, it's been gentrifying for a long time now, which is why this song doesn't touch on anything to do with deprivation -- it's just home to these folks. If this were Conor Oberst and his friends, it would be "Christmas in Omaha," but it's Kanye and his posse, so it's set in a majority-minority neighborhood. Not bad at all.

"Family Guy" Christmas singles available

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Two songs from the recent "Family Guy" Christmas episode, "Christmastime Is Killing Us" and "All I Really Want For Christmas," are now for sale on iTunes. They're more musical theater entries than rock 'n roll, but I can't imagine that folks interested in what we put up here wouldn't want something from "Family Guy" for his or her mix disc. (I'm not usually a fan myself, and these tunes don't do much for me personally, but "Family Guy" does have its moments.)

"Carol of the Bells," Hugo Ferreira (self-issued)

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hugofer.jpgHugo is a member of the band Tantric, and this 2010 solo outing takes this song out of the realms of orchestras and choirs and sets it in a rock band context. Not bad. Grab it from his site or iTunes. (Click the cover for iTunes.)

A few more quick hits for the readership

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  • mojo15.jpgThose of you who don't mind dropping a sawbuck on Mojo magazine, the much-loved music monthly from England, might wanna grab the January 2011 issue, as the usual CD rubber-cemented to the front of the book is Mojo's Festive Fifteen, by which they mean Christmas songs. The rundown includes everything from the familiar (Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run") to the obscure (Superchunk's cover of John Cale's "Child's Christmas In Wales," Sea of Bees' "Feliz Navidad" and Hannah Peel & Tunng's "Hey Santa," all specially recorded for this disc), with other contributions from Irma Thomas, Joe Tex, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Marc Almond, R.E.M., Sufjan Stevens and The Free Design. There's even a slightly deranged lounge version of Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Tony Christie. The magazine's worth the money even without the disc most months, so three unique songs are probably worth the trouble.
  • WXPN-FM, home of the "World Cafe," put up four songs by local Philadelphia artists for download this week. They are "Reindeer Game" by Ben Arnold, "Song For Solstice" by Hoots and Hellmouth, "Silent Tonight" by Madi Diaz and "Wake Up December" by Talain Rayne. While we're considering downloads, Paste Magazine rounded up 50 free downloads from various spots on the Web, including their own site, from obscure to familiar -- including familiar from this very site. Oh, and while I was writing this I stumbled on Silber Records' collections of Xmas tunes, also free to download. UPDATE: I'm inserting this here because it's free through the good graces of Stella Artois beer. It's "Les 12 Jours De Noël" by Rosi Golan and Human, and yes, that means "12 Days of Christmas." It's strictly lounge-jazzville, but if you still want it, help yourself. FURTHER UPDATE: And Mayer Hawthorne has a free download of "Christmas Time Is Here."
  • And finally, the oft-mentioned 2010 Mistletunes mix is on its way to a select group of people, but everybody can check out the cover art, playlist and liner notes here.

"Christmas Time," V.D. King (Garageland)

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From Jersey City's roots-rock favorites Better Off Dead for 2010, here's a fresh rocking side of Christmas from band leader V.D. King. DIdn't see anyplace to download the audio by itself, but I'm sure it'll turn up eventually.

 

"Feliz Navidad," The Baghdaddios (self-issued)

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The guys who brought us "Christmas at CBGB's" a few years back give us a quick punk attack on the popular Jose Feliciano Christmas song. Go to the YouTube site and they'll tell you how to request the audio file. Check out their website when you get a chance.

Christmas Volume 1, Duover (self-issued)

