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December 2017 Archives

palmyra.jpgPalmyra's probably better known as a DJ on Sirius XM's Underground Garage, but she's also a rock musician, and I regret not having ferreted out this fabulous slice of power pop holiday goodness in time for my own 2017 mix. You probably don't need much more than the cover art to figure out what's going on here, as it's a sexier play on the ancient Christmas stocking tradition. Gotta have.
The Danish producer put this up on YouTube on Christmas Eve and also put it on streaming services. It's an instrumental without any of the obvious holiday cues like jingle bells and chimes, so it's entirely up to you if you want to embrace it. I find it compelling but not particularly rooted in the holiday, but you are welcome to differ with me.

"River," Chvrches (live)

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Just discovered this Joni Mitchell cover today. This was a mini-set by the group and the whole thing's here, with a cover of "Time After Time" at the end.

"Him and Christmas," Red Sky July (Shadowbirds)

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redskyjuly.jpgThe Amazon page for this 2017 single states its genre is "Country > Alt-Country & Americana," and a little research assured me that this was an accurate description of this female vocal trio's sound, as they have several Christmas releases to their credit already, consisting of nicely scrubbed folk-country harmonizing. This record is an exception to all that. It's a swampy, almost psychedelic thing, and yes there's some banjo propelling it along, but this is more of an alt-rock song telling an interesting story, with some nice jagged guitar fills. It reminds me of something from 10cc, which it should, because the credits state "featuring Graham Gouldman," songwriting mainstay of that band as well as a staff songwriter who provided many a top 10 hit to bands in the first British Invasion, not to mention a few late 60s bubblegum bands that led to the founding of 10cc. Don't buy this because the old guy played on it, buy it because it's aces.

Christmas Songs, Love & the Outcome (Word)

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The only thing I know for sure about this six-song EP is that it's on Word Records, the longtime Christian rock-pop music label. Three original tunes, "The King Is Here," "Emmanuel," and "Mother," are based on religious themes, as are two of the covers, "Noel" as in "The First," and "Joy To the World." That leaves their cover of "All I Want For Christmas Is You." The sound is up-to-the-minute 2017 contemporary hit radio with female vocals, with only "Mother" and "Noel" having ballad tempos, and well, this stuff is relentlessly catchy. Maybe a bit too much for some, but all of these songs will wear well as part of your playlists.
slowey.jpgThis Philadelphia band says it specializes in Hawaiian-inspired instrumentals, and sure enough they do, though the instrumentation has an Americana flavor to it as well. This six-song EP from 2017 also brings in vocalist Shannon McGill to sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Mele Kalikimaka." There's no ukelele here, so the pedal steel guitar is the thing that brings the Hawaiian flavor to these songs, which also include the instrumentals "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "White Christmas," "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." A little mellow? Sure, but if you really want an eclectic mix, these guys will raise an eybrow or two. Grab it from Bandcamp. You can also go visit their hometown radio station WXPN-FM and check out a live set they played a couple of weeks ago.

nightsweats.jpgThe rock/R'nB combo best known for the adult alternative hit "SOB" recruits singer Julie Davis for this gritty 2017 cover of what many folks have come to call "the Christmas date rape song" (#metoo). It's a fine performance. The flip is Nathaniel himself singing lead on "Santa Baby," which is OK if you aren't put off by a guy singing lead on this song. 

"Let It Snow," rIVerse (self-issued)

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This Toronto group knocked out a cover of the Boyz II Men classic (not the better-known carol of the same name) for the holiday, and this video is the only way to hear it. Solid performance and enjoyable visuals.

"New Happy Year," Anatoli Tsampa (self-issued)

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Born in Greece, based in London, this actress-singer-songwriter offers a holiday song emphasizing the new year. It's a nice poppy tune led by acoustic guitar and celeste and featuring Anatoli's sweet voice. Check it out here or go over to Amazon and grab it.

littlesteven.jpgPunk rock fans tend to be fairly catholic about what they like, and Ramones fans are pretty protective of their boys, so I'd expect a certain amount of pushback when Little Steven turns this punk rock holiday classic out as an early 70s E Street band outtake. Still, it's nicely done, and if you ever heard the origin story of Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart," then you know the Ramones were well liked down in Asbury Park. And great songs deserve to be covered often, so it's just a question of whether you like it or not. From 2017.

snoopboyz.jpgAbout two decades ago we had the album Christmas On Death Row, from which we got Snoop's original version of this song. Fast forward to this year and Snoop roped Philly favorites Boyz II Men into helping him perform a new version of this for a "Showtime at the Apollo" Christmas show this year. And since this is the modern age, it ain't no thang to split off the audio and put it up to stream or download, so go on ahead now.

Enjoy your Christmas holiday

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I've always regarded Christmas Eve as a natural resting point in the continuing existence of this blog, a time when the search for new sounds must give way to the impending holiday for which they were created. So once again, my annual benediction to you, the readers of this humble music blog.

