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Recently in Novelties Category

Some Latin music for 2017, courtesy of this fine roots/retro group. The original song takes a lighthearted look at Santa vis-à-vis the immigration controversy, observing that Santa has no green card or work permit, yet everybody loves him. Good fun, and guaranteed to give an aneurism to your Fox News Uncle™. Grab it from Amazon or iTunes, or just check it out here.

Some years ago we all giggled at the unlikeliness of Bob Dylan cutting a Christmas album, though musical history, his Theme Time Radio Hour, and his current direction remaking Sinatra classics demonstrate that was a wrong-headed response. Now if you want unlikely, how about the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" embarking on a music career? And given his welcoming attitude toward the current president's candidacy throughout 2015 and early 2016, that he would not only end up lashing that candidate daily as president, but that he'd extend his brand into a 2017 Christmas EP poking fun at the guy? Actually, of the three songs, only "The Drumpf," a not-quite but may-as-well-be clone of "The Grinch," is the only one that explicitly hammers the guy, although "Christmastime," a nicely upbeat pop-rocker, makes a few mentions of this being a crappy year that feed into the theme. The remaining song, "This Christmas It's You & Me," is a midtempo bid for the singer and his love to jettison the big family gathering and celebrate with each other. I'll leave it to you as to whether you find this playlist-worthy, but if you use "The Drumpf," don't say I didn't warn you when the family's Fox News Uncle™ launches into a tirade.

"I Want A Papadopoulos For Christmas" (YouTube)

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Sorry I'm starting so late this year. Hope to have real posts up within the week.

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


"Auld Lang Syne," Eleanor Friedberger (YouTube)

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Yeah, I know, it's an ad. But Eleanor, formerly of Fiery Furnaces and currently solo, has a way with a glass and a stick, and I needed to give you something in the way of a New Year's wish, so dig it.

I'm always happy to throw the floor open to folks doing Christmas-themed parodies of popular songs, and that appears to be the whole reason for this 2012 album that I just discovered the other week. (Except for a straight cover of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," anyway.) As the name of the act suggests, these parodies are based on well-liked rock singles from the 60s, and the only glitch in the formula is that there's a faint smell of lounge band about the performances. Fortunately, that only becomes apparent when you play the whole album in one sitting. When you hit shuffle on your device, or hand-curate your own playlist from scratch, the better tunes from this collection hold their own quite well. The title song is based on "Incense & Peppermints," "Santa, Santa" plays off "Louie Louie," "Mom Won't Let Me" is a tinseled version of the Outsiders' "Time Won't Let Me," and I think my favorite of the group is "Sleigh Full of Toys," based on "Heart Full of Soul." The Rolling Stones get parodied twice on here, "Santa With a Red Suit" takes off on Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, "Dirty Water" becomes "I Love to Go to Grandma's," and "Wooly Bully" becomes "Merry Christmas." Check 'em out.

Merry Christmas to one and all

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And so we've come to Christmas Eve, where I traditionally deliver a holiday benediction to the readership. Thanks everybody for reading the site, writing in with tips, providing actual music, and all the stuff that serves to remind me that the mission here is appreciated and even needed. Also as part of the tradition, here's something completely off the wall -- an entire album of goats singing Christmas carols. Apparently this is being sponsored by Swedish human services non-profit ActionAid, which currently is campaigning for contributions to buy goats for families in the Third World to help the families feed themselves. A worthy cause, and a few giggles besides. Who could object? (Yes, I know it's in Swedish; use Google Translate, OK?) Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

