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Recently in 2000s Category

Somehow I never knew this existed. Ray Davies did an album covering some of his great Kinks hits with the help of the Crouch End Festival Chorus in 2009, but he included this original, which he had intended to duet with British singing icon Vera Lynn. Instead, ex-girlfriend Chrissie Hynde got the nod after being approached by their daughter Natalie. That the two of them did not maintain contact after the birth of their daughter, and in fact did not appear in the studio together for the recording, puts an interesting edge on the story behind this downbeat holiday tale.

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This was rattling around my iTunes library and I just stumbled over it today. Glenna is an Americana artist from Texas and this folky ballad is from her 2008 album The Road Less Traveled. Glenna has a road-weary voice that contrasts nicely with the novelty-inspired sentiment of the title, and who wouldn't want a valentine on Christmas, anyway?

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I remember trying to track this down when it first came out and coming up empty. In 2009, the Toronto band recruited a bunch of minor musical celebrities to re-enact the Geldof-Ure holiday special in a more indie-rock vein. Participants included Andrew W.K., Bob Mould, David Cross, Ezra Koenig, GZA, Kevin Drew, Kyp Malone, Tegan & Sara and Yo La Tengo. It remains available as a download. There was a vinyl single, though I'm betting it's reasonably rare now. Like the original, this was a charity project, in this case benefitting three organizations who assist in finding missing and murdered indigenous women. Only place I could find it was iTunes, so no link-through for purchase.
Oh heck, one more for the road:

korgis.jpgJust recently stumbled on this, from the long-running pop-rock band's 2005 album Something About the Korgis and recently repackaged on the 2012 The Korgis Kollection. It's a sweet pop-rock ballad with the usual holiday pleasantries and plenty of chimes to evoke the season.

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Don't know much about this act, but the song, originally out in 2008, is a humorous rocker about having a holiday birthday, name-checking numerous celebrities a la Adam Sandler who were born on Christmas day. Although the first verse appears to be factually wrong: "Here's a problem Jesus never had to deal with." Or maybe not. Anyway, it's good fun.

dontwait.jpgThis is a 2009 collection of hit-radio-friendly Christmas music, heavy on pop-rock but also including some R'nB, all original tunes. It's widely available but not a lot is known about it, other than that the label, Banshee Music, is better known for doing sports marketing for music. Real rock fans may find this more little-sister-and-mom compatible, but since it appears to be all original tunes it's worthy of a look here. The title song by Blackshire is a strong modern R'nB workout while "My Favorite Holiday" by Rob Dz and D.L.O. is more of a hip-hop thing. Jason Phelps doubles up with a lightly ska'd up "I Love Christmas" and the ballad "Back Up the Chimney," Jessy Moss offers the very nice "What Christmas Means to Me," not the Stevie Wonder classic but not bad, RIck Monroe goes country on "Send Me Home For Christmas" and Altered Five go bluesy on "It's Christmas Time." Seven Williams gets two bites of this collection with the horn-led "Rocking Holiday" and the ballad "On Christmas Day," and our old pal Oh, Hush! has the hardest rocking number, a sort of Killers/Coldplay/U2 homage called "The Perfect Christmas." I'm thinking folks may be able to pick and choose some favorites from this collection, even if the whole thing isn't entirely in their wheelhouse.

Christmas, Parenthetical Girls (self-issued)