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duover.jpgStumbled over these guys (well, girl & guy) while trying to chase down a free download of something else we've already reviewed here. This Portland, Ore. duo includes one member who has played with Sea Wolf and M. Ward, and they "recorded it on an 8-year-old computer with a 10-year-old recording interface in a small apartment." This 2010 collection does have that endearing lo-fi pop thing going on, but this is a little more accomplished-sounding than you might guess from that self-effacing description. It's a short album, just nine songs, but it feels like it could be unfolding in your living room right next to the tree. They go off to "Grandma's House," play "Trivial Pursuit" to a swingy piano and clavinet, celebrate a "Coyote Christmas" in the wild old west, they miss each other when one goes "Home For the Holidays" and the other leaves, they crank up the disco ball for "Under Mistletoe" and lay down a moody David Lynch vibe on the instrumental "Ice Cycle." Their sincerity shows through best on "Fruitcake" because they sing about sharing one, not on regifting it to some unlucky sucker. The ballad "Old Soles" emphasizes the longing for home during the holiday season. And "Auld Lang Syne," the only non-original, is brief, but after several minutes of silence it quickly reprises. This is that "secret song" thing that works on CDs, not so much on downloads. Those who like old Lee Hazlewood records or recent Belle & Sebastian will like this best. Check out "Under Mistletoe" here via Vimeo.

cherry6.jpgOnce again the UK record label Cherryade draws Christmas songs from its artist roster and other associated indie bands to put together its latest compilation for 2010. Otalgia kicks things off nicely with the driving "Melting Friends," and then Doris and the Jumpers offer "Christmas Morning," a number with a debt to the sound of the Velvet Underground. "Christmas Day Alone" by Ginger Tom appears to be about getting dumped on Christmas, and Nathaniel Forrester gives us a nice acoustic rocker, "My Snowman." The Pocket Gods' "Phil Spector Christmas Album" is a mostly instrumental piece with talking pieces that appear to be quotes from interviews with or about Spector, making it more social commentary than sing-along. Love The Bobby McGee's for their song title "Dogs @ Xmas (99 Presents But a Bitch Ain't One)," although the song appears to be mostly in French, which lets me out at the curb. The Momeraths do a skiffle version of "Stop the Cavalry," Curly Hair's "8 Beat" features video game synths with xylophone backing lyrics about a holiday farewell, and HT & OJ also fire up synths to demand we "Just Say 'No' To Christmas." Another good one is the acoustic rocker "Christmas Song," an original, not the Mel Torme song, led by accordion. Model Village wraps things up with "Next Xmas," a jangle-pop look to the future. In the past you've had to order from the label, but this year you can get the download from Amazon.

Santastic V: Snow, Man!, various artists (dj BC)

