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qualityrevue.jpgWhen Nick Lowe decided to tour behind his first Christmas album Quality Street last year, he pulled together label mates Los Straitjackets and Faces/Small Faces legend Ian McLagen to make more of a revue out of it. Unfortunately, McLagen died the day before rehearsals for the tour, so the show was Nick and Los Straitjackets. I had the privilege of attending the second show of the tour and it was a lovely time. Now, for 2015, we have an album compiled from those 2014 shows, and the two acts have combined for another pass at America across the South and West this December. This recording (offered on vinyl for Record Store Day but also in the usual formats) is a fine representation of the tour, and Los Straitjackets also put a little more voltage behind Nick, who has been much more mellow in recent years. Only eight of the 13 tunes are Christmas tunes, seven of which are selections from Quality Street and the eighth is Los Straitjackets by themselves on "Linus and Lucy," which we showed you a couple of weeks ago. The performances are aces, and on "North Pole Express," "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" and "Children Go Where I Send Thee," I'd say Nick's guests goose these songs up nicely, improving on the studio versions. "A Dollar Short of Happy" and "I Was Born in Bethlehem" are just Nick and a guitar. The remaining songs are from Nick's catalog and benefit similarly from the Straitjackets' backing. A little more from the Straitjackets' Christmas repertoire and less of Nick's non-holiday tunes might have made for a more holiday-appropriate set list, but that's about the only improvement they could have made to this album.

Come On December, Patty Smyth (Parallel 22)

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You know Patty from her 80s new-wave band Scandal and their hits "The Warrior" and "Goodbye to You," or from her duet with Don Henley, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough." We've entertained rumors about her Christmas plans here at Mistletunes for a couple of seasons now, and, following a successful Kickstarter, she's come through for 2015. It's a short album, just eight songs, of which Patty wrote three, the killer opening rocker "Come On December," the New Year's ode "Walk With Me," and a pretty ballad she released with a Veterans Day-themed video, "Broken." That latter connection ties into the cause she's contributing to with this collection, the Headstrong Project, which provides mental health care to post-911, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Of the remaining tunes, she makes a ballad out of "Winter Wonderland," performs an acoustic guitar-led version of "Do You Hear What I Hear," brings in a rhythm section and electric guitars for "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," adds a folky touch to "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)" and wraps with "Auld Lang Syne." The original songs are the best part of this collection, and taken all together it's a solid effort. Patty previously put up a single of "Silent Night," which is not on this album but is still available at her website.

Christmas in Reno, Cassie Ramone (Burger)

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Cassie was in the Vivian Girls, now broken up, and she had a solo album out last year. For 2015 she dusted off her Christmas songbook and recorded this collection of familiar tunes. As her Wikipedia page refers to her as "lo-fi indie," I don't think I have to embroider the description any further. It may help to describe the performances here as deconstructions, as listeners may not immediately recognize what are essentially popular and familiar holiday songs. In many places, she sings the melodies but substitutes different chords that make the songs sound more angst-y and downbeat, and there's an element of drone underpinning just about all of the songs, whether from synths, repetitive guitars, backing vocals or just the heavy reverb on her voice. The approach is interesting, though it won't be for everyone, and it makes all these different songs sound the same, though Vivian Girls fans will probably recognize the general sound. Among the tunes here are "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," " Run Rudolph Run," "Wonderful Christmastime," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Little Saint Nick," "Sleigh Ride," "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "Christmastime Is Here," "Blue Christmas" and "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)." (Oh, and between Cassie and Train, Nevada-based holidays are getting a strong shout-out this year.)

Rockin' Rudolph, Brian Setzer (Surfdog)

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Brian's already had two Christmas albums, a best-of-Christmas collection, and a live album before 2015, when he trotted out a third album of new Christmas performances. Hate to say that anybody's overstaying their welcome when it comes to rocked-out Christmas music ... Anyway, for those of you who haven't come across the former Stray Cat's efforts before, this is big band swing moved forward a couple of decades until it meets 50s rockabilly. Give the man credit for coming up with a Christmas-themed takeoff on "The Flintstones" theme, "Yabba-Dabba Yuletide," which is definitely the single off this collection. The semi-title song, "Rockin' Rudolph," isn't bad either, as it manages to conflate bits of "Brand New Cadillac" and "Peter Gunn" into the backing to the popular Christmas song. Jazzy elements dominate on "Little Jack Frost," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Swingin' Joy," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Rockabilly reasserts itself on "Here Comes Santa Claus," and "Yabba-Dabba Yuletide" returns in a longer version to close the album. Those hep to the Setzer Orchestra's past work might give this a pass, as might those who aren't that fond of jazz, but "Yabba-Dabba Yuletide" is worthy of note.

