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Recently in Housekeeping Category

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.

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

Quick notes

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We're still getting ready to post individual reviews of such things as Cheap Trick, Gwen Stefani, Holiday Rules 2, the new Rock By the Sea compilation, a Bloodshot Records comp, Sia, and a handful of singles. In the meantime, here's a few short takes.
  • Sleeping At Last has been gradually building an album's worth of Christmas tunes over the years, and for 2017 what had already been issued as an album becomes a vinyl artifact, two discs' worth in fact. With the additional sonic real estate comes two additional songs, covers of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "The First Noel."
  • Real Gone Music has a two-CD reissue of the Supremes' only Christmas album for 2017, The Ultimate Merry Christmas. There are 50 tracks featuring three different versions of the album, the original mono and stereo mixes and a 2017 remix, along with all the previously released bonus cuts and a few newly unearthed gems.
  • Rhino has re-re-reissued REO Speedwagon's Not So Silent Night for 2017 with the addition of "We Three Kings" and a new remix of the previously available "I Believe in Santa Claus." Completists, hit the download button.

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.


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.

Still more quick hits

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  • Gareth Jones, British DJ and podcaster and friend of the site, has put up his annual holiday music edition for 2016. Guests include Robert from the Snowflake Singles Club (all four of their releases previously featured here), Rachael Neiman of Cherryade Records, from whence the annual Cherryade Christmas comp is curated (still waiting for my copy of this year's, tap tap tap...), and Koo Koo Kanga Roo, the American comedy troupe. Lots of alternative holiday music too, as usual.
  • For some reason, Amazon called Yuletunes to my attention on their front page today. Apparently Black Vinyl Records is still offering it at non-collector prices through Amazon. This 1991 alt-rock compilation is one of my all-time favorite collections of holiday rock music.
  • And NoiseTrade is out with their 2016 holiday mixtape, downloadable for free or at least cheap if you leave a tip. Haven't had a chance to listen, but there's a fair number of tunes on here we've covered in previous years; if you're here for the first time, this is a good way to get your beak wet in alternative holiday music. 

More quick takes

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  • Ghostface Killah and Run the Jewels are selling ugly Christmas sweaters this year. Not a new meme, but it's new in that hip-hop performers are turning it into swag. I'm waiting for Nick Cave's, or maybe Iggy's, before I reach for my wallet.
  • Sleeping At Last is continuing to add one new cut a year to a Christmas album that originated back in 2012. This year's cut is "The Christmas Waltz (2016)."
  • Taraji P. Henson apparently had a Christmas special full of R'nB takes on Christmas songs from such folks as Missy Elliot, TLC, Smokey Robinson, Snoop Dogg and Pharell.
  • Fiona Apple used "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)" to take a poke at Cheeto Benito. It's clearly something off the cuff she did into her iPhone, so I'm just going to let it stand rather than write something more elaborate.
  • Los Campesinos did a different version of their song "When Christmas Comes" from their previous Christmas EP and it was added to Amazon Prime's "Indie For the Holidays" playlist. Or you could just buy it outright.

Late, late, late, late

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I've just had a terrible time getting started with this season's postings. Apologies to all, especially to those who have contacted the site with songs for me to review. I hope to start having posts this weekend.

A little backscratching in this spot

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Gareth Jones, British DJ and host of the Radio Radio Podcast, once did ol' Rudolph a solid by including him in one of his special all-singing, all-dancing Christmas podcasts. That was a few years ago, but Gareth's still at it, so make sure you add him to your list of Christmas-music-related things to do this year. He's got some fine Christmas novelties cued up, but even better, he's interviewing Piney Gir, who's been mentioned here a number of times for some fine alt-pop Christmas melodies, and there will be a good sampling of the group's work. Also interviewed is Kid Carpet, described by Gareth as a UK punk-pop comedy artist, sounds like somebody we should know more about. Click through and grab the podcast, hell, subscribe, as Gareth does this more than once a year.

Some short takes

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  • Stevie Wonder and Andra Day duetted on Stevie's classic "Someday at Christmas" for 2015, and as it's the soundtrack to Apple's Christmas ad, you won't be surprised that it's at iTunes/Apple Music only.