shearer.jpgThe singer/songwriter and her husband, a co-creator of "This Is Spinal Tap" and famed "The Simpsons" voice actor, have organized live Christmas-themed performances for a few years now, featuring a rotating cast of characters you might know, with the proceeds going to charity. For 2015, they've provided us with an audio document of these performances, half of which were performed live. It's essentially a long EP, six songs, all originals. As you might imagine, a group of people who are mainly known for acting over musical endeavors are going to sound more like a Broadway revue than Trans-Siberian Express, but it's a worthy document if you're fans of these people. Judith Owen provides two solo tunes, "The Best Things" and "(I'll Sing) Silent Night for You," both singer/songwriter style piano ballads and strong candidates for the permanent Christmas canon. Amy Engelhardt brings the show tune chutzpah with a "Great Balls of Fire"-styled lament from mother Mary, "How Did This Thing Get In Me?" Harry Shearer, with help from Jane Lynch, Alice Russell and Ian Shaw, offers the slow jam parody "Too Many Notes," and former SCTV diva Catherine O'Hara sings "What Do You Give the Man Who Has Nothing?," which satirizes a person who wants to help the needy on Christmas but makes that desire all about himself. That leaves Fred Willard's monologue over a musical bed, "The True Story of Christmas," which is absolutely hilarious and should be heard widely. My main complaint is that after listening to this I stumbled over something that isn't on this collection and should be -- Harry, Jane and Weird Al Yankovic covering Jill Sobule's "Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner." So here it is.

Xmasqueens.jpgThe RuPaul influence on 2015's holiday season continues with this raft of "Drag Race" competitors doing their take on the holiday repertoire. Like RuPaul's disc, the sound is mostly modern pop/dance/R'nB, but it's more of a novelty album, in that enthusiasm outstrips talent here. And it's also for mature audiences, in regard to some infrequent sex talk. But you might get a kick out of Ginger Minj's "Christma-Hannu-Kwanzaa-Ka," a song that will at least help you explain to the Fox News-obsessed stick-in-the-muds out there why people say "Happy holidays" this time of year. Or Sharon Needles' punky take on "Jingle Bells" that does something unspeakable with the top of a Christmas tree to start. "From Head To Mistletoe" by Courtney Act throws in a tiny bit of girl-group schmaltz, Jiggly Caliente brings the hip-hop on "Ratchet Christmas," and the near-obligatory ode to the ugly "Christmas Sweater" is brought to us with a touch of folk-country by Alaska Thunderfuck (really), Courtney Act and Willam. The latter artist shows up again doing a Bill Cosby impression on "A Very Cozby Christmas," which is really "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Oddly, Manila Luzon performs "Slay Bells," which you'll recall is the title of RuPaul's album, Violet Chachki delivers an R-rated "The Night Before Christmas," and Detox tips his wig to Hanukkah with "This Is How We Jew It." I won't make any great claims for this album, but there are some giggles to be mined here if you're up for it.

I've been seeing fewer of these pop song holiday parodies because the whole novelty genre seems to have migrated to YouTube, so it's harder to hear about this stuff when it happens. But since I did find this one, a 2015 parody of One Dimension's "Apologize," well, enjoy. The Murrays (not to be confused with the Midwest punk band of the same name) are a young family who likes to make silly videos like this one. No independent audio I'm aware of, but I'm sure you'll find a way around that.....

A little something for you "Orange Is the New Black" fans out there. Once again, Merry Christmas.

Once again it's time to wish everybody a merry Christmas as the blog hits the season climax. There will be posts going forward, but with the holidays being the holidays the rate of posting will start tapering off. Not too quickly; don't want to get the bends. Anyway, I appreciate hearing from listeners, readers, band members, everybody who responds to the little bit of scholarship I place in this tiny corner of the Inter-Tubes, and best wishes and a great new year to you all. At this point, I will give my nod to this viral sensation featuring an 11-year-old Bjork at Christmas time, and for a little something extra, Frank Sidebottom's Christmas video. Frank was actually the late Chris Sievey, minus the plaster head, who passed on in the year 2010, and before creating Frank was in a band called The Freshies, known mainly in England for such singles as "I Can't Get Bouncing Babies (By the Teardrop Explodes)" and "I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-out Desk." His story inspired a recent movie starring Michael Fassbender, who actually portrayed Frank while playing in a band with Maggie Gyllenhaal on "The Colbert Report." Oh, I've gone on too long, here's the video.


"Sump'n Claus," Saturday Night Live (Hulu)

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When you get on Santa's "naughty" list and aren't supposed to get anything, in steps Sump'n Claus to throw you an envelope with some cash in it, goes the fable. Or at least the "Saturday Night Live" sketch from last night. (This is a hint regarding one of the site's traditions, by the way.)