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parenthet.jpgDon't know how this site managed to not notice Portland, Ore.'s own Parenthetical Girls, who have been releasing Christmas EPs for more than a decade, if you include their previous incarnation as Swastika Girls. Thoughtful bunch of experimental poppers that they are, they gathered up the first seven years' worth of holiday performances onto a 2010 album available at Bandcamp, 10 songs by their current name plus the full five-song Christmas output of Swastika Girls. The group produces a kind of lo-fi chamber pop that occasionally ranges into the noisier realms, which may be an acquired taste for some. Still, the songwriting is good, and the band exhibits a familiarity with the historic holiday music forms that they weave into their more modern sound. "A Christmas Memory" alludes to the Nativity, "Here's To Nostalgia" is a beautiful guitar piece whose lyrics are a bit impenetrable, "Wait Another Year" offers a lilting melody to carry their "weary voices," "If It's Time For Christmas" kicks off with chimes but adds grungy guitar and synth as it builds, and they go synth-pop, though at a very slow tempo, with the witty "Do You Fear What I Fear?" "Carol of the Season" is a vocal round that plays off, without copying, the more familiar "Carol of the Bells," and they break out the chimes again for "Festive Friends (Forever)." "Last Christmas Part II" is more of a holiday dirge for those with not so many Christmases in their future, "Flowers For Albion" picks up the tempo a bit with literary-sounding lyrics, and they do a nice obscure cover, Sparks' "Thank God It's Not Christmas," sounding reasonably close to the original. The Swastika Girls, being the group's earliest incarnation, is much lower-fi and borderline amateur in execution, but the songs are still kind of interesting. "When It's Time For Christmas" is rendered as a kind of sing-along, "Tinseltown" starts as a round and then breaks out the grungy guitars, "Over and Over Again, Forever" is a deliberately repetitive tribute to the holiday, "Somewhere In My Memory" is a bells-and-synth instrumental, and things wrap up with a doomy cover of "Last Christmas."

toini.jpgThis goes all the way back to 2002, sorry I missed it for all these years. This is a Norwegian band specializing in the sounds of American pop and rock music of the 1950s and 60s with the kind of reverence only a European band can exhibit. The 14 songs are mostly covers, kicking off with a lovely 50s take on the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" and taking in period-faithful versions of "Santa Claus Is Back In Town," "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me," "Merry Merry Christmas Baby,", "Run Rudolph Run," "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," "Santa Baby," and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." "Pretty Paper" gets a slow New Orleans march arrangement. Other songs, probably originals though I couldn't find any credits, include another trip to New Orleans via Jamaica with "Christmas Day," the merengue-flavored "Christmas In July," the Tennessee Two tribute "Dreams Come True," the rockabilly "Christmas Tale" and the closing shuffle "The Moon's Blue Too." Still available from Amazon.
hothotheat.jpgSomehow missed this 2005 single from these guys, a nice upbeat rocking ode to a West Coast holiday. One that's a good bit farther south (California) than their British Columbia home town, but what the heck, we're all about the upbeat rock and the sunshine here, right?
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Just recently had my attention directed to this on Bandcamp. These albums were curated by Ben Gortmaker and released between 2006 and 2008 on CDs. I had downloaded a compilation that included cuts from all three, but when I went back to Bandcamp that collection appears to have been remaindered, though all three of the original albums remain available. So this rundown of songs cuts across all three albums, which remain up on Bandcamp. Ben himself performs "All Is Emmanuel" and a folky Americana version of "Angels We Have Heard On High" that segues into something a bit dronier about halfway through. Natalie Prass sings the jazzy shuffle "No Better Time," Treva Blomquist takes the acoustic pop approach to "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus," while David Spencer adds some pop sheen to the same approach on "O Come All Ye Faithful." Sanders Bohlke sounds positively mournful on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," as does Mikky Ekko on a harmonium-led "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming." Stephen Gordon misses a lost lover on "Christmas Cards," and sadness overwhelms Aron Wright on "Christmas Ain't Christmas This Year." "O Star O'er Bethlehem" by Erika Chambers leads with a gypsy violin, Joe Gilder does an acoustic "O Come O Come Emanuel," and Chelsey Scott offers "In the Bleak Midwinter and Charlie Hardin performs a slow acoustic "O Holy Night." There's a heavy emphasis on traditional songs and forms here, though there are some more pop and rock moments as well.

vanishers.jpg"Ontario's next big thing," according to their Facebook page's quote from a radio host, is a country-fried rock 'n roll band with a couple of albums to their credit. This 2009 song is a more bluesy strut with guest vocalist Ginger being the subject of the song as well as the duet partner. I believe Cool Christmas Songs on Facebook had the video up, which is how I discovered it.

thejudes.jpgThis is an excellent midtempo pop ballad with an unironic holiday greeting for listeners everywhere from this Winnepeg band. It's from 2009 and you can grab it from Amazon.