There doesn't seem to be as many of you as there used to be, probably because the arcane art of search engine optimization has progressed far faster than have my meager web programming abilities, so Mistletunes almost never shows up on the first page of Google anymore like it used to. And it would probably help if I posted more in the off-season, too. Meanwhile, I'm not getting any younger, and it's getting to the point where I have to work to "get it" in regard to some of the stuff that should have a home here.

Still, there are plenty of folks who know we're here, and musicians who've submitted their work to the site to get the word out, so I'll be satisfied with that for now. I hope Mistletunes continues to help folks find their new favorite holiday songs and build their mixtapes, discs, thumb drives and playlists as it always has, not to mention occasionally surprise you with a new discovery or a pertinent insight.

A cursory glance at the news (or your Facebook feeds) will underline the fact that we could all use a happy distraction from the world at large, and I hope you're getting that here as well. Meanwhile, enjoy this 50-year-old blast of creativity from the first psychedelic era of rock 'n roll, and Merry Freakin' Christmas to you all.

firstaidkit.jpgThe Swedish sister duo with the Americana bent did a live session for the BBC in 2017 that included this simple and elegant version of the classic pop carol (complete with original third verse) backed with acoustic guitar and sweetened with pedal steel, and it's been released to iTunes only, although it can be heard on streaming services as well. Flip side is a countrified cover of Lorde's "Perfect Places," a non-holiday song. This is mainly for FAK fans and lovers of old-school pop.

prank.jpgThis is my first time encountering Lisa Prank, real name Robin Edwards, and the "band" behind her is Bree McKenna of Tacocat and Tristan Jemsek of Dogbreth, Seattle musicians all (the band name probably tipped you off), who assembled to create this 2017 EP of indie power-pop-punk. "All I Want For Christmas (Is to Be With You)" and "Holiday in Space" are solid uptempo tunes, and "Cute Drummer Boy" repurposes the familiar carol as a hookup anthem at the record store. Great fun, and the EP is rounded out with "All I Want" in an alternate acoustic take, which some folks might even like better for its unrefined honesty. I think you'll like this one.

albertsleigh.jpgAlbert is Albert Bouchard, former drummer of classic rock icons Blue Oyster Cult, and this is his Christmas album, released for 2017. It's 12 original songs all written or co-written by Bouchard with assistance from Kathy Vargas, Dennis Dunaway, Joe Bouchard, and Andy Shernoff of Dictators fame, and recorded with help from singers Joe Cerisano and Christine Ohlman, background singers Tish & Snooky, and Micky Leigh, Joey Ramone's brother. Overall, the sound is 70s journeyman bluesy hard rock, no surprise given the artist's pedigree, so it's all down to the songs. I kind of like "Manic Panic Teknikolor Christmas," although I have to admit when I first heard it I thought they were singing "mani-pedi," and since the female background singers were repeating it I was sure that was right. Mickey Leigh sings lead on horror carol "Haunted Hollyday," Shernoff sings and co-writes the uptempo "Festivus," and Albert plays everything and sings lead on "Sweet Christmas Thyme," which has an 80s synthpop feel in the verses but throws out some 70s guitar between verses. "Come Christmas" is a fairly wordy ballad, "Another Christmas Song" is a midtempo rocker, "My Christmas Baby" is more upbeat with fake horns propelling it, Meli sings the cool shuffle "Las Vegas Christmas," and Dunaway takes lead on "Rock and Roll Scrooge." That leaves "Christmas on the Road," the stereotypical 70s song set to a holiday motif, and "You Always Hated Christmas," a sort of music hall number to wrap things up. I don't know that this will catch on with younger listeners, but those anchored in 70s sounds will find a lot to like. Only available from CD Baby.

Monika's been on the site before with this 2015 song, and for 2017 the Delaware singer-songwriter rolled out this nice medium tempo song in which the singer invites someone special to visit for the holiday. It's deceptively simple and nicely arranged, although I can definitely hear a full band arrangement of this tune. Independent audio is on Bandcamp, and they're using the song to raise money for a cancer patient's GoFundMe campaign. Go help them out, and let your friends know about Monika.

spinteeth.jpgThere's a magazine called Spin, and these guys sent an email with a logo that looked an awful lot like the magazine's nameplate, so I was scratching my head. A click-through revealed this Philadelphia band was the real thing, and so is this 2017 punkish dash through this old pop chestnut. It's free, so go grab it from Bandcamp. Oops, just noticed they did the same thing in 2015 on an EP called Christmas Time Again, with "Silent Night" (vocal and instrumental versions), "Little Drummer Boy," "The First Noel," and "Christmas Time Again (I'll Be Good Next Year)," the latter a solid pop-punk original. This one you'll have to pay for, but it's worth it.