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santastic5.jpgIt's mashup time again with the usual gang of mixmasters once again for 2010. They're up to the minute, as Cee-Lo's instant classic "F--k You" is already part of the proceedings thanks to Voicedude, who mashes up the Jackson 5 "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" with that song. (Gotta point out that this particular Christmas song seems to get a lot of mashup love and that it's starting to border on cliché.) Voicedude also offers "Christmas Fire," in which Billy Squier's holiday tune seamlessly meets Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Dj BC brings us "8-Bit Hip-Hop Christmas," featuring video game music versions of "Let It Snow" over a rap that isn't familiar to me but is holiday-themed. Smash-up Derby finds a non-Jacksons version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" to lay over the White Stripes on "Seven Nation Santa." Mojochronic stops in twice with his "Motown Christmas" and this season's winner, "Rudolph (You Don't Have To Put On the Red Light)," the latter featuring the Police and the former liberally raiding the Motown Christmas library to mash one familiar hit on top of another. "Swing the Boot" by Martinn drags everything from Elvis to Mike Oldfield to Jona Lewie on top of the Greenhill Dixieland Jazz Band for what sounds like something that could be the overture to a Broadway musical. Divide & Kreate brings Clarence Carter together with Donna Summer for a great "I Feel Santa," using the backing track from "I Feel Love." DJ Flack's "Insane in the Winter Wonderland" brings Cypress Hill together with Rosemary Clooney and the Mexicali Brass Band, and DJ McFly mashes Jay-Z with Peanuts (does Charlie Brown really have "99 Problems?") for "If You Jinglin'." There's two versions of this and three versions of "Forget You Santa" on the full download, but of course you may pick and choose among what you like; it's free after all (the creators recommend a charitable contribution be made to a non-profit for the needy as a token of appreciation). Once again, this isn't just technical artistry; as in the past, this is a fairly listenable collection, not to mention a danceable one.
wickedxmas.jpgThis is essentially a Boston-speak parody of "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas," and the single features five versions, the original plus four remixes done by the folks behind the Santastic compilations, like dj BC, ATOM and Black Element. The original song was from 2004 and the remixes were released in 2009. There's some interesting reinterpretations here, though I suspect most folks tend to ignore the remixes in favor of the original song. But anything that puts shekels into the pockets of the Santastic folks is OK by me.
subspr10.jpgNever let it be said that this indie label doesn't earn its name when it comes to Christmas samplers; once again, there's two CDs worth of stuff here, 48 tunes, and it would take me until Christmas to run down all of them for you. Since it's a free download (as are all the other previous samplers, which are easily accessed at the same link), you are risking only bandwidth to exercise your own independent judgment. In the interest of completeness, I'll note a handful of tracks on this 2010 collection should get the Parental Advisory sticker. I'll rattle off a few highlights to make this worth your reading time. "December Rain" by ChrisMas is what they used to call a "power ballad," and it seems to simulate the live concert experience with excessive echo on the drums and nearly continuous arena-sized audience cheering. "There's Always Tomorrow" by the Kickstand Band is a cute pop-rocker that could be played at times other than Christmas. Some synth-pop funk is applied to "This Christmas I'm Going To Florida" by Panic & Sharon, a clever kiss-off song. I think I like "Christmas at the Airport Bar" as much for its title and band name -- Cuban Mistletoe Crisis -- as for its power pop crunch. MC Ralz says "All I Want For Christmas Is a Rap Career," a good parody of that scene. A more straightforward hip-hop outing comes from PreciseHero with "I Can See My Breath." "Christmas Bummer" by Old Empire rhymes with "laid off since summer," and is a clever upbeat number about a downbeat subject. The Next Door Neighbors apparently got out pen and guitar during last year's TBS marathon to write the Sixties-ish "A Christmas Story," based entirely on the movie, and do I have to tell you what the chorus is? Hint: It's Red Ryder-related. "Christmas Creep" by From the Future sounds like a takeoff on "Walk on the Wild Side," with lyrics like "where mistletoe and camel toe meet." These aren't the only high points of the collection, but like I said, decide for yourself.

Christmas Jollies, Gummibär (self-issued)

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gummibar.jpgPronounce the artist's name out loud. Get it? Music to chew on. Not surprisingly, this is a viral marketing stunt for the actual product mentioned above. For 2010, this artist has a five-song EP consisting of electro-pop versions of popular carols, with a vocal distorted in such a way as to suggest a cuddly critter is singing. Looks like it's aimed at kids, but it's silly enough to pass as a novelty. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is rendered as a synth-polka, "Jingle Bells" gets a dance beat behind the machines, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is sprightly but not so danceable, "O Christmas Tree" ramps up the rhythm and they end by covering "Last Christmas," again with the dance-floor rhythms. I highly recommend the latter song for folks who remember the 80s -- or for those who want to flip out people who remember the 80s. Apparently these guys had a Christmas song out in 2007, "You Know It's Christmas," and the song was revisited as a duet with Felix the Cat in 2008. (You know, it seems like this stuff ought to be free since it's basically an advertising campaign.)

Xmass, various artists (Nub Country)

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xmass.jpgThis 2010 British punk-pop compilation is actually billed "The Pocket Gods and Friends," as six tunes on here are by that band, including an all-hands-on-deck version of "Auld Lang Syne" that closes the album. (Their song "The Phil Spector Christmas Album" isn't on here, but it is on the 2010 Cherryade compilation, about which more later.) The hosts have a take-no-prisoners view of the holiday, with such titles as "Wanking For Christmas," "It's Christmas and You're Still a C--t," and the angry sound collage "The Queen's Speech Impediment," based on the tradition of the monarch speaking at holiday time. They also thrash through "Silent Night" and take a lo-fi but poppy approach to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Other guests here include The Low Countries, whose "Carry On Christmas" appears to have double meanings in regard to the bishop's activities; "Supernatural Bread" by Eddie's Brother seems to be a request for money in lieu of gifts; Grae J Wall and the Young Trash Lovers lament that "They Cancelled Christmas," then Grae himself returns with a folk ballad "Acadia Avenue," about holiday verities; Martin Bradford Gago renders a straight reading of "We Three Kings"; Uber Dramm offers a noisy admission, "I KIlled My Parents on Christmas Day"; the Electric Pheromones offer an instrumental with the provocative title "All I Got For Christmas Was This Clockwork Orange"; Bert M D'hooge also goes instrumental with "Last of Summer, Burned in Midwinter Fire"; and Kirk performs "Xmas Blues," which is exactly what the title says it is. A fair amount of variety here, but mostly in the lo-fi punk vein.

