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loudonIII.jpgThe celebrated singer-songwriter and actor, one of the early parade of "next Dylans," previously did a funny and still timely take on the holiday called "Suddenly It's Christmas" a couple decades ago, and another song, "Christmas Morning." For 2013, he redid the original live take of "Suddenly" in the studio with a backing band. As a companion piece, or shall we say B-side, he threw in this topical rewrite of "I'll Be Home For Christmas," using the holiday to take a potshot at Second Amendment absolutism. It's not bad, though it's a little heavy-handed compared to most of his work. But he apparently lives not terribly far from Sandy Hook Elementary, not that he needs any excuse to write any damn thing that comes into his fertile mind. Links are to Amazon, but you can also buy directly from Loudon's website.

Don't let the label name fool you, Nerina is a British performer of some repute, an Ivor Novello award nominee in fact, although this 2013 EP is the first I've heard of her. This is typical pop-rock singer-songwriter fare, and indeed all five songs on this collection are originals of hers, even "Blue Christmas," a breezy number about Christmas melancholy. The collection kicks off with the upbeat "I Know What You're Doing For Christmas," goes jazzy-bluesy with the title song and straight to balladry with "A Christmas Lullabye," concluding with "I Wish," in which the singer misses a former lover at the holiday. While putting this post together I discovered Yes December, a 2011 EP by the artist. The title song is one of those "winter" ballads not necessarily about Christmas, "Two Figures in the Snow" is a piano ballad about loyalty, and she covers "Last Christmas" in a mildly samba arrangement. The two remaining songs don't sound particularly holiday oriented. "Lot Like Heaven" is a rock stomper and "Eleven" is a piano ballad of a very Kate Bush-ian cast. Of the two, the newer collection is the stronger one, but completists and fans with both will have enough songs for a full album from Nerina.

A Child Is Born, Sojourn (self-issued)

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This is not so much a band as a Louisville, Ky.-based church emphasizing musical worship, but as they use rock forms to achieve their goals, and they've recorded Christmas music, we're going to look at them here. The album in the headline was released in 2011 and features a combination of popular carols and original songs. Performance-wise, this is very professional, following the styles of current pop-rock. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" opens the disc in a strong upbeat rock style, "Go Tell It On the Mountain" takes a hard rock tack with only slight gospel overtones, as does "O Come O Come Emanuel," and "Silent Night" uses waltz time but plays up the rhythm and the crunchy guitars. The originals are heavily religious, of course, though performances like the semi-funky "O Glorious Hour," the mid-tempo "Knocking at Your Door" and the ballads "Joy Joy" and "This Is the Christ" are strong rock outings that will appeal to fans of contemporary rock bands. For completeness' sake, this is Sojourn's second Christmas-themed release; they put out Advent Songs in 2007, which in turn was, in their words, a revisitation of Songs For the Advent from 2003, again a combination of popular carols and church-written originals.

This is from 2012, released on New Year's Eve in fact, and well, words (almost) fail me. These guys bill themselves as Russian pirates performing punk rock, and indeed their personal website is in Russian, as are the songs. The St. Petersburg band does have a Facebook page in English, however, although it doesn't illuminate things much more. Soundwise, they do manage to mash up 70s punk rock with their Eastern European roots, in the manner of such acts as Gogol Bordello. Since I don't speak Russian, I'm having a bit of difficulty lining up any Christmas-style intentions with this collection other than the release date and the cover art. I do recognize bits of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" in one of the tunes, but that's about all. But what the heck, it's a free download, and you might just want to throw something outré like this into your mix.

OK, there is no such thing, it's just a bit from the Jimmy Kimmel show. But it's still a hoot, and props to Jenny Lewis for playing a cameo in it. (Of course, Purchase Viagra Online Pharmacy - Erectile Dysfunction (Sildenafil), Purchase Viagra On Discover Card regulars know there have been many metal Christmas albums before this.)