  • The Classic Christmas 80s Album is available this year via Sony/Legacy. It's a pretty strong collection of stuff the real fans already know about and those of you with a casual interest in the decade should have if you don't already. The Waitresses, Run-DMC, Billy Squier, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Fishbone, New Kids on the Block and more are here, along with the famous Hall & Oates cover of "Jingle Bell Rock." Don't confuse this collection with A Very 80s Xmas, which is a fairly random collection of tunes from the era, some re-recorded and many not even Christmas songs.
  • Sarah McLachlan has repackaged Wintersong as The Classic Christmas Album this year, adding four cuts done with her music school's student choir. We covered those additional cuts here at Mistletunes when they were released, though I doubt the links are still live to the free downloads.
  • We mentioned a collection called Lost Christmas last year that had some interestingly off-the-wall rarities from such folks as Chuck Berry and Jackie DeShannon. So there's a Lost Christmas 2 this year, and though there's a lot of easy listening, there's also such things as Mel Blanc's "I Tan't Wait For Quithmuth Day", Stan Freiberg's "Christmas Dragnet," Sheb Wooley's "Santa and the Purple People Eater" and another Spinal Tap tune, "We Three Kings." The Royal Guardsmen (both sides of their Snoopy single), The Waitresses, Bob & Doug and Kurtis Blow are on here too.
  • I'm punting on the India.arie & Joe Sample Christmas album, as it's far more adult contemporary than r'nb. But I've linked it so you can make up your own mind.
  • And yes, the Killers are releasing a new Christmas song Dec. 1 on Jimmy Kimmel's show, as they did last year.

Back on the block

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In response to the e-mails I've received about the site's dormancy, well, we're back for another season. Personal issues have kept me from getting an earlier start, and you probably noticed the most recent posts are items that have been lurking in my notes for a while. The James Brown Complete post is intended to replace the original James Brown Christmas post from the old version of the Mistletunes site that went away several years ago due to the fact that it was laughably incomplete. Anyway, keep an eye out -- we're tracking Patty Smyth, the Felice Brothers, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Robby the Elf and a few others, though the first few posts after this one are likely to be tunes and artists we missed last year. Anyway, welcome back, and tell your friends.

Over the Rhine to release third holiday album

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The Cincinnati alt-folk-rock duo are going for the hat trick, their third completely unique Christmas album, to be called Blood Oranges in the Snow. Street date is Nov. 4, according to Paste magazine. This time around, they plan to add covers to their original tunes, including the Merle Haggard classic "If We Make It Until December."

Other new holiday music to look out for includes Elizabeth Chan's third collection Christmas In the City, a few new songs plus some reimaginings of previous year's songs, and a greatest hits compilation of the Christmas Jug Band's work, Jugology. Not much else that might be of interest to rockin' Christmastimes so far, and this stuff's going to be fairly mellow itself, but my radar's up....

Spoke too soon

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A couple of months ago I rendered a heartfelt farewell to Stubby's Christmas, which had announced it was going static back in July. In the course of doing research for a post, I saw a link to a Stubby review of the record I was covering, clicked through and, lo and behold, the review had been written only a couple of weeks ago. Apparently he picked up the thread again in December. So feel free to keep visiting for as long as Stubby keeps posting, and I'll keep my website obituaries to myself for the time being.
Readers who have been here in the past know that I occasionally nudge folks to patronize Amazon and iTunes because this site has an affiliate relationship with those two companies that yields a bit of cash toward the site's hosting fees. In recent years, the site has been making it easier for folks to do this by linking album art to one of those two places, at least for stuff that is actually sold there. Well, recently the iTunes store changed its affiliate service provider, and through preoccupation with other matters I let the deadline slide by without re-upping. So as of Oct. 1 this year, Mistletunes only has an affiliate relationship with Amazon, and I think I'll leave it that way going forward, as there's so much stuff for sale there that it's easy for readers to click through from here and leave a tip for the site on pretty much anything that comes to mind. Unfortunately, some of the album art links are still pointing at iTunes, and I'm pretty sure that means the links are busted. Where I find them, I'll fix them, but if you discover one, feel free to come back here and click through the Amazon logo for whatever you're looking for. Oh, and let me know so I can re-link to Amazon.
A good number of years ago, can't remember how long but it was before I put this site on a content management system, so it was well before 2009, I heard from a guy who wanted to make a documentary about Christmas music collectors. I gave him a few links I had to folks I had encountered via this website, and ever since then word of the documentary's eventual release has been pinging around the Yuleosphere. Actual facts about the project were few and far between until last year or so, when the "Jingle Bell Rock" website went up. Since I haven't had much to say about it in the interim, I thought I'd point out to you that it's finished and is being shown in special screenings around various English language venues this fall and winter, with an American release expected but not yet announced. Along with several collectors and dealers, there are appearances by Clarence Carter, John Waters, Run-DMC, El Vez, Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips and Dr. Demento himself. So bookmark that website link, and you can watch the trailer here.