blacksegel.jpgThis is a fairly faithful cover of the Bing & Bowie duet, although with Black involved it means he gives it the Tenacious D treatment, with Segel sitting in for Black's regular collaborator Kyle Gass. And there's a fair bit of kibitzing that is reminiscent, but not identical, to the original TV performance. But if you haven't listened to the Bing & Bowie version lately, this will make you giggle. Sales benefit Blue Star Families, a non-profit that supports military families. Check it out via CollegeHumor.com:  

 While we're on the topic, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly were thinking along the same lines this year, so check this out from FunnyOrDie.com:

 

"Miracle," Matisyahu (Epic)

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matisyahu.jpgDo I need to say Hanukkah alert? The popular Jewish reggae performer finally drops a single for the eight nights of light in 2010. It's a festive modern reggae performance with pertinent lyrics, though I probably could have written that without listening to it. Those of you who drop a Hanukkah tune into your mix discs routinely should enjoy having this, and of course those of you for whom Hanukkah is the main holiday should like it as well.
scottben.jpgReceived this from Larry Karazewski, screenwriter for such films as "Ed Wood" and "The People vs Larry Flynt," and since I loved both these flicks I made sure to listen to his original Christmas song performed by Scott Bennett of Brian Wilson's very accomplished backing band. It's a Christmas ballad with downbeat lyrics about someone having a less-than-happy holiday, and it's well done, particularly the sparse backing consisting mainly of piano and cello. Whether this version ever makes the charts on its own I have no idea, but I'd be willing to bet another version turns up on someone else's Christmas album in the next season or two. Get it at Amazon or iTunes.

amoebas.jpgMaybe I haven't been sniffing down the right alleyways, but there's been a dearth of strong novelties this season, to my ears anyway. This is a well-made novelty for 2010, basically a 5-minute musical theater production about "real Americans" shutting down a hippie "solstice festival." It's a nice piece of work, but I gotta admit, I'm on the hippies' side, especially since the protagonists are armed with fiddle and banjo. As these guys are firmly on the good guys' side in regard to things like science and the treachery of the high finance sector, I'm willing to keep an open mind if they decide to revisit the holidays in the future. Flip side is "Christmas Ferret"; both sides are free from Bandcamp.

Springsteen, R.E.M. tease us with Xmas songs

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The Boss rejoins the Christmas chase in 2010 with a rendition of "Blue Christmas." It's part of a five-song mini-concert available only here, featuring four songs from The Promise plus this, and I haven't been able to find a way to break it out separately; if you can, feel free to use the comments section to spread the word.

Also new for this year is R.E.M.'s version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," available only from these guys so far, no video, just audio. Mike Mills takes the lead vocal, no indication whether Michael Stipe is doing any of the backing vocals or anything else, but Bill Berry returns to play drums.

In the course of preparing this post I stumbled over Never Mind the Christmas Here's the Bollocks, which is a shorter version of Bollocks to Christmas that we reviewed a few years ago. You might want this just for the title and Sex Pistols-parody cover, though it's only a download from Amazon at this time.
hollyberry2.jpgTheir 2009 entry "I Wanna Go Surfin' With Santa" was received well enough that this group went back into the studio for another bite at the apple. This year's entry is not a lot different, except it's more overtly a tribute to the Beach Boys. Also of note is the participation of guest artists Jonathan Paley of the Paley Brothers and Pamela Des Barres, best known as an author but formerly of the Frank Zappa-produced GTOs. I personally can't get enough Beach Boys, so this is aces with me.