Hark! The Fab Four (self-issued)

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harkfabs.jpgThe Fab Four, a fairly well-known Beatles tribute band, created two full albums of Christmas goodness for 2002 under the titles A Fab Four Christmas and Have Yourself a FAB-ulous Little Christmas for Laserlight, a budget label, but apparently they didn't stay in print long, if the complaints of some fans are anything to go by. A few years ago, the band took matters into their own hands and reissued the two discs in a single wrapper, a clever one too, one that parodies the U.S. version of the Help! album. The Fabs cut a wide swath across the history of the Beatles -- the two CDs, in their original packaging, are even color-coded the same as the famous Beatles 62-66 and 67-70 collections (see below) to tip off committed listeners -- and their vocal impressions, particularly of Paul and John, are pretty authentic. (One might also note the red album has a strong resemblance to Beatles 1.) Some of the more inventive arrangements include "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" via "When I'm 64" and "Honey Pie," "Silent Night" as "Norwegian Wood," "The Christmas Song" as "Here, There and Everywhere," "Good King Wenceslaus" sung to "Tell Me What You See" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" as "Within You Without You." An extra treat on Fabulous is "Dear Santa," a cut from Ringo Starr's Christmas album done to the arrangement of "Oh! Darling." Now that the band has this at its website, there should be no more complaints -- go grab it. Happy Krimble, indeed. UPDATE: Or you could click on the Hark! cover and grab it from Amazon. FURTHER UPDATE: Hark! now has two bonus cuts, "Sleigh Ride," in the style of "Lady Madonna," and "The First Noel" arranged as "Let It Be."

 
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harvdanger.jpgThis Northwest band donated this song to a Christmas In the Northwest charity compilation in 2005, and it's definitely a cult anthem, the cult being everybody who works in retail, military, law enforcement, as a caregiver or first responder, a daily newspaper, and quite a few other vocations that don't get holidays off. The whole Xmas NW compilation is still downloadable via Amazon, and this song can be picked individually. UPDATE: Forgot I had a link to a video of the song; here it is.

kingfmly.jpgI kind of scratched my head at someone who wrote to me asking about King Family Christmas music, since the old-line family chorale approach doesn't loom large at Mistletunes. Then I received this 2006 collection. So if my correspondent was referring to this collection, apologies. This compilation from Hoboken, N.J.-area bands, led by members of Better Off Dead, is intended to raise money for displaced and impoverished musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans, and these folks are a bluesy bunch of rockers. The recording quality is good, the performances are spontaneous (and a bit of a surprise to the live audiences on a hot August night). Though you can tell these are hometown players rather than international stars, this is quite listenable all at once. Highlights include Big Ed Sullivan's extended take on "Merry Christmas Baby," Christine Santelli's original "Christmastime," Dave Gross and Sean Daly's "Django Bells," which of course is "Jingle Bells" as Django Reinhart might have done it, Better Off Dead's take on "All I Got For Christmas Was Drunk" and their original "Alcoholiday" (sense a trend with this band?), Galea and Popa Chubby's "Blue Christmas" shuffle, Mike Frensley's original "Winter Dreams," and the Cramps-like "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by The Slippery Chickens. A solo slide guitar version of "Little Drummer Boy" by Joe Taino is pretty unexpected, too. The rest is good boozy fun. Remains available from CDBaby.

"New Year," The Go Find (Morr Music)

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Discovered this Belgian band via the Facebook page Cool Christmas Songs. This is from their 2007 album Stars on the Wall, which you can download from Amazon. They appear to be a power-pop ensemble, and while this sounds a little dour, the lyrics are a bit on the optimistic side. Don't know what eventually happened to the girl who keeled over after biting into the enchanted pizza, though....