Hat tip to Dangerous Minds for unearthing this gem. The soundtrack is the work of a guy named Andy Rehfeldt, who apparently does this kind of thing from time to time, but this is the first Christmas-oriented one. This should purge your memories of those "Christmas Remixed" versions of Der Bingle.  

"Deck the Halls," Larry & Bob (YouTube)

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Larry and Bob wanted to get a few laughs in for the holiday season, so they did this, and they sent me the link. Enjoy.

We've had this whimsical bunch on the blog before, and for 2014 they go all hip-hop and science fiction on this tale of a dangerous dance craze imposed on an unsuspecting public. How? They don't say. Who? Wouldn't you like to know. Maybe you should just get with the program and DANCE! Grab it from Bandcamp.
One of the reasons this site exists is that, sometimes, even musicians and entertainers themselves miss out on what their audiences will find entertaining. Paul Simon, Steve Martin and Billy Joel, sometime in the early 1980s, dashed off this bit of PG-13 rated whimsey in a recording studio after a liquid dinner and never looked back on it. Someone dusted it off and uploaded it to YouTube, and now some folks have a new Christmas tradition. The full story is here (it originated with American Airlines' in-flight magazine, but the story is broken up in five parts and is hard to link to) and the song is below.

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.

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.

"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.)

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.

I said earlier that amateurs on YouTube tend to discourage pros from making good Christmas novelties. Here's a good Christmas novelty, although I don't know what the author's pro status is.

bobwire.jpgOn the one hand, novelty Christmas recordings aren't that hard to find if you frequent YouTube. On the other hand, since any idiot can get on YouTube, amateurs make it difficult for experienced musicians to put together good novelties. I just stumbled across this collection from 2011 the other day, and it's quite nice -- satirical lyrics played with rootsy rock 'n roll charm, in the vein of the Christmas Jug Band and a bunch of other similar folks. "Credit Card Christmas" offers a rocking kickoff to the album about how the festivities are going to be paid for, "My Ex Miss Carol" puns on the girlfriend stolen away by Santa, "Sha La La La (Don't Come Home This Christmas)" puts some girl-group sass (without girls) on a downbeat sentiment, "You Ain't Getting Shit For Chrismtas" is a self-explanatory ballad, "Santa's Getting Bigger" is a bit obvious as to the jolly elf's weight problem, "My Birthday's On Christmas" is a lament about being gypped out of presents, "Santa's Got a Sharkskin Suit" is a cool rockabilly number, and the album closes with the lament "I Can't Believe It's Christmastime Again," a duet with an uncredited female singer. For 2013, the duo is back with "Dos Christmas Ez," a bit of mariachi-flavored musing about divorced parents providing a kid two separate-but-equal Christmases. More thought-provoking than funny, but smart work nevertheless. You can download everything from Amazon.

suckitxmas.jpgThis is mostly Jewish humor for other Jews, but with Hanukkah bearing down on us I thought I should hurry this onto the site. Rachel Bloom is a comic and actress who cuts lots of short videos for use on YouTube and other sites, and she gathered up a bunch of friends to throw together this short collection of Hanukkah-centric goodies. Highlights include "Chanukah Honey," a parody of "Santa Baby" with a NSFW twist in the very last line; "Happy Epic Chanukah," a heavy metal take on the story of the holiday; "Foreskin Angels," less about the holiday and more about, well, you know; "Judaica," an electro-pop tribute to shopping for Jewish heritage goodies while traveling; "Let Me Be the Cantor In Your Temple," a bit of Wild Man Fischer-inspired ranting (and oh, is that what the kids are calling it this year?); "What Would Hashem Do," a light-hearted look at the extreme punishments described in the Old Testament; and "Think About All the Dead Jews," a klezmer version of "finish your peas, the starving children in India would love them." There are three "Elders of Zion" spoken-word bits that are probably more funny if you're Jewish, as they snark on Jewish stereotypes. Here, check out "Chanukah Honey":

Merry Indie Xmas, Adam Horne (self-issued)