I had heard that the 2012 entry in this label's annual sequence of Christmas music collections was supposed to be the last, so imagine my surprise to find they not only did a new one this year, but that they've revamped the website a bit to make this, and previous years' albums, easier to find. Where previous collections had 40 or more songs, this year's wraps up at just 27 selections, including the album-ending goof "The Paincakes Sell Out," 41 seconds of tribute by The Paincakes to the famous album of the otherwise same name by the Who. This is more of an indie-rock collection, though some Americana shows up in the playlist as well. This year's batch opens with the Kickstand Band paying tribute to Pia Zadora with "Hooray For Santy Claus," Javelins crank the reverb on their guitars for the instrumental "This Time of Year," The Next Door Neighbors recycle "Jingle Bell Rock's" arrangement with "Open For Christmas," Love Axe takes the New Testament literally in "Jesus Came From Heaven," PreciseHero notes that "Martian Kids Need Santa Too," Blaire Alise & the Bombshells rock out an ode to "Mistletoe," Carjack/Pupils do a rock cover of "Christmas in Hollis," Jeremy Porter & the Tucos check off some modern pop culture points in "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year," Six and the Sevens evoke the old garage hit "Baby Please Come Home" in "Please Come Home For Christmas," and ScreechGING Weasel rocks out "The Government Don't Get Shit For Christmas." There's more, but you can examine the free download for yourself.

We've had the Christmas collections by this online Americana music magazine before, and this year they've gone overboard with a massive download equivalent to about two full CDs of songs. "Americana," of course, means just about anything you want it to, from old-school country to gut-bucket blues to folk to early rock styles, although it's best used with artists whose repertoires cut across most or all of those categories. With 44 songs on the roster, I'm only going to be able to give you the highlights, but since it's a free download, you'll be able to fill in the blanks yourselves. Mary Gauthier's "Christmas in Paradise" is a sweetly sardonic tale of being homeless for the holidays, Jimmie Bratcher's "Man! It's Christmas" is upbeat and jazzy, Dave Hogan rocks out with "Christmas Every Day," Brian Ashley Jones channels Jimmy Buffett with "Let's Get Blazed For the Holidays," and yes, that's what he's talking about. Tom Mason & the Blue Buccaneers do a Celtic Western swing on "It's Christmas Day,"  Mike Surber goes all talky on "Talking Christmas Time Travel Blues," Jeff Maddox gives us a little Tex-Mex, appropriately, on "Merry Margarita," Over the Rhine contributes "Here It Is" from their second Christmas disc (a third is pencilled in for 2014), Calico the Band breaks out the slide guitars for the bluesy "Santa Have Mercy," FunkyJenn also treads the blues boards for "Just Me and the Mistletoe," Deborah Holland contributes an original western folky song "Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah" that gently pokes that holiday as well as Christmas, Annie Selleck goes pop for "Let's Make a Christmas Memory," the VooDUDES rock out on "I Won't Be Home For Christmas," and BumpKin Pie rewrites the Nativity as a boot-scootin' get-together on "Party In the Stable." Grab this while the link's still live.

Sad Holiday, various artists (Scaredy Cat)

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sadholiday.jpgThis Charlotte, N.C., record label gathered together some Christmas performances from its artist roster to create this album whose purchase benefits UNICEF. The title suggests some downbeat views of the holiday, and the Nuns' "Blood Red Snow" certainly fits that first impression, as does Mineral Girls' "Merry Christmas, I Hate Your Guts," Victor Anderson's sardonic monologue "Thankful Holidaze," Dollar Signs' "Selfish Christmas," Billy Mack Collector's "Drunk With Marty" and a cover of "River" by Sinai Vessel. Rusty Cotton's "Happy Christmas, Merry New Years" is likewise downbeat lyrically over acoustic guitar and droning organ, and "Happy Birthday Jesus" by Wally Tusk and the Film Club is a fairly drunken and scatological look at the holiday. More conventional fare gets a downbeat twist, as in Radiator Hospital's drone-y "Christmas Island" and a cynical take on "Oh. Christmas. Tree." by Bless These Sounds Under the City. Dollar Signs get a second bite of the apple in the album opener "Caroler," in which the singer describes a semi-sincere outing singing Christmas carols that has a little more whimsy to it (and a bad word in one line). This is indie rock with punk attitude, but whether you like this depends on how much of a sense of humor you have about the dark side of the holiday, as a few of these songs are fairly unrelenting. Many of the songs on this collection snuck out individually in recent weeks, but the actual album download only went live Christmas day on Bandcamp.