No more Stubby?

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I'm way overdue to note this passing, but Stubby's House of Christmas has apparently ended its run as an active Christmas music site. Longtime readers of Mistletunes will recall Stubby was a frequent visitor offering what, I am not ashamed to admit, was his frighteningly superior knowledge of Christmas music, providing tips to great new stuff and acting as a fact-checker when one was necessary. The site will remain up, and as it still features a fairly strong preview of this year's upcoming new Christmas music across all the popular genres, I recommend you stop over there. Stubby notes where he'll be hanging out online in the future, and I hope he will feel free to stop by here occasionally as well. (Regular Christmas posting will start up again soon here at Mistletunes, I promise.)

Cool Christmas Songs is a website, too

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I've been remiss in that I didn't know that Cool Christmas Songs, which previous references described as a Facebook page, joined the blogosphere a while back. So I'll be adding them to the Mistletunes links page as well. UPDATE: Cool Christmas Songs has changed its name to Elves Bells. Facebook page is here.

Help a girl Kickstart a Christmas album

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Elizabeth Chen, whose Naughty & Nice EP was favorably reviewed here, contacts us to let us know she's going for another Christmas collection, and she needs a little Kickstarter help. If you dug her contemporary hit radio-friendly collection from last season and want to hear more, give her a hand. She promises some interesting collaborators will be involved in her new project, tentatively titled "Everyday Holidays." So click on over and get involved.
Time once again for the annual Mistletunes Christmas Eve post, in which I express my thanks to the readers for stopping by this roadside holly jolly stand every year. (The annual promise to do more work in the off-season is officially disavowed for once; if it happens, it happens.) Love hearing from readers and musicians, even if a lot of the latter don't realize that the major-label holiday releases are finished in June. (Just kidding folks; break out your favorite drummer jokes here.) Here's a little something to send you off; this appears to be a non-professional video effort, but what the heck.

More free Christmas albums and a new site

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Paste magazine is back with another free Christmas collection for 2012. Some of the songs on here have already been featured at Mistletunes this year, a couple in previous years, and some of these I've never heard before. So grab one for yourself.

Meanwhile, I could have sworn I mentioned this before, but apparently I haven't. Yuleplay is a new website that lets you put together your own Christmas playlists. As the youth of America is all about the playlist nowadays, this is an interesting idea, and it lets you build by artist, genre and even song -- you could have your ultimate collection of "Last Christmas" versions, for example. Check it out.

Christmas Lights Gangnam Style (YouTube)

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Saw this on Americablog and figured folks would like it -- Christmas lights synced to 2012s biggest music video phenomenon.

Record Store Day returns on Black Friday

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deathsanta.jpgMany folks who come by these parts are hip to this now-twice-yearly musical holiday, but for those who aren't, Record Store Day is a great way to encourage traffic into the still-hangin'-in-there independent record stores with exclusive limited one-time-only issues and first releases of stuff that will be generally available afterward. The fabulousness of the event depends on the inventory budgets of the individual stores, of course, but I'm guessing most of the readership still enjoys an afternoon of pawing through the stacks. Three exclusive releases with holiday connections are the disc shown here, Death May Be Your Santa Claus, a collection of blues holiday tunes from the 20s to the 50s; a vinyl 45 of "This Christmas" with the original Donny Hathaway on one side and CeeLo Green's 2012 version on the other; and King Diamond's "No Presents For Christmas" on a 12-inch picture disc. There's no track listing for Death, so no way of knowing whether there are any rarities on there, but it's on Sony BMG Legacy, so it's likely everything's been previously released. Stop by the website for a list of participating stores and a further list of what those of you who limit your Black Friday sojurns to Kohl's and Best Buy will be paying through the nose for on eBay.
Hi folks. Nope, not dead, the website's still a going concern (thanks for asking, Stubby). Yes, I stated I was going to go year-round, and I missed that objective by at least 10 months. There's stuff I have on my desk that would support that level of effort, but I was actually kind of burned out after the last holiday season, so I let myself and the readership down. I even missed out on posting some late-arriving stuff that didn't reach my mailbox until early January. But I'll get warmed up for the current season by catching up to at least that part of my backlog over the upcoming weeks. Would have started sooner, but I spent most of the last month either on crutches or flat on my back. That's all over now, thank goodness. If you've been here before, thanks for coming by, and feel free to use the comment section -- the only thing I've had time to do over the past year is scrape the spam barnacles off of it, so grab a login and use it. New stuff out there so far is a second bite at the holiday apple by Jigsaw Seen, Tracey Thorne, Colbie Caillat, Polyphonic Spree, August Burns Red, plus highly hyped entries from Rod Stewart and Cee-Lo, both of which I'm skeptical about but will have to address either way. I haven't heard so much as a sample note of any of this stuff yet, but when I do I'll let you all know. Which is what we do here, right?