clickbeet.jpgThis is Dan Pavelich from the Bradburys, who had previously curated volumes 1 and 2 of the Hi-Fi Christmas Party series. He's back with another project with a new Christmas single for 2010. The A-side is an upbeat rocker with celebratory lyrics about holiday preparations. The B-side is "Hoofprints in the Snow," a nostalgic ballad about a child looking for evidence of Santa's arrival in the yard. An excellent rock 'n roll Christmas single, grab both sides.
plasticsno.jpgRight now this is only up on this U.K. songwriter's Tumblr page, and you can only stream it, but what the heck. It's a nice 70's sounding hard-rocker about a snowman who doesn't seem complete until the singer hangs an old guitar off his arm, and then rock 'n roll breaks out: "Santa was the frontman, Rudolph on the drums," and so on. Double lead guitars on the solo are a nice touch, right out of the 70s, or out of the Darkness bag of tricks, whichever floats your boat. We'll let you know if this ever becomes downloadable. UPDATE: James has decided to identify as Plastic Snow, so click on the album cover to download from Amazon. And here's the video:

 
indicat3.jpgThe European indie label is back with another compilation of its own artists taking on the holiday. It's a little thinner than the two previous collections, just 11 songs, but if you've heard the previous ones you know what to expect -- lo-fi indie pop-rock. Adam and Darcie kick things off with a cover of Joni Mitchell's "River," Alli Millstein offers "White White Christmas," a ballad with just a taste of old doo-wop touches, Kate and After's "Snow Angel" reappears here, Boca Chica goes country with "Not On Christmas Eve," the Gorgeous Colors rush the kids to bed with "Hurry Up Children, Santa's Coming," Natalie Prass gets jazzy with "No Better Time," Sixties pop comes to the fore with "Snow Blitz" by Paisley and Charlie, and the Very Most return with "Christmas In July Comes Earlier Each Year," a keyboard-and-melodic-percussion instrumental that ramps up into a righteous noise with faint vocals toward the end. An interesting collection you should look into. Only available for purchase from the website for now, but the 2008 and 2009 collections are at Amazon.

"Christmas Chill," the Dead Gwynne (self-issued)

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This act puts up one fresh new Christmas song on their website annually (sometimes two), and for 2010 they go a little psychobilly on us, with chiming vibrato guitar chords building suspense while the singer talks about holiday preparations breaking the chill. Nice work, and it's free.
ruffeather.jpgThis Vancouver band put together this gentle bit of chamber pop about Christmas in the desert, touching on traditions, work and growing older along the way. The slight amateur touch actually makes it more endearing. And they're giving it away for Christmas 2010. Check it out for yourself.

bumpers.jpgGreat rocker for 2010, kind of 70s rock rhythm-wise but a strong melody dressed up with sharp organ and plenty of holiday-appropriate percussion. A slight variation on the bring-my-baby-home plotline, And it goes by in the blink of an eye, leaving you wanting more. I'm kicking myself that this missed the Mistletunes mix; maybe next year. Get it while it's free.
toadsprok.jpgThis 2010 entry is a nice cover of Sam Phillips' song from 2009, rather more rocked out than the original. I still prefer Sam's version, but I gotta admit this one is more likely to liven up a mix disc. Enhanced by the fact that it's a free download from Bandcamp. These guys dropped off my radar back in the 90s, good to see they're still performing.

This is just silly. But that's a good thing. Who can object to Christmas hot pants, right? This 2010 number is a hip-hop ode to partying down for the holidays. The fact that the video shows a lot of middle-aged folks but darned few people actually wearing the garment in question only adds to the effect. Buy it from their website or listen to it here.

This is kind of funny, but it's undermined by the fact that Gaga actually did record a holiday single in 2008, "Christmas Tree."