We Sing Joy, Cloverton (self-issued)

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The Kansas-based Christian band put out an EP of Christmas songs for 2014, five familiar carols plus an opening instrumental, "Arrival." They elaborate on the basic songs, adding a bit of their own work on such tunes as "We Sing Joy (Joy to the World)," "Do You Hear," and "What Child Is This." They do a vocorder-treated harmony arrangement of "Silent Night," and wrap things up with a piano-led version of "I Heard the Bells." This is mostly downtempo material for contemplation of the holiday.

Christmas in Tahoe, Train (Sunken Forest)

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This band courted controversy from the "sell-out" crowd when their original Christmas tune "Shake Up Christmas" became the theme of a Coke ad campaign a few years ago. They're back in 2015 with a full album, CDs at Walmart and Amazon only and downloads via Amazon. This is pretty much what you would expect from a popular modern rock band, mostly covers except for three originals, the aforementioned "Shake Up Christmas," the midtempo "Wait For Mary, Christmas" and "Christmas Island," a nice rocker about ditching the snow for the sunshine that incorporates the album title in the lyrics. The closest thing to a surprise on the album is their cover of Tracy Thorne's "Tinsel and Lights," otherwise the familiar songs are mostly what you would expect a rock band to choose for their Christmas album: "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," the Band's "Christmas Must Be Tonight," Joni Mitchell's "River," Elvis Presley's "Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me," Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody," the Pretenders' "2000 Miles," Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means to Me," and Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas." Fairly conventional versions of "O Holy Night" and "Mele Kalikimaka" round out the playlist. Train fans are ecstatic about this, based on the Amazon reviews, and while I'm not exactly overwhelmed, casual music fans will find this listenable. UPDATE: Stubby e-mails to say he thinks I let Train off too lightly on the sell-out front for "Shake Up Christmas." In his words, "That makes it sound like they wrote the song and Coke said 'Hey, we like that. Can we use it?' It was ALL Coke from the get-go. They had the idea, they essentially had the music and chorus they wanted Train to use, and they asked Train to make a song for their holiday campaign using the musical and lyrical guidelines they provided. Coke should really be listed in the writing credits for that song." He makes a good point.
Not often do you see a group's debut album be a Christmas album, but these folks from British Columbia come to you from beneath 2015's Christmas tree. They call what they're doing "ambient, dubby and jazzy," but it's also pretty poppy for all that, with all numbers clocking in below five minutes apiece and melodies in front at nearly all times. Although it's mainly instrumental, the human voice does take the lead occasionally, even if it's there as punctuation rather than to provide the lyrics. As the songs are all familiar carols, except for "Sugar Plums," this album is a fairly painless introduction to ambient and dub forms. Still, the downside is that this is all kinda samey-samey if you're actively listening to it all the way through; it functions best as background music, though I guess with modern listeners this is a feature rather than a bug. Still, a cut or two of this will probably be a good change of pace in your holiday playlists.

"I Am Santa," The Darkness (Canary Dwarf)

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From their 2015 album Last of Our Kind (deluxe edition only), this British band steps out with their second Christmas song, first since "Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)" in 2003. Lyrically it's a bit vague, starting out as a plea to a lost lover and ending up with the singer declaring that he is, in fact, Santa Claus. And if you're not part of the band's fan base, these guys are retro-70s rockers and this uptempo number expresses the band's influences from Queen to Deep Purple to Mott the Hoople. Not quite the fashion in a world of hip-hop and electro-pop? No matter, this is a great single.
carlyrae.jpgThe "Call Me Maybe" girl goes for a 2015 cover of the Wham! classic that is almost exactly what you would expect, given the song and the singer. I'd probably like this better if I hadn't been made completely sick of her major hit, but I guess that's my problem.