In keeping with the earlier item about Christmas parodies of current hit music, here we have a Christmas parody medley, which should interest the young people among us and give the older visitors an idea of what that stuff at the top of the iTunes chart the rest of the year actually is. You can click through to YouTube for the parody lyrics to this piece. If you like it, download it here.

"Dancing in the Snow," The Leopards (Moon)

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leopards.jpgThis is one of those semi-legendary songs that people occasionally ask about, that I've known about for at least a couple of decades, but its impossible rarity tended to confound even The Great And Powerful Google, at least until I stumbled over it again while recovering from a festive holiday dinner. The Leopards were a Kansas City, Kan. band in the 1970s that personally pressed and released their own vinyl LP of their original songs, around about the time that the band Shoes was doing the same thing in Illinois, kicking off the true beginnings of indie rock. Shoes crossed over to the major labels and the Leopards did not, but when you hear this song it's hard to figure why; on this song, at least, they did a more than passible impression of the Kinks doing a holiday song, and before the Kinks themselves did "Father Christmas." This song was the only holiday-themed tune on the album, and it's a keeper. They went on to release a couple more singles and albums, none of which made much of a mark. The original album, Kansas City Slickers, was pressed in an edition of exactly 1,000 copies in 1977; Sing Sing Records of New York put out a limited vinyl reissue in 2011, for which there is a listing on Amazon. Best price at this writing was $99 for a copy of the Sing Sing version; best not to ask about the price of one of the original 1,000 copies. Whether there is an available download of the entire album I will leave to the individual's resourcefulness. Listen here.

"Deck the Halls," Priscilla Ahn (self-issued)

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This is a neat, downbeat and ethereal reading of this popular carol, and at least for the time being it's free to download from Priscilla's website. Check it:


"Rudolph," Mod Carousel featuring Leeni (YouTube)

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Really miss those Bob Rivers holiday parodies based on hit rock and pop songs? This is the kind of thing he'd be doing if he was still doing this stuff. Lorde takes one for the team in this one. (Click through to the YouTube page if you want to see the lyrics.)


Once again, it's time for a merry Christmas

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Here we are once again at Christmas eve, when it's kind of late to be announcing new Christmas music since everybody's already finished their mix discs and playlists. Nevertheless, we press on, because there's always next year. Thanks to all the readers and tipsters out there who help me make this an interesting place to stop off in your travels along this man's Internet. I leave you, for the moment, with a rare holiday performance from young rising star Lissie, and because we're all about the rock 'n roll Christmases here, I give you this not-exactly-new link to a great story of Christmas cheer starring, of all people, the Sex Pistols.