This long-time Americana performer rolled out either a short album or a long EP for Christmas 2017. Eight songs, all familiar holiday tunes straddling rock, rockabilly and country styles, nothing particularly surprising, but Butch is a fine singer and performer backed by a strong band and this is worth hearing. He gets a good Tex-Mex groove going on "Feliz Navidad," borrows the Specter arrangement for "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and performs straightforward arrangements of "Lil' Drummer Boy," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Jingle Bells, "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bell Rock." Check it out.
paterson.jpgI'm not familiar with Joel, but he's a fine guitar player. For 2017, he puts out this instrumental Christmas album of standards featuring his talented fingers dancing down the fretboard. Stylewise, it's somewhere between Americana and jazz, with a little surf styling from time to time. Maybe a bit sedate for our readers here, but sometimes music fans like to geek out to the work of a fine soloist, and if it's Christmas time this is a good way to do it.

Brief items

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  • Chance the Rapper and Jeremih did a Christmas playlist in 2016, but it was only for streaming. You can run over to Soundcloud right now and actually download it for free. Meanwhile, Stereogum reports that the playlist is becoming an actual album with additional cuts; haven't seen it up anywhere yet, but maybe tomorrow. UPDATE: Revised version is also a free download, go here.
  • Gareth Jones, friend of the site, has a cracking podcast of Christmas music concentrating on off-the-wall covers of familiar holiday tunes, some you may have encountered reading this site and others that are at least a double bank shot off Jupiter and Saturn. Go here and enjoy.
  • Oh, and the Mistletunes holiday mix disc tradition continues with Fake Yules.
chrisdaily.jpgLast year we had Three Seasonal Songs from Mr. Mom and Chris, and for 2017 Chris bundled up those songs, some additional songs from past EPs, and one new one, "Winter Lullaby," into the single album collection in the headline above. It's medium-fidelity indie pop-rock and quite enjoyable. All the songs are originals or co-writes by Chris except for the interesting take on Carla Thomas's "Gee Whiz, It's Christmas." Things start with "Thanksgiving (It's Not Christmas)," in which people are advised that they've got a month to go before the big day; "High Time For a Holiday" is an anticipatory song about holiday traditions; "Please No Mistletoe" tries to postpone the inevitable first kiss; and "The Lights" is a ballad about, well, Christmas lights. "How I Won the War on Christmas" plays on the fake cable news controversy for a cute midtempo melody, "The Holiday Records" pays tribute to favorite Christmas music, and "Just Once" breaks out the bongos before swinging into a more rocking mode. Check the link above for mentions of the other songs, and grab the whole thing from Bandcamp.

mavericks.jpgBack around 2001 these guys did "Santa Claus is Back In Town," and 10 years ago Raul Malo had a whole solo Christmas album to himself. For 2017 we get a double-sided single of the old school, vinyl or download. The A-side is a jumpin' shuffle with a little accordion to confuse the issue, but it swings from start to finish. The B-side, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," is a fine performance of the Darlene Love chestnut. I'd call this a must-have.

Snowdrift, Loop Line (self-issued)

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These guys (a duo based in Phoenix and Minneapolis) have had a Christmas single almost every year since 2012, and this is the 2017 entry, a melancholy duet featuring Tessa on second vocal. The lyrics don't follow a plot, they're more impressionistic, but this has a late-60s pop feel about it. It's free from Bandcamp.

spankingchar.jpgFrom 2016, but I just stumbled over this, a plain rock 'n roll reading of the popular kid-song oddity from the 1950s. They're a local New York area act, and this features Eric Ambel of Del-Lords fame on guitar. As a bonus, it really was recorded live. Grab it from Bandcamp.

rodneyGTO2.jpgVolume 1 with the same title, also curated by Rodney Bingenheimer, aka Rodney on the ROQ (until this year anyway, but I believe he's still spinning discs on Sirius XM), is currently pulling down collector money when you can find it, so you might be curious about the 2017 version. The title song by the Ramonas repeats -- same version and everything -- as does "The Characters Visit Rodney," a bit of filler where people ask Santa Rodney for gifts, but that leaves 12 other cuts (or 14 if you download it). The Dollyrots' "All I Want For Christmas is You" is here, the Donnas provide a slamming version of "Up On the Housetop," as do the Glitter Critters (featuring Clem Burke of Blondie) with "Little Drummer Boy," and C.J. Ramone offers a solid rocker in "Christmas Lullabye," in the spirit if not the actual sound of his namesake band. "Merry Christmas to You" by Peter 118 is a fine punk thrash, Karen Bassett performs a power-poppy "It's Almost Christmas Time" with a melody that reminds me of a song by Universal Honey, The Mansfields keep the onslaught going with "Broke on Christmas Again," Kat Meoz gives a holiday tour of the Sunset Strip on "Christmas in Hollywood," and Color TV's "This Christmas" is a solid slice of punk-pop. Kristeenyoung throws a little Phil Spector into her holiday ballad "I Won't Be Home For Christmas," the Tearaways poke fun at holiday traditions in "Helluva Christmas," Frankie & The Studs mine holiday coal with "I'm On the Naughty List," and Launch Control goes all "oi oi" with "My Name is Santa and I'm a Punk Rocker." Currently, the sitch with this lovely punk-pop-rock collection is that you can download it from iTunes or you can buy it on vinyl from Amazon or your favorite record store. If you go the download route you get two additional songs,  a rockabilly "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" by the Mansfields (second tune for them) and the fabulous "Wake Up Christmas" by Lisa Mychols, which is unsurprisingly one of the best things on the album. Will it go for collector's prices down the line like the first one did? Who cares, just listen to it.