This husband and wife duo from the Philadelphia area have a couple albums of pop-folk-rock under their belts so far, and 2015 is actually their second move into the Christmas realm. It's mostly familiar tunes with modern arrangements, and though the duo typically performs as a trio, they bring in a full rhythm section for this album. My recommendations, mainly for their uptempo arrangements, are the gospel favorite "Christ Was Born On Christmas Morn," Harry Connick Jr.'s "I Pray On Christmas" and "Joy to the World" for their New Orleans arrangements, and James Brown's ballad "Sweet Little Baby Boy" for its vintage r'nb sound. Elsewhere we have folky takes on "A Cradle in Bethlehem," a song associated with Nat King Cole, and classic carols "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" get the same treatment. There's a midnight mass-friendly "O Come All Ye Faithful," a Celtic-influenced "I Saw Three Ships," the front-porch string-band sound of "Sing We Noel," and a 70s rock take on Jackson Browne's "The Rebel Jesus." Eclectic and enjoyable. Their previous album, from 2011, is Christmas In Country Village.
Sleeping At Last is the d/b/a name for the musical endeavors of one Ryan O'Neil, and has been since 1999, according to Wikipedia. Some of these songs have turned up on other collections, like this year's Paste Magazine holiday sampler and The Sounds Of Christmas Volume 2. I'm not familiar with this act's past work, but this is a fairly sedate folk-pop grouping of 11 familiar carols and one original song, "Snow," a rather nice piano-led ballad of holiday hope. The rest of the album is well done but not particularly notable, although we give props for what is the first cover I've heard of "Christmas Is All Around," the retinseled Troggs song that was featured in the movie "Love, Actually." It's a folky rendition rather than the classic rock approach of the original. But it's free from NoiseTrade, so there's no penalty for checking it out for yourself. UPDATE: A new song has been added each year since this originally came out; 2013's song was "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," 2014's song was "O Come O Come Emanuel," and 2015's song is "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." 
relevant.jpgRelevant is an online magazine and podcast emphasizing religion and spirituality, and its other sections on lifestyles, culture and the arts are informed by that mission. As you might guess, they like Christmas, and so we have a free download equal to a double-CD set of music that fits their mission. (Make sure you get parts 1 and 2.) Some of the folks featured on here, like Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, the Oh Hellos, Dustin Kensrue, Sleeping at Last, Found Wandering, Sugar & the High Lows and several others, have been featured on Mistletunes before or at least on other compilations we've covered. This is a mostly adult alternative collection of mainly mellow items curated with the spirituality hook of the magazine in mind. Highlights include a more poppy version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Kids than you normally hear, Ben & Nolle's brooding electro-pop take on "Angels We Have Heard On High," Evan Wickham's modern Christian rock original "End of Exile," and Sugar & the High Lows' polyrhythmic take on "Jingle Bells." As previously mentioned, it's free, though in exchange for your e-mail address, which so far has only gotten me an occasional e-mail site update. If there really were four previous collections, you can't tell from the website archives, though I imagine the rights to the songs on past collections were only granted on a temporary basis. UPDATE: "Cindie" e-mails us the link to Volume 4.

Here Comes the Joy, The Drabs (self-issued)

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This San Diego band had an album out in 2012, and now for 2015 they plopped this 4-song EP on Bandcamp. (Also on Amazon, click the art.) "Santa's Got Toys" is a strong opening rock statement with lyrics about how all the toys get broken, but Santa just keeps bringing them. "This Year" is a midtempo vow that things are going to be different, "Mary Christmas" is an ode to a girl of that name, and they wind up with an instrumental "Pub Crawl," as do a lot of us when the family celebrations end. Rocking holiday music with a little roughage in the lyrics. Nice work, guys.
While putting together the Kool Kat 2 album review, I discovered Wyatt, who's on that album, had another Christmas cut up on Bandcamp. From 2013, this nice uptempo power popper draws mainly from the Beach Boys in sound and arrangement, not bad considering Wyatt did almost everything but drums on this song. Check him out. Also up on Amazon.

Up All Night, The Yule Logs (self-issued)

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YuleLog4.jpgWhen The Yule Logs popped