Keeping the streak going in 2013 is this English indie label, this year getting a little help on the curation front from Gareth Jones, the British podcaster. (Click through Gareth's name for a Christmas podcast featuring Cherryade major domo Rachel Neiman.) Some of the artists have been here in previous years, like the Bobby McGees, Pocket Gods, Piney Gir, Otalgia and Paraffins, but the majority are newcomers. Things kick off with Dressy Bessy's "Hopped Up (On Xmas)," a frenetic punk-pop rush through holiday preparations; John Shuttleworth's "The Christmas Orphan," a holiday story rendered in a very early David Bowie-style delivery; David Leach breaks out the ukelele for "Handmade Christmas"; Sonic the Comic reaches out for companionship with the crunchy lo-fi "Spend Christmas Day With Me"; and Dog Legs play around with surf music on the heavily reverbed and vibratoed "Not Just Fo' Christmas (Christmas Serf)." MJ Hibbett & the Validators' "Thank Goodness For Christmas" gives us a tongue-in-cheek look at things: "It's extremely convenient that you had Baby Jesus at the moment when we needed a party." Chalk & Numbers goes girl-groupy with "Happiness This Time of Year," and I Like the Go Go takes things even farther back to the 50s with "Xmas Song No. 1." No Cars takes us over to Japan for "X'masu de itadkimasu," although I wasn't aware that country had much of a Christmas tradition. The Bobby McGees talk like pirates on "Ho F'n Ho," Otalgia thrash their way through "Empty Boxes," Paraffins' "Band of Snow (Drifted)" is a slow-motion instrumental, Radio Orwell goes all cinematic on a cover of "Last Christmas," and Velodrome 2000 cuts right to the chase with the punked-out "Christmas Sucks." Horses of Instruction mixes Casio keyboards and acoustic guitars on "Godfather Christmas," in which a horse loses his head in the first verse, setting the stage for the rest of the song. Woog Riots goes synth-pop with "Under the Christmas Treeee," Partly Llama goes very quiet on "Fallen Angel," and the closer is Ross & Jones' "Gaudete." Piney Gir's "Christmas Time" and the Pocket Gods' "Silent Night" and "Bernard Matthews Turkey Zombie Revenge" arrive here from other compilations. All told, a pretty good snapshot of modern British indie-rock compiled to celebrate the holiday. Only available from the label.
ohhellos.jpgThe Oh Hellos are Maggie and Tyler Heath, Texas siblings with a musical vision, and this is their 2013 Christmas EP. It's presented in four "movements," which essentially works out to four medleys of popular antique religious carols. It veers back and forth between folk, country, pop and heavy rock, not unlike a certain Trans-Siberian Orchestra I could name, but with a slightly more modern cast to it. Indeed, if I were to tell you this was a collection by Mumford & Sons or the Lumineers, you'd probably believe me. The multiple movements consisting of carol medleys are arranged in a way that suggests the end-of-term musicale at some place like Liberty University. I'm not really sure this kind of thing is what folks come to Purchase Viagra Online Pharmacy - Erectile Dysfunction (Sildenafil), Purchase Viagra On Discover Card for, but it's nicely done and it might just be some folks' holiday speed. Grab it from Bandcamp.

From El-P and Killer Mike's 2013 album, also titled Run the Jewels, this is their hip-hop holiday song. NSFW for lyrics, though not for visuals. I felt it was necessary to post this since it features a (gasp! clutch pearls!) black Santa.

dgwynne13.jpgOur friends at Dead Gwynne have been doing a new Christmas song every single year since 1995 or thereabouts. This year's entry is a bit on the lo-fi side, in fact it kinda sounds like a demo, but it's a nice slice-of-life look at the mundane part of the holiday. And it's free, as are all the band's tunes -- there's 20 of them now.