tomtom.gifHere's a sprightly pair of gifts from the ex-Talking Heads couple, available only from their site as MP3s back in 2002, with no indication they'll ever be back. UPDATE: The two songs, along with two additional remixes of "Club," are on an import-only EP called, strangely enough, Mistletunes! Anway, "Club" is a dance-floor stomper with vocorder alternating with Tina Weymouth's singing. "Il Est Né" is more languid and melodious, with synth and cello counterpoint. A traditional tune, the title means "He Is Born" or "See Him Born," depending on whose automatic Internet translation you believe.
Hipjoint.jpgThis 2006 single comes from Hipjoint Productions, the Canadian production/promotion house that works with such folks as Katie Melua, Shiloh, Kelly Rowland, Daniel Powter and others. There's no artist credits for this thing, other than a press release that states the performance is "led by our own Mike James and the Hipjoint staff." A Nettwerk page for Troy Samson gives the song as one of his compositions, and that's pretty much all I can find out. Nevertheless, it's a strong acoustic/electric pop-rocker, with guitar figures reminiscent of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Lyrically, it's all about those signposts that tell you it's the holiday season. UPDATE: In an odd twist, this record has been reissued for 2011 with the artist changed to The Young Goulets and the record label from Nettwerk to Hipjoint. To my ears it's the same record, remixed, after a/b'ing the sample on Amazon against my original copy. Click the cover art to download the current version from Amazon.

Winter Plunderband, Beatallica (Oglio)

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

12 Greatest Carols, The Butties (Parody)

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butties.jpgWe've briefly mentioned this Beatles tribute band in the past, as their "Joy To the World" based on "Please Please Me" has turned up in movies and on TV. (And we also noted the Fab Four had done nearly the same exact thing.) What amazes me is that it's taken me this long to get their full album from 2005 to the site. Apparently, the group had needed several years to put together an LP's worth of tunes together, as the members live in far-flung locales. As per the liner notes, they recorded batches of this in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2005. Aside from the one coincidence noted above, The Butties have nothing to worry about concerning their originality, even given the existence of previous works in this vein like the Fab Four and the Rubber Band's now-hard-to-find Xmas! The Beatmas! "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" meets "Twist and Shout," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is rendered as "Can't Buy Me Love," they do "O Little Town of Bethlehem" once as "In My Life" and again as a medley with three other carols all set as the various movements of "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." Another highlight is the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise and "A Day in the Life" done as a medley of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Up on the Housetop." Once more, I have to restrain myself from spoiling all the surprises. You can get this as hardcopy from CDBaby or from iTunes by clicking on the album cover. By the way, you might not be surprised to find that two of the Butties are with the Blanks, the band that appeared on "Scrubs" singing commercial jingles a capella.
old97s.jpgThis popular alt-country-rock band put together a nice holiday ballad for 2007, which I just stumbled over on the way to tracking this year's holiday singles. It's heavy on the jingle bells and light on the country, good news for Mistletunes listeners.
ruffshop.jpgFrom 2009, this St. Louis group marshaled eight originals and three not-often-chosen covers for this holiday collection. Of the covers, Paul Kelly's "How To Make Gravy" has a touch of country, not surprising since it's about a guy in prison; "One Special Gift," from Low's iconic 90s collection, is a complete slow-motion homage to that band; and "Once Upon a Christmas" has an ethereal intro before moving into a rock style not quite in the mold of its author, Dolly Parton. On to the originals: the title song is a nice midtempo rocker that sets the scene, "Big Man Under the Tree" pokes gentle fun at old Kris Kringle as he gets into the liquor cabinet and fiddles with Mom's panty hose, "This Silent Night" compares holiday dreams to reality and finds reality lacking, "Christmas One More Time" is a "Bobby McGee"-styled duet about screwing up the gumption to celebrate one more holiday, "Santa's Last Stop" is a kind of "last call" ballad for the holiday, and "Happiest New Year" closes things out with a string band symphony and one arm around a lover. It's a fairly mellow collection, but it has its moments.

These folks have all the buzz of the season this year because of their Hyundai ads in which they perform either "Jingle Bells" or "Up On the Housetop." Needless to say, these songs aren't available anywhere unless you're happy listening to the 30 or so seconds available via the car ads, and since Hyundai doesn't have a blog affiliate program, I can't be bothered. UPDATE: Stubby's Christmas proves us wrong again, although you need to take part in an elaborate Christmas charity donation in order to get a 5-song Christmas EP featuring all the songs mentioned here plus a version of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." For now, what is generally available, and free from the band's website, is a download of the ancient carol mentioned in the title as done by this quirky pop chamber orchestra. They also have a video of this, as well as their original Christmas song, "Always In the Season," which also isn't available other than via the video. Enjoy.