Updated link to a friend of the site

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Nice Guy Eddie has converted his Christmas rock blog into Rotten Christmas, with a focus on punk rock holiday records. Judging by his screen shots he's pushing stuff he has or has found on vinyl. And he's definitely found some holes in our coverage here, so check him out once more.

Black Friday is Record Store Day

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Just happened upon a mention of Record Store Day while tiptoeing around Facebook (as my legal self, haven't set up a Facebook page for Rudolph, at least not yet) and the event, normally in mid-April, has added a Black Friday edition this year. As usual, there's a list of releases only available at indy record stores, and you should peruse it to see if your favorites are taking part with anything special. For the readership, there are two vinyl entries dedicated to the holiday: Fear, with a 45 version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," b-side "Another Christmas Beer"; and acoustic duo The Civil Wars have a 4-song 10-inch EP with two holiday songs, one of which is "Tracks in the Snow," also the title song of the mini-collection. (Unless there's another way of getting them, I won't be posting them here, as I'm getting out of the vinyl business personally.) Guys, frighten your significant others and tell 'em you wanna go shopping on Black Friday. Gals, well, you were going out anyway, right?

Welcome an old friend to the Yulelogosphere

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I always wondered why friend of this site Martin Johns didn't have his own site, as he was always a step ahead of all the other Christmas music sites (including this one) in knowing what was new and wonderful. He did maintain a shadowy presence at a couple of sites, and his tips and corrections have always been welcome here. Now, finally, it's his pseudonym on the shingle at Stubby's Christmas and if you like this place, you should definitely bookmark his as well. It's only been up a short time, but he already seems to have the hang of blogging. (I'd also like to mention that, although I haven't tried it myself, the Web platform Stubby's is built on, Weebly, looks pretty cool, if you'd like to build a site of your own and don't feel like spending the next two years at a tech school learning how to code.) UPDATE: On the topic of new websites, Nice Guy Eddie likes him some rock 'n roll Xmas as long as it's on vinyl. Stop by his place and check out the goodies.

Another progress report on this site

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I'm a little late getting started with the new season's postings for personal reasons, but not to worry, I should have some goodies for the kids within the next week. Also, the progress report on the site upgrade is that most of the material from the old site is now packed inside the current site. The exceptions: all the rock 'n roll from the old site's 1990s and 2000s pages, all the stuff from the two compilations categories on the old site, the miscellaneous section and the old site's letters and the "Yule blog." With the introduction of comments, I thought the letters section had become obsolete, but some folks have still been sending letters anyway, so under categories I created a "Letters to Mistletunes" section. It's still not populated with the old site's letters, but it eventually will be. Recent letters since the site upgrade are there, however. So if you want to nose around the old site, once again, the link is here.

Welcome to the reimagined Mistletunes

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This redesign of our much-loved Christmas rock music site is a work in progress -- much of the original content remains at the old site, so if you can't find what you like here, go over there and sniff around. Read more about the changes in the extended entry. 

A little something for Web radio mavens

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Some of you folks are fans of Internet radio, so I'm passing on this bit of news from AccuRadio, which has announced a veritable feast of Christmas-themed channels, including rock, r'nb, Latin and many others. The press release notes holiday-themed Internet radio channels currently available on the website cover genres like rock, pop, country, jazz, classical, r'nb, and Latin, focus on various themes (such as "Old-Fashioned Christmas"), and even play nothing but many different renditions of a single song, like a "Chestnuts Roasting" channel which features hundreds of versions of the classic tune "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)." By early December, the website will offer a total of over 40 different channels, according to site officials.

While we're talking Internet radio, don't forget friend of the site, the Web-based rock radio station that goes wild with Christmas offerings when the season draws nigh.
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The long-standing e-mail address still applies. Inquiries for advertising are now being accepted here, as are offers of review copies. Music questions can still be sent here too, though a comments section is now live as well.