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.
This Seattle-based record label rounded up an elpee's worth of toonz from its label artists and friends to benefit the charity MusiCares for 2013. This is the album that contains that fabulous tune "No Lou For Christmas" by Tom Dyer and His Queen's Pajamas that I posted several days ago, a lovely tribute to the late Lou Reed that affectionately pilfers several Lou/Velvets riffs as well as "The Night Before Christmas." Dyer returns later with "Christmas (It's Just Around the Corner)," a poppier bit with female backing vocals. The OF goes kind of low-budget free-jazzy with its double cover of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Snow Miser," and AAIIEE provides the semi-title song, "Krampus Is an Evil Man," in which the story of the malevolent Christmas being gets told in a garage-inspired manner. Opening tune "Here We Are (On Christmas Day)" is by the Elf-Tones, a shambling folk-pop performance with ensemble vocals. Henry Boy Jenkins goes semi-Beatlesque with the piano-led "Love For Christmas," The Goblin Market breaks out the harmonium for "In the Bleak Midwinter," Tom Nook goes all 1977 lo-fi for "One Last Christmas Eve," Toxic Socket do a metal take on "The Greatest Toy in the World," and the Deadlies go more 70s hard rock on "Winter Wonderland." Three Ninjas & The Weird Old Tricks do a kind of Tom Waits arrangement on "Joy and Good Will," Richard & Xander Stuverud break out the toy piano on the ballad "Christmas Tree," Jason Rubin's "Out On Your Motorcycle" is a nice way to see the Christmas lights, assuming it's not too cold and you've got your leathers on, the Queen Annes do a slapdash "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday," the Green Monkey Christmas Chorale do a slapdash-snarky choral arrangement of "It's Christmas (And I'm Jolly)," and the King County Queens go all the way back to late 60s psychedelia to present "Drop the Silver Ball," a slice-of-life tribute to New Year's Day. Lots of good stuff on this album, grab it from Bandcamp.
12daysKan.jpgThis is a gang of Kansas City, Mo.- area musicians and the organization that promotes them making a Christmas album. They're involved in a charitable competition from microbrewery KC Pils, which has chosen three organizations to support via donation. The wrinkle is that there's an election of sorts, with the top vote-getter of the three charities getting 60 percent of the donation. And now you know what the title's about. An interesting wrinkle of this collection is that it was recorded live over a couple of days in November 2013 and filmed as well, and the production received help from friend of the site Randall Paske, who has pitched in with essential info over the past history of this site. The vast majority of the playlist is covers, but few obvious ones, starting with Sons of Great Dane's cover of the Eels' "Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas," a slower acoustic take on the song. The Kinks' "Father Christmas" is done by Rev Gusto in the normal rocking version, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" gets a more dirge-like arrangement from Not a Planet, The Dead Girls cover Big Star's "Jesus Christ," Grand Marquis take on Louis Prima with "What Will Santa Claus Say When He Finds Everybody Swingin'?" and Rex Hobart and the Honky Tonk Standards do Buck Owens' "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy." The Grisly Hand's "1,2,3,4 Christmas Time" mashes Mariah Carey and Donny Hathaway, and Donnie's "This Christmas" also gets a jazzy instrumental take from Mark Lowrey and Hermon Mehari. There are three originals here as well, Cadillac Flambe's country ballad "Hear the Bells," The Doo-Dads' 50s-style rocker "Holiday Hop" and Making Movies' Tex-Mex tune "Tormenta." Another one from Bandcamp, where you can sample tunes before grabbing the collection for yourself.

The Great White North songstress bills this as a new holiday single for 2013, but it's just a straight reading of the title prayer set to a soft, slow melody and performed with students from her music school. It's a free download as well as a come-on to make donations to her school, which brings music education to children, filling in the gaps being left by public schools that are cutting music programs. Good cause, but not much for your mix discs.
Well, I had to put this up, didn't I? This conflates the "literal video" and the "lyric video" with a sprinkle of "Glee," but it's a hoot, so here it is. Download it from Noisetrade.

This just sneaked out a few days ago on iTunes, appropriately enough, since it's the soundtrack of an Apple commercial. The alt-chanteuse with the bumpy career path does a very tasteful version with just piano and viola, and a very short one at that. Nice work, and as the commercial in question is considered to be a bit of a weeper, the song clearly has a lot to do with that.
langor.jpgFor 2013, this northeast Pennsylvania band returns to the Christmas fray with this solid but not slick slice of power pop in which the singer begs a lover he's outgrown to follow the title's directions, with a hooky chorus of "all I want to do is get over you this year." They had been on the What We Do On Our Holiday(s) compilation from the same label a few years ago with "Yantsor, the Candy Cane Maker." Off to Bandcamp with you all for this one.

Missed out on this last year, but this 2012 entry from the once and future Go-Go is cute, in the way you would expect the most girly member of that popular band to be. A nice original featuring a Christmas list and backed by music-hall piano, one almost expects Sir Paul to sneak up in the background with a harmony vocal given the style. Points for the label name, too. Only at iTunes, near as I can tell.

A couple one-offs for your holiday

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Arcade Fire did a quite silly "Little Drummer Boy" on Zach Gallifianakis' Funny Or Die talk show, but the embed code left something to be desired, plus you have to scroll to about 3:40 to see Arcade Fire, so I'm just linking to it. On the other hand, NBC has the embed thing down, so here's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" featuring Calexico, Iron and Wine, Glen Hansard and Kathleen Edwards covering "Fairytale Of New York." UPDATE: Forgot to give props to Stephen Colbert's Christmas Carol Week. Monday night saw Greg Allman and The National combine (with Stephen) to do "Silver Bells," and Tuesday had Cyndi Lauper and Alan Cummings (with Stephen) doing "Let It Snow." FURTHER UPDATE: Wednesday's Colbert featured Aaron Neville with the MusicCorps Wounded Warrior Band doing "Silent Night." FURTHER UPDATE: And finally, Thursday featured the Blind Boys of Alabama with "Go Tell It On the Mountain."