 

"Santa Claus," the Philco Brothers (self-issued)

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Sorry about the dearth of posting over the past few days; this usually happens when I hit crunch time on the final production of the annual Mistletunes mix disc. (For newcomers, previous years' discs are featured in the left sidebar.) First pilot copies are made, and now I've got to be away from the computer for a couple of days. I'm holding out on you in regard to a few singles and albums, including such stuff as the new holiday collections from Indiecator and Suburban Sprawl, something from The Pocket Gods "and friends," singles from such folks as the Hollyberries and the Click Beetles, and a Jack Black cover of a classic rock Christmas duet. You'll hear more about that next week, and around that time the 2010 disc will be added to the left sidebar. In the meantime, just so you can't say I didn't bring you anything for the third Sunday of Advent, here's the Philco Brothers on video with a fairly authentic cover of the Sonics' classic "Santa Claus."

 

The Christmas Gig, various artist (Target)

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TargetGig.jpgWe've always been happy to highlight particular businesses' special Christmas albums on this site, although we tend to be a little picky in that regard, looking for something unique. Well, we are remiss in not bringing this news to you earlier: Target not only has an excellent rock 'n pop Christmas compilation available for 2010, it's free of charge. Just go to the website and download the zip file and open into iTunes or whatever your listening/ripping application is. There's even liner notes at the site, though I'd recommend archiving those if you want them. Guster kicks things off with a new tune, "Tiny Tree Christmas," Crystal Antlers pays garage-rock tribute to Christmas light displays with "10,000 Watts," Blackalicious brings the hip-hop with "Toy Jackpot," Bishop Allen gives us some clangorous alt-pop with "You'll Never Find My Christmas" and Jenny O wants to "Get Down For the Holidays," but in that gentle acoustic pop manner. Classic R'nB makes two appearances with Little Isadore's "Party Hard" and Little Jackie's "Mrs. Claus Got Nothing On Me," both guaranteed to populate the dance floor, the latter already in use in a Target ad. Blazer Force goes electro-pop with "Electronic Santa," Natalie Hemby takes a Secret Sisters approach to seeking her "Perfect Gift," and the collection closes with two Spanish-language pop-rock recordings, The Pinker Tones with "Super Mama" and Ceci Bastida with "Un Regalo Para Mi (A Present For Me)." This collection is good enough to pay for, thank goodness you don't have to. Just for giggles, here's Guster's video.

 
sexyaccid.jpgThis song originated in 2009 and has been performed for a new single in 2010, and it's now available in three versions. The original was a boy-girl thing, then it was re-recorded with the genders reversed (and "It's a Wonderful Life" soundbites superimposed), and for 2010 it's rendered with all the characters as women, according to the band's website. The original is a folk-pop-rock performance, the one in the middle a little noisier, and the current version a little poppier and doomier. Pick 'n choose, or collect 'em all, a free download.

Winter Plunderband, Beatallica (Oglio)

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beatallica.jpgThis Wisconsin parody band mashes up the best of the Beatles and Metallica on their previous albums, and for 2009 snuck out this four-song EP in which they Metallicize "Wonderful Christmastime" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" for your heavy metal delectation. Two other songs on the EP are "Hella Day (For Holiday)" and "Heretic," the band's first completely original tunes, the former a Christmas tune, the latter not. Both are far more Tallica than Beat, so let that guide your purchasing decisions.