We last had this group at Mistletunes with their EP "And a Happy New Year" from 2008, and for 2017 they've coughed up another holiday single, a pensive love song that means essentially what the title says, along with a flip side "12.25," also a middle tempo ballad to a significant other. Either or both will give your playlists a change of pace. Looks like it's only on iTunes for now.

Merry Christmess, Jumbled (self-issued)

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Jumbled is a DJ from Baltimore who compiled this 2017 collection of holiday songs built out of beats and samples by himself and other collaborators. Some of these items are just motifs, which might be an aid to podcasters and mixmasters looking to create something of their own. Among the full song performances, you might like the hip-hop stylings of "Just Another Holiday" by Reason, Darko the Super's "Stealing Shit on Christmas Eve" and "Another Very Darko Christmas," Che Rock's "38 Winters," JBerd's dis of "Mall Santa," and ALYX Ryon's "Chestnuts." Check it out on Bandcamp.
spookschool.jpgThis band from Glasgow just dropped this lovely bit of work in 2017, straddling power pop and punk, with the standard yearning for holiday company. However, their bass player Anna Corey also hopes to dismiss any sort of gendered component to this universal human desire, or at least that's what she told Stereogum. Whatever the agenda, it's a great addition to your holiday playlists and mixes.

"Christmas Time Is Here," Wavves (self-issued)

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The psychedelic gang from Southern California just rolled out this fuzzed-up cover of the Vince Guaraldi classic for 2017, and even went to the trouble of grabbing some prime "Peanuts" Christmas special footage for the video. No independent audio at this time, however.

Just in case you didn't encounter this elsewhere in your Internet travels, or actually watch it yourself IRL:

Xmascards.jpgThe blurb says this London band was "formed by members of indie-pop darlings The Postcards and lo-fi teenage sensations Father." OK then. They got a commission to participate in a compilation and couldn't shake the holiday spirit until they did a whole album's worth of songs. And so we get this for 2017. Soundwise, it's slapdash unpolished power pop with a fair number of covers, but they also managed to write some tunes for this too. Familiar carols include a middle tempo "Christmas Time Is Here," garage band renditions of "Little Drummer Boy" and "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)," a sludgy "Silent Night," an unadorned voice and guitar version of "O Holy Night," and a fairly sporty take on the Little Eva chestnut "I Wish You a Merry Merry Christmas." Among the other tunes, "It's Christmas Time" tells the story of Mary as though it was a teenage love song (well, it kinda was), "Oh Santa Claus!" is a call for the jolly elf to help the singer get out of her funk, "It's Christmas Time Again" is a nice midtempo take on the sights and sounds of the holiday, "Skiing In the Snow" is uptempo and self-explanatory, "Wish You a Merry Christmas" is a wistful ballad, "Winter/Christmas" takes an almost Jefferson Airplane approach to the material, "Jing-Jing-A-Ling" is their uptempo song about Christmas bells, "Merry Christmas Darling (And a Happy New Year Too) is their late-50s-early-60s semi-doo wop hymn complete with spoken part, and "A Dream For Christmas" has the feel of a single. Interestingly enough, they released it as a single with a second mix of "Dream" and the song "Holiday Hymn," which isn't on this album. Pop over to Bandcamp and check it out for yourself.

"Winter Wonderland," Spinning Jenny (YouTube)

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Just stumbled onto this homemade video by this delightful band from the deep Pittsburgh suburbs. Fine rocking cover of a well-loved classic, but of course you can decide that for yourself. No independent audio available; hey Jenny, export the audio and put it up on Soundcloud or Bandcamp, all right?

Christmas Soul, various artists (Amazon)

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amazonsoul.jpgAnd here's another Amazon playlist, which you can listen to as an Amazon Prime or Amazon Music customer with no further adieu, or you can graze the tracks and download them for your own mixes. As you've probably already guessed, this 2017 playlist hews toward the R'nB side of the street, and the majority of these tracks were commissioned by Amazon, so they're not available elsewhere, at least for now. Many are familiar R'nB holiday tunes, like the Soul Rebels' "What Christmas Means To Me," which is a boisterous take highlighted by the use of tuba instead of bass guitar; JC Brooks Band's solid cover of "Back Door Santa"; Marc Broussard's version of "Please Come Home For Christmas"; Dawn Richard's Prince tribute, "Another Lonely Christmas"; a hip-hop/chill take on the O'Jays' "Christmas Just Ain't Christmas" by Demo Taped; Don Bryant's tribute to the Otis Redding version of "White Christmas"; and Davie's cover of Stevie Wonder's "Someday at Christmas." Other tunes are familiar but get reimagined for this collection, like Ruth B's slow-jam version of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Nicole Atkins' funky version of "O Holy Night," and MAJOR's martial take on "Little Drummer Boy." Other tunes include Jungle Fire's funky instrumental "Jingle Fire," Robert Finley's fine blues "Merry Christmas, I Love You," Liz Brasher's 60s tribute "Only Gift I Need," and Diane Coffee skips to the 70s with the belting ballad "Let's Skip Christmas This Year." Hip-hop represents with Blu & Exile's hip-hop "Christmas Missed Us," Open Mike Eagle's "Snowsuit," and Buscabulla puts a Latin twist on with "Cantares." There's more, almost an hour and a half of holiday music, new or new to you, so check it out.