Your semi-random roundup

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This is the point in the Purchase Viagra Online Pharmacy - Erectile Dysfunction (Sildenafil), Purchase Viagra On Discover Card publish cycle when I'm pushing out the annual mix disc (watch the left sidebar for the liner notes in a few days now, meanwhile the disc is on its way to the usual suspects). But Christmas music news never stops, so here's a few items to hold you over.
  • Esquire has a pretty neat roundup of what it calls the 30 best alternative Christmas songs. I'm pleased to note just about all of them have been immortalized here in the past. A bonus reason to click through is that every song is accompanied by a video for easy listening.
  • Gareth Jones, whose music podcast has been crossing the Internets from Old Blighty for a number of years now, and who once hosted yours truly on said podcast, takes to the electric Internet post office to tell us his Christmas show is now up for your delectation. Rachel Neiman, label boss of Cherryade Records, maker of nearly a decade's worth of original Christmas compilations, is a guest, along with Slow Club. A previous year's show featuring Shonen Knife is also available via Gareth's archives.
  • WXPN-FM in Philadelphia has been doing the 12 Days of Christmas with a new song by a local Philly artist each day, and they promise the whole kit 'n caboodle will be downloadable shortly. UPDATE: Make that now. Meanwhile, they've got a live stream of Jingle Jams.
  • And finally, I have to tip my hat to old pal Stubby, who found this great song way ahead of me -- it's on his annual compilation and it's not on mine as a result of me not knowing about it until he sent it to me. There's a whole album connected to this fine tribute to a great artist, and I'll have something up on it soon, but meanwhile, enjoy "No Lou This Christmas" by Tom Dyer & His Queen's Pajamas.

"And Anyway It's Christmas," !!!, (Warp)

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anyway!!!.jpgThat's pronounced "chik chik chik" for the uninitiated, and this appears to be their first Christmas song for 2013. It's a cool, funky electronic party record, ready to be paired off with cuts from the new Erasure album on your mix discs and holiday playlists. Good stuff. There's a "dub" version on the "flip side," if you grab the entire single. You're linked for the download from the cover art, but the band is also peddling a vinyl version via their website. Have a taste here.

Zach's a confederate of singer-songwriter-surfer Jack Johnson, and for 2013 he steps out front for a mini-album of Christmas goodies. If you're a Jack fan, you're all about the relaxed, folk-pop-rock vibe that Zach brings to this collection. The eight songs include seven popular favorites and one new original,  "It's Christmas Time Again (Mawmaw's Figgy Pudding)," a whimsical squeezebox holiday fantasia that fakes tapdancing on the solo and gets in a plug for Ralphie. The almost-title song "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)" is just Zach backed by piano, "Up On the Housetop" gets a nice funky treatment, Johnson stops in to help out on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Little Drummer Boy" gets an original arrangement that deletes the martial tattoo for something that swings more, and "White Christmas" is rendered with slide guitar and ukelele to complement an arrangement that includes the not-always-used prelude about Los Angeles. In a way, this is almost Jimmy Buffett The Next Generation, but for those of you who have worn that predecessor record out, here's a great candidate for a replacement.

Oh My Christmas Tree EP, Dr. Dog (Anti)

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This Philly band is developing a national profile, and for 2013 they've joined the Christmas fray with four original songs, originally written by band member Scott McMicken for private use. There's a kind of slapdash charm to it, as though they knocked it out as an afterthought, but it's quite listenable for all that. "Christmas Party" is as advertised, a fun song about celebrating on the holiday, the title song is a melancholy reflection on the life and death of a Christmas tree, "I Believe In Santa Claus" is a handclapper that exhorts folks to believe in the jolly elf, and the band breaks out the banjos for "Rejoice." So far only available at iTunes, no Amazon link, but treat yourself to a stream at Stereogum.


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