12 Greatest Carols, The Butties (Parody)

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butties.jpgWe've briefly mentioned this Beatles tribute band in the past, as their "Joy To the World" based on "Please Please Me" has turned up in movies and on TV. (And we also noted the Fab Four had done nearly the same exact thing.) What amazes me is that it's taken me this long to get their full album from 2005 to the site. Apparently, the group had needed several years to put together an LP's worth of tunes together, as the members live in far-flung locales. As per the liner notes, they recorded batches of this in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2005. Aside from the one coincidence noted above, The Butties have nothing to worry about concerning their originality, even given the existence of previous works in this vein like the Fab Four and the Rubber Band's now-hard-to-find Xmas! The Beatmas! "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" meets "Twist and Shout," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is rendered as "Can't Buy Me Love," they do "O Little Town of Bethlehem" once as "In My Life" and again as a medley with three other carols all set as the various movements of "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." Another highlight is the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise and "A Day in the Life" done as a medley of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Up on the Housetop." Once more, I have to restrain myself from spoiling all the surprises. You can get this as hardcopy from CDBaby or from iTunes by clicking on the album cover. By the way, you might not be surprised to find that two of the Butties are with the Blanks, the band that appeared on "Scrubs" singing commercial jingles a capella.
stetxmas.jpgGood news and bad news. In response to our post from a few years ago, in which we noted this band's long history of doing limited holiday releases, they put together an entire album for 2010, adding seven new recordings to eight of their past Christmas songs. Bad news: if you're just finding out about this now, it's too late -- this was a limited edition. If you happen to be in England for their December shows, they'll have a few to sell there. The band is streaming the new songs from their website, however, so you can at least hear them until this disc turns up again. The new songs include "Gonna Have a Party," a danceable number with a quote from ELP's "Father Christmas" over the outro; "Welcome Home," another uptempo number with a coming-home-for-Xmas theme; "Snowbound on the South Bank" and "Fireside Favorite," a pair of brief, pensive instrumentals; "No Cure For the Common Christmas," a pop ballad set to a fast house beat; "Unwrap Me," a midtempo holiday come-on; and a cover of the Doors' "Wintertime Love," similar in approach to the original with a little French accordion overlaid to take the chill off. Previously released Saint Etienne holiday favorites like "I Was Born On Christmas Day," "Come On Christmas," "Driving Home For Christmas," Randy Newman's "Snow," the Cliff Richard cover "21st Century Christmas" and the Billy Fury tune "My Christmas Prayer" are part of the lineup as well. Bob Stanley's liner notes note the band's love of the holiday and determination to steer away from more jaded views of Christmas; all the more reason why the band should get this in front of the larger public at some future date.
handsjb.jpgI'm kicking myself that I didn't think to write something along the lines of this cool 2010 pop-rocker, one that despite the band's lack of old-school soul credentials manages to evoke the Godfather while mythologizing him in the holiday context. (James did die on Christmas, you know.) Downloadable from Bandcamp, for a slight fee. The B-side (cut me some slack, I'm an old person) is "The Biggest Snowflake," a slow-tempo rocker.

"This Is Christmas," Curt Smith (Kook)

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curtsmith.jpgCurt was half of the popular 80s act Tears For Fears, and this is a 2010 solo single, a stately ballad in which the child-sung chorus is at least mixed down and comprised only of kids who can actually sing in tune. The kid-singing part is actually appropriate to the lyrics, which are about being made to feel juvenile when coming home for Christmas. Not much from his hit-making days in this recording, but a good change of pace on the old mix discs.

old97s.jpgThis popular alt-country-rock band put together a nice holiday ballad for 2007, which I just stumbled over on the way to tracking this year's holiday singles. It's heavy on the jingle bells and light on the country, good news for Mistletunes listeners.
owlcity.jpgThis one-man band, brought to us via Adam Young's YouTube experiments, delivers a nicely nostalgic holiday ballad about winter weather hijinks giving way to romance on Christmas Eve for 2010. Not as "sugar-sweet" as the lyrics let on, but a potential holiday hit nonetheless.

Regifted, Ready Set (Sire)

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readyset.jpgAnother solo act with a band name goes into the holiday column for 2010 with this EP, featuring a nearly note-perfect cover of "Wonderful Christmastime" (the one that's also on Gift Wrapped II), an original midtempo ballad called "Wishlist," not the same song as Neon Trees' more rocked-up number, and "More Than Alive," an acoustic guitar-led non-holiday number.

5fight.jpgThe "Superman" guys threw together a familiar carol for the 2010 holidays led by piano with just a bit of percussive dressing-up in the background. Not quite indispensible, but it's a nice arrangement with just a few surprises in it.
ruffshop.jpgFrom 2009, this St. Louis group marshaled eight originals and three not-often-chosen covers for this holiday collection. Of the covers, Paul Kelly's "How To Make Gravy" has a touch of country, not surprising since it's about a guy in prison; "One Special Gift," from Low's iconic 90s collection, is a complete slow-motion homage to that band; and "Once Upon a Christmas" has an ethereal intro before moving into a rock style not quite in the mold of its author, Dolly Parton. On to the originals: the title song is a nice midtempo rocker that sets the scene, "Big Man Under the Tree" pokes gentle fun at old Kris Kringle as he gets into the liquor cabinet and fiddles with Mom's panty hose, "This Silent Night" compares holiday dreams to reality and finds reality lacking, "Christmas One More Time" is a "Bobby McGee"-styled duet about screwing up the gumption to celebrate one more holiday, "Santa's Last Stop" is a kind of "last call" ballad for the holiday, and "Happiest New Year" closes things out with a string band symphony and one arm around a lover. It's a fairly mellow collection, but it has its moments.