indie2017.jpgAlex Rainbird apparently is a real person who, along with his girlfriend Beth, spends the whole year curating collections of up-and-coming indie-rock-folk artists, as many as 70 a month, and this is their indie Christmas album. I can't say I've heard of any of these people before, but that doesn't matter; what does is what's in the grooves, or the bitstream, however you roll for your playback experience. This collection leans heavily on the folky chamber-pop side of indie, not much rocking out here, but it's a smooth listening experience. "Wish List" by Colin & Caroline is a bouncy little boy-girl holiday duet for those of you looking to replace "Baby It's Cold Outside" on your playlists, Snow Coats' "Happy Christmas Song" is a nice midtempo number that lives up to its title, James Hoffman offers slow folky takes of "Silent Night" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and there are two versions of "O Holy Night," an uptempo one by Lowercase Committee and a spacier one by Svvn with De Joie assisting. Sakura offers the almost-country "December," Redvers and Melissa perform the lilting "I Saw a Shooting Star," Almond & Olive do the ukelele strum on "It's Christmas," and Todd Kessler wraps things up with a gentle "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." An unpretentious holiday listening experience.

indieAmazon2017.jpgAs you may already know, Amazon has been offering playlists of commissioned songs for several years that you can listen to if you're a Prime member, and now also if you join Amazon Music. The collection named above started in 2015, but they've continually added new songs to the playlist, and the 2017 selections can be detected because there's a different "album cover" art piece attached to the new ones. Among the winners are "To Heck With Ole Santa Claus" by Jessica Lea Mayfield, which could have been a "Blue Velvet" soundtrack outtake, Best Coast's cover of "Little Saint Nick," the Lemon Twigs' "Coventry Carol," Korey Dane's tribute to a cross-dressing cowboy "Christmas With Bandini," SUSTO's reggae "Feliz Navidad," Great Grandpa's grungy "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," Kevin Morby's synth-bass and autoharp version of "Blue Christmas," the Mexican Institute of Sound's cross between synthpop and mariachi on "It's Christmas in Latin America," Albert Hammond's weepy "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot," Dean and Britta's Velvets-influenced "Little Altar Boy," Eisley's modern take on 60s pop "Oh Winter," Coco Hames' crunch-pop "(There Won't Be) One More Christmas," Freedom Fry's ballad "When the Snowflakes Fall," and Slow Dancer's minor-key guitar-based take on "Wonderful Christmastime." Graze 'em or just put the whole three-year playlist on your Amazon Music app.

A GC Christmas, Pt. 1, Good Charlotte (MDDN)

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The pop-punkers from Maryland were on the Christmas tip back in 2002 with "Christmas on the Phone," and that's here, along with a serviceable cover of "Last Christmas" and the radio holiday anthem "Let the World Be Still," which I believe is a new original but I couldn't confirm it. "Pt. 1" seems to suggest something further, but for now, if you're hot for GC, go grab this.

Man, life sucks. Spare a thought for the great Pat DiNizio, longtime spark plug of the Smithereens, who passed last night.

missiletoads.jpgThis Philadelphia punk group dropped this 2017 EP that features three songs by such punk groups as the Hanson Brothers, Screaming Sneakers and the Wretched Ones, with the lyrics repurposed into something Christmasy. (Not familiar with the original groups, so I can't tell you which is which.) The title song has Santa doing his holiday thing undercover because something akin to The Man is after him. "Selfish Ways" pokes at Christmas shoppers passing by needy homeless people and Hanukkah Alert, "The Good Old Dreidel Game" makes the traditional game sound like the Jewish equivalent of shooting craps. The band knocks out an original, "North Pole Riot Squad," which recasts Santa's North Pole compound as the South Side of Chicago. A bit earnest-sounding, but it's all tongue in cheek, so it's OK. We all need a little holiday thrash in our lives.

I don't know much about this Denver duo, but I did want to get this 2017 single posted. It's a warm Americana take on the song, heavy on cello and fiddle, and a nice middle tempo approach for a song a lot of people like to play very slowly. Enjoy.