 

mclars.jpgMC Lars previously addressed the Christmas season with "Gary the Green-Nosed Reindeer," an uproarious hip-hop-influenced takeoff on Rudolph, and for 2008 he (and Jaret Reddick) came out with this, a similar kind of humorous take on the holiday, only this time the green isn't just for contrast, it's all about Santa battling climate change while delivering on everybody's holiday wishes. Great number, part of an EP that includes three non-holiday tunes as well.

Bah Humbug, Destructors 666 (Rowdy Farrago)

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destructrs.jpgStumbled over this lately, a 2008 EP of punk rock Christmas verities, mostly original except for "Good King Wenceslas," short and to the point. This British band has its roots in the original 70s punk revolution, continued into the 1980s and reformed in 2006, grinding out a prolific number of albums and EPs over both stretches of their career. The songs here are mostly snarky and irreverent, in keeping with the style, and there's a nearly obligatory "F*&k Christmas," but everything is well played, and if you need a song with this collection's title or one called "Punk Rock Christmas Song" for your mix discs, here's where you'll turn. For those of you interested in occasion-based music for other holidays, their latest album is Helloween.

"The Blizzard," Camera Obscura (4AD)

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camobscur.jpgA contemplative folky ballad for 2009 from this Scottish band about braving the title weather event to get to a Christmas celebration, with a downbeat ending. They were giving it away last year, but the link I discovered only lets you stream it now, so it's off to the download stores we go. Nice work. I came across a reference to a "holiday version" of the song "My Maudlin Career," so if anybody has any info on that, drop the site a line or leave a comment.
famforc5.jpgThis was out in 2009 and the band, an Atlanta group that identifies as "Christian crunk rock," toured behind it that year and is set to emphasize this disc on a string of dates this December as well. This is a bunch of white guys playing hip-hop who do a decent job of it, while leaving the Parental Advisory sticker behind as well. There's not much in the way of rapping, other than on "The Night Before Christmas," which is a good vehicle for that sort of thing. Otherwise, this is all singing, lots of vocal distortion and auto-tune carrying the mostly familiar carols over some contemporary beats. They even emulate the R'nB convention of doing "My Favorite Things" as a Christmas song. Two originals are part of the proceedings, the ballad "It's Christmas Day" and "The Baby," which has just a slight taste of "Gangsta's Paradise" about it musically, but I don't think there's any guessing about which baby they're singing about. They wrap up by contemporizing Sir Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime." Some rock fans find hip-hop material a bit monochromatic, but I have no problem recommending this, it's an excellent piece of work.
bretdom.jpgBrett is a YouTube sensation, having come to attention for his goofy videos featuring him playing such things as "Beat It," Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and his famous Justin Timberlake medley on stylophone and keytar. The Michael Jackson cover even got him featured on "Britain's Got Talent." He did this extended single for 2008, featuring two original songs and a remix of the title song, which is a well-produced upbeat pop-rock tune featuring his nerdlinger vocals. The flip side is "Hello Mistletoe," a piano ballad that features an even nerdier "rap" in the middle. Catch him doing the title song here:

futfor2.jpgfutfor1.jpgFollowing a tip for Vol. 2 led me to Vol. 1, and so we'll just wrap up both in this single post. There isn't much to choose between the two EPs, it's the same band two years apart following the same Christian alt-pop-rock framework. All the songs on both collections are religious Christmas songs except "Little Drummer Boy" from Vol. 1 and the original from Vol. 2, "The Earth Stood Still," which both focus on the Nativity story as well. Accordingly, the tone across both collections is serious and reverent, less celebratory than anticipatory, and no lighter moments. But this is strong rock-flavored work from a musical standpoint. Vol 1 is from 2008 and Vol. 2 is new for 2010.
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