A few brief notes for your convenience

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  • Volume 1 of Garage Band Christmas from a couple of years ago has been reissued with three new songs and the removal of three others. "Christmas In the Bronx 1965" by Pat Horgan and Thunder Road, plus "Christmas Story (Part One" and "Christmas Story (Part Two)" by the Human Beinz, are added. Subtracted are "What a Christmas" by Henry Gross, "Christmas In the Air" by Peg Pearl and Vince Martell and "Rudolph's Off His Rocker" by The Shadows of Knight with Henry Gross. The cover is the same, only tinted red instead of green and with the artist rundown updated. Volume 2 appears to remain exactly the same. Strangely, the original Volume 1 appears to still be on sale, per Amazon. UPDATE: Pat Horgan, the series' producer and one of the performers, informs us that the owners of the "Rudolph" copyright sued over the Shadows of Knight number mentioned above, forcing a reissue. While he was at it, he replaced the other two songs and remixed three of the remaining tunes. So the original Vol. 1 really is out of print, but as long as stores have stock of the old one, collectors can have both versions.
  • Holiday Harmony by America has been reissued as a "Collector's Edition" with one additional song, "A Holly Jolly Christmas."
  • And last but not least, the Punk Rock Advent Calendar is live again, one song at a time each day until Dec. 25.

"Christmas Is Here," Buckcherry (Eleven Seven)

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buckcherry.jpgThese hard-rockers give us a 70s-influenced bluesy rocker for the holidays in 2010. Hey, doesn't that mullet need a little freshening before the relatives get here? Just kidding, blues-rock never really went away, it just doesn't get much arena action these days.

"Boots," The Killers (Island Def Jam)

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killboot.jpgWith Brandon Flowers running around pushing his solo album, there was some fear that this would be the year The Killers broke their streak of releasing Christmas records. Didn't happen, or else you wouldn't be reading this post, now would you? Unlike the past couple of years, when the band recruited guest artists, for 2010 it's just them performing a nicely made ballad that revisits the themes from "It's a Wonderful Life." The associated video helps underline the themes. Like all the Killers' previously released holiday songs, this one benefits Product (RED), the AIDS-fighting charity. And in this year of commercial tie-ins (yeah, like there haven't been other such years in our history), Starbucks is hosting the video. Go watch it and a nickel goes to (RED). (That's probably why I can't embed it here.)

"Christmas Lights," Coldplay (EMI)

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coldplay.jpgColdplay returns to the Christmas stage in 2010 with this song, a piano-led ballad (natch) that rocks out a bit more as the band comes in. Nostalgia and anticipation are the lead emotions here, and if these guys aren't too omnipresent for you (isn't that nicer than "if you're not sick and tired of them by now?"), you might just find this a nice change of pace. Here, have a taste:
boylikely.jpgThis English duo took a rare fan download from several years ago, "Little Donkey," a previous single, and expanded them into an entire Christmas album for 2010. "A Happy Christmas Baby" is a nice poppy, uptempo holiday love song expressing a belief in Santa Claus, which at the very least is better than believing the president was born in Kenya. "Blue Spruce Needles" compares leaving the old tree out to being left by your lover, "Christmas Isn't Christmas" similarly misses companionship, and "George and Andrew" is a synth-pop takeoff/tribute to "Last Christmas" and the band that originally made it. "I Can't Make It Snow" expresses feelings of helplessness in regard to the approaching holiday, and "The First Snowflake" is an acoustic guitar ballad about the short life of the title subject. They also do "The Wassail Song" and an instrumental of "In the Bleak Midwinter." This is a fairly imaginative take on the holiday with a little of the geek chic of such folks as Barenaked Ladies and The Leevees.
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