Holiday Magic, Cassandra Kubinski (self-issued)

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cassanda.jpgUp front, I'll concede this is a little too poppy for the site, but it does have some bite and rhythm, and Cassandra, a reality-show personality and jingle singer who also tours behind some acts you'd recognize, is a well-schooled pop singer who also contributes three originals among the six cuts on this 2017 EP. "Christmas Is All About" is a solid opener celebrating seasonal verities, "It Doesn't Feel Like December" has a modernized music-hall feel as it lightly complains about the grayness of the month, and "New Year Coming" is a melancholy year-end ballad. The covers include a version of "Little Drummer Boy" with support from what are probably her sisters, Matt Cusson duets on a lightly jazzy "Sleigh Ride," and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" gets medleyed with Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound" for a unique effect. Solid work; feel free to drop this in Mom's Christmas shopping playlist when she's not looking.

EDM DJ and music mogul Diplo keeps his string of Christmas albums intact with this 2017 entry into the canon. "Know No Better" by Major Lazer (and a cast of thousands, judging by the credits) kick things off in fine style with this uptempo jam, Party Favor performs "WAWA," which has nothing to do with the Philadelphia-area convenience stores but is a riff on "Jingle Bells," Foodman contributes "Island Christmas," a fairly languid instrumental with a modern take on reggae, and "Tropical Holiday" by LIZ & Hoodboi is a slow jam vocal about partying equatorial style. Aquadrop gives us the EDM version of "Feliz Navidad" we're all waiting for, "Smash the House" by Rrotik does the same for "Deck the Halls," Tre Oh Fie deconstructs "O Holy Night" in the fast-tempo "O Litty Night," and DJ Douggpound turns "We Three Kings" into "We Three Bings," but they do it by singing the "bing" syllable, not by sampling vintage Crosby. KiWi crosses EDM with K-pop on "What's In the Present Box," and SpydaT.E.K. offers "TEKK the Halls Up," another slightly more straightforward version of "Deck the Halls." This is for younger people than your favorite reindeer, but there are at least a couple of tunes here I'd consider for a playlist.

Kaskade Christmas, Kaskade (Arkade/Sony)

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kaskadeXmas.jpgThere are lots of strands of DJ culture outside the mash-up experts we've championed here over the past several years (and as of last year appear to have taken their places in the history books), and here we have one of house music's biggest stars diving into Christmas music with this 2017 album of mostly covers transformed by the house treatments. Actuallly, this is probably more chill, as there aren't many fast tempos here. There are a few originals, like the mid-tempo "Cold December," the slow-jam ballad "It's Beginning to Snow," and the chill-sounding "This Christmas Night," with guest vocal by Dia Frampton. "Christmas is Here" is a repurposed "Carol of the Bells," "Deck the Halls" with singer Erika gets a heavy syncopated synth-bass backing, Skylar Grey sings "O Come Emmanuel," Ilsey guests on "Silent Night," which has one of those wildly mixed-up tempos, and Gabrielle Current sings "The First Noel," which picks up the tempo considerably from the previously mentioned songs. Kayrae is the singer on "In the Bleak Midwinter," there's a jaunty "Winter Wonderland," and Jane XØ sings "Santa Baby," which gets a kind of robo-reggae rhythm. My pick to click off this is "God Rest Ye," which is the gentlemanly carol set to the backing of "Sara Smile" with Debra Fotheringham on vocals, but then I'm a sucker for this kind of juxtaposition arrangement. Check it out, it's the time of year we all have to chill, right?

reminganother.jpgWe had this Norwegian band on the site many years ago with a holiday EP, and they're back for 2017 with a single. The song with the self-effacing title has that low budget indie-pop vibe, with a sound very reminiscent of the 1960s (which has been a trend recently in that world among bands such as Foxygen). All told, a very warm little number. Due to hit the download stores sometime next week; meanwhile, have a listen. UPDATE: Click the cover to get it from Amazon.

"Red and Green," Dead Gwynne (self-issued)

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redanddead.jpgWe post these guys every year because they selflessly write and record a new original Christmas song that they make available free for downloading. Their 22nd release is a downtempo folky strum colored with prominent organ backing a talk-sing vocal, featuring a melancholy look at the holiday. When you click on the cover art, you can download any or all of the group's oeuvre.

Our annual gift from New Jersey via V.D. King of the band Better Off Dead has just arrived, and damn, haven't we been talking about Beatle parodies a lot this year? Check this out. No independent audio, but you can enjoy it this way.

Wrapper Paper, various artists (Hated By Most)

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"Various artists" is a bit misleading, in that most of these tunes are by Sly Till I Die, occasionally with guests. This record label is based in south-central Michigan, promoting a roster of up-and-coming hip-hop artists, and this longish seven-song EP is their holiday joint for 2017. Sly is assisted by Sixx Digit on "Generous This Christmas," which is a party record about giving gifts, "Cookie Doe," featuring Sly and Woe, is a rap about collecting money for weed and gifts over a minor-key version of "Jingle Bells," and Postman assists Sly on a suitably portentious track celebrating "Krampus." Sly and Eod Homegrown posture menacingly on "Merry Scary Christmas," Kodeen offers an ode to "Spiked Nog," Sly takes all the credit for the midtempo "Christmas Without You," and Postman wraps up with "New Year New You." All the songs get the Explicit tag, just so you know before playlisting them.