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merryindie.jpgWell, this is a hoot. Way too short to be a real album, but Horne, of the band Bear Ceuse, got it into his head that he needed to hear popular Christmas carols as they would sound if done by up-to-the-minute indie rockers, and so he did it himself. Nine tunes, none more than a minute, and all being streamed (only) via Soundcloud. "Rudolph" is done in the style of Interpol, "Joy to the World" as Beach House, "Here Comes Santa Claus" as Bon Iver, "Silent Night" as The xx, "Deck the Halls" as Das Racist, "12 Days of Xmas" as Gorillaz, "Hark! Ye Herald Angels Sing" as The National, "Jingle Bells" as Wavves and "O Christmas, Ye Cold Wind Blows" as Mumford and Sons. This is great, too bad he didn't carry these tunes on to full length. But maybe we heard just enough, in this Twitter era, to enjoy the concept. From 2012. (Maybe the full-length follows in 2013?)

"Jingle Bells," Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

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The song that was left off the Bob Dylan Christmas album from a couple of years ago....

bottomchim.jpgThe band Delta Rae made a splash in Americana and alt-rock circles with their song "Bottom of the River" during the summer of 2012, which garnered enough airplay to inspire this parody just in time for Christmas. The artist is a Delaware bunch that started out as a party band in the 70s and now gets together to do, well, this kind of stuff. If you know the original song, the parody is very good and very close. Easily downloaded from their website. They also did "Marching Santa Style" this year. While you're there, check out some parodies from past years.
The folks at Cool Christmas Songs on Facebook featured this 2012 Celtic stomp from the Emerald Isle, Donegal if you will, about riding shotgun on Santa's sleigh. Good for a giggle, and they're using it to raise money for the Parkinson's Association of Ireland. Couldn't find any links to purchase, though, but here it is for posterity.

If you're not familiar with Fred, he's an Internet phenom, making YouTube videos of his 6-year-old self singing and rapping in Chipmunks-style vocals about his dysfunctional home life. It went viral to the point where he's made three TV movies for Nickelodeon. Fred's a fictional character by the way, portrayed by Lucas Cruikshank. Although this 2009 joint is aimed at kids, I prefer to think of this more as a novelty act for the folks who come to this website, particularly the song "Christmas Is Creepy," where he goes all Notorious A.L.V.I.N. on the holiday. "Christmas Cash" is not bad in the same vein, and the EP is filled out with "Fred's One Squirrel Open Sleigh (Jingle Bells)" and "Fred's 12 Days of Christmas," which are the familiar carols from the Fred character's point of view. As with all novelties, shelf life could be a problem, especially if you have kids who are into this, but one song on a mix disc couldn't be too big a problem, right?

Coal, Hot Buttered Elves (Tape Hiss Recordings)

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Coal.jpgThis slipped out in December 2011 and I only got to listen to it once before I promptly forgot I had it. This is the second time I've stumbled over a musical collective from Philadelphia that has made a career of performing Christmas-oriented tunes. The Elves have been plugging away at this since 1993, first issuing indie cassettes and later CDs of their work, and they have several albums out, of which this is the most recent release. On their CDBaby page they list their influences as Bauhaus, the Flaming Lips and the Bonzo Dog Band, so I draw from that they wish to be perceived as doomy, spacey and not particularly serious. They definitely have a lo-fi approach, which has made it a bit of a bear to follow the lyrics. "Curb Alert Christmas" is about digging gifts out of the things people leave for spring and fall cleanup, "Broke For Christmas" is the companion piece to that one, "Xmas Is For Everyone" lists the folks for which the title does not hold true, and "The Ex Back in Xmas" is, I think, about hooking up with a former significant other, then going your separate ways. The title song "Coal" is a lengthy suite of several movements dedicated to the properties of, well, coal, both metaphorical and lyrical. "Yulezella" is a parody drug advertisement with progressively ludicrous symptoms to watch out for, "A Christmas Song" may or may not actually be that, "Day 359" is a Flaming Lips-influenced dirge that may be the most generic way possible to reference Christmas, and "The Happiest Noel" is a Lou Reed impression with the great lyric, "Sure as Dick Cheney's going to hell... this will be the happiest noel." This is not necessarily a collection you'll put on while you put up the tree and wrap presents, but it definitely has moments of interest. Click the cover to pick it up from Amazon.
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