Last year we had Three Seasonal Songs by Mr. Mom and Chris, and for 2017, Mr. Mom prefers to be known by the monicker above with this ukelele and bass rendition of the classic carol over a light tom-tom rhythm. On the flip, we get "Twas the Xmas of 2017," a short bit of studio goof-about. It's unique, I'll say that for it. Go over to Bandcamp and check it out for yourself.
Hey, we just had them on here a few weeks ago with a Beatle-like object. Well, they did another one in 2017. This originally was just a handful of snippets sprinkled through one of the Fabs' "Goon Show"-like Christmas records (which have been issued in a box set of vinyl 45s for Christmas giving, btw) but a version of it reached the public as an extra cut on one of the Anthology-era CD singles. Nevertheless, Beatle fans go big for this tune at Christmastime; hell, even Ringo did a version once. Because it's short and repetitive, the Weeklings spiced it up by mashing it with "Flying" from Magical Mystery Tour, and at the end they tacked on a coda ripped from the chorus of "Baby You're a Rich Man." Now you have to decide if it's this one, the other one, or both for your Christmas mix.

"Last Christmas," The Dollyrots (self-issued)

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dollylast.pngPop-punk rears its head once more as this fab duo gives its heavily Ramones-influenced treatment to the Wham! classic. It's free at Bandcamp.

Dear December, The Minus 5 (Yep Roc)

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minus5.jpgScott McCaughey, formerly of Young Fresh Fellows and sometime R.E.M. stage and session guy, is probably best known nowadays for The Minus 5, which includes him, Peter Buck, and other folks, plus the Baseball Project, adding Mike Mills and Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn. Apparently Scott was commissioned to write a Christmas song for somebody and he went batshit and composed an elpee's worth of tuneage, as the saying goes. And then the guy had a massive stroke recently, and being a less-than-famous working musician, people are having to ramp up the GoFundMe campaigns to help him out. Needless to say, grabbing a copy of this 2017 holiday album will be a big help as well. The best part is that you don't have to rely on your charitable impulse to take part this way, as this is a fine, fine, supafine rock 'n roll Christmas album. Folks who have previously partaken of Minus 5 and Baseball Project recordings won't be surprised by the sound, but for those who haven't, rootsy rocking rules the day. Guest stars turn up to assist as well, with M. Ward and Chuck Prophet on "See You In December," the Decemberists' Colin Maloy joining for "The Fourth Noel," Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard featuring on "I See Angels," Kelly Hogan and Norah O'Connor backing up the vocalist on "Johnny Tannenbaum," Mike Mills providing a Hanukkah Alert on "Festival of Lights (Hanukkah Song)," and Kelly Hogan duetting on "Yule Tide Me Over." The group's "Your Christmas Whisky" from a decade ago turns up here again, "When Christmas Hurts You This Way" is a jangle-pop take on a sad holiday, "Merry Christmas Mr. Gulp Gulp" whips up a Phil Spector beat to back up a look at a holiday of excessive imbibing, and things wrap up with a hard-rocking "I Still Believe In New Year's Eve." Grab this now and give it as gifts too.

We've been impressed with the musical fecundity of this particular corner of the Pacific Northwest indie rock scene, particularly in regard to Christmas music. This 2017 entry is Green Monkey's eighth holiday compilation, as always a combination of individual artists and bands plus whoever label maestro Tom Dyer can con into bashing out some jingle-jangle with their rock 'n roll. I'll lead with Tom Dyer and the True Olympians, whose two original tunes, "Christmas in Olympia" and "Christmas Is Love," are the class of this group; they've even been issued separately as a single. The former is a rocking holiday tour through the Washington city of the title, and the latter is a set of holiday verities set to a solid garage rock beat. Dyer comes back solo with an accordion-led version of "What Child Is This," the Elf-Tones offer "Wish You Well This Christmas," on which the vocals remind one of early Frank Zappa but the song itself is a nice mid-60s midtempo rocker, and the Krampus Quartet knock out the novelty "Fruitcake." Instrumentals get their due as the REDS go all antique on the public domain "Breakin' Up Christmas," a slightly rocked-up hoedown from the Virginia-North Carolina mountains, while Pleasure Island grunges up a heavily Duane Eddy-influenced "Hark the Herald Angels." The Randy Hicks Band brings the rockabilly with "Car Parts," which is all the singer wants for Christmas, and she throws a few puns at you for kicks. The Green Pajamas go for the backhanded holiday anthem in "Let's Get Together at Christmas (It's Better Than Drinking Alone)," Jim of Seattle gives us "A Christmas Song" that is a parody of the "Star Trek (TOS)" theme, along with a brief goof called "Have a Merry Christmas," and Ed Portnow's "Christmas Time is Here" is what you'd get if you crossed Wild Man Fischer with the "Peanuts" song of the same name. More rockabilly emanates from Duane Hibbard in "A Child's Christmas Wish," Burnseer gives us some of their home region's grunge with "Search Party," which is about homelessness, and The Fresh Prince of Brain Wizard (honest) offers a dour piano ballad about lost children, "Santa Won't Be Here." Elves Bells (great name) give us the primitive sounding "Orphan's Christmas," Saint John and the Revelations rock out with cello on "Christmas Fire," in which the singer burns the tree because "Santa's a liar," Space Band contribute their rocker "@santaclaus," Kelly Kristjanson go almost power pop with "Follow the Angels," and Earle Thunders/Mike Shuppe completely deconstruct the Disney chestnut "Toyland." This is a fine collection of indie-rock with attitude. Get it from Bandcamp or Amazon.

This up-and-coming duo features Mark Ballas of "Dancing With the Stars" and singer-songwriter BC Jean, and they added Casey Abrams of "American Idol" fame for this 2017 rendition of the minor-key classic carol, featuring lots of percussion and a solid midtempo beat behind the guitars and voices. Nice work, get it from Amazon.

This English group includes Geoff Barrow from Portishead, and for 2017 they've decided to raise funds for mental health charities with this shambling, edgy track, a strong rocker that seems to be encouraging and discouraging lyrically at the same time. I rather like it, and given the charitable motivation I encourage purchasing this from Bandcamp.

This Copenhagen, Denmark act has several self-released albums and singles on Bandcamp, and this one is a 2017 ode to a parent and his kids -- specifically, a parent who wants to see his kids on the holiday so bad that he kidnapped them.  This might upset some, but the actual record is pretty good, a young Shane McGowan vocal over a white-guy soul backing, and if you didn't know what the song was about, it would pull you in for a closer listen. Kidnapping is always illegal, and there are no valid justifications, but you can still empathize with a character driven to such lengths even as you call the authorities. The flip side (vinyl or download) is "Silent Night (Karaoke edition)," which explains itself. 

A Tav Falco Christmas, Tav Falco (ORG Music)

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tavfalco.jpgThis rootsy guy is best known for starting the band Tav Falco's Panther Burns back in the mid-late 70s, which caught the attention of Big Star cult hero Alex Chilton and led to recording sessions together. Originally a more psychedelic sounding group, over time Falco's love of original era rock 'n roll and rockabilly came to play a larger role in his sound. That's the sound that predominates on this 2017 album, eight performances of mostly familiar rock and country holiday tunes. "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and "Blue Christmas" feature the Elvis Presley arrangements, and "Jingle Bell Rock," "Holly Jolly Christmas," "White Christmas," and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are rendered fairly closely to the most familiar pop-rock versions of these songs. Like Bob Dylan, Tav chose to do the Sammy Cahn "Christmas Blues," and things wrap up with a shambling version of James Brown's "Soulful Christmas." This is a listenable collection of tunes, although I can't help feeling like folks would be better served searching out the original sources. But if this disc points people in that direction, it'll be a public service.

The long-running Midwestern Americana label pulls together its roster artists for a 2017 collection of holiday tunes spanning the various threads of that musical label. Murder By Death kicks things off with a folky strum through "O Holy Night," Jon Langford puts an English accent on the genre with the gently witty "Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray," and Barrence Whitfield and the Savages do a grungy soul number called "Papa Barrence's Christmas," in which the singer gets to play Santa Claus. Ruby Boots dresses her country twang up with some Phil Spector readymades for "I Slept Through Christmas," the Dex Romweber Duo get ready for a holiday-based sequel to "Pulp Fiction" with their spaghetti western-surf instrumental "Dark Christmas," and Ha Ha Tonka do a unique, almost power-pop number called "The List," which is not for gifts. Kelly Hogan's "Blue Snowfall" is a jazz-pop ballad designed to put a little melancholy in the holiday, Ron Gallo does something similar with "White Christmas," All Our Exes Live In Texas cover Paul Kelly's "How To Make Gravy," and The Yawpers straddle country, folk and rock with "Christmas In Oblivion." Devil in a Woodpile goes all jug band as they skewer the Fox News "Merry Christmas" obsession with "The Pagans Had It Right," and Zach Schmidt provides the answer record to "Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas" with his country lament "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas," in which we hear Daddy's version and get a quick reference to climate change to boot. A fine showcase of mostly original holiday songs performed well.

A few years back this British indie duo cut an entire holiday album, and now they've come back with a new Christmas single for 2017. This is a melodic midtempo lament of lost love on the holiday, with a very faint evocation of the kind of sound George Harrison had on All Things Must Pass, at least that's what came to me on first listen. It's a strong entry for your holiday playlists. 

"Holiday Ease," Amy Stroup (Milkglass)

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We've had Amy on the site before with solo songs as well as her work with Sugar and the Hi-Los, and for 2017 she popped out this nice bit of late 60s pop-rock about decorating, playing music and simply making the holiday easy. Nice work if you can get it, Amy; some people make a six-month career out of Christmas preparations. This could be a real earworm. Only on iTunes and Spotify for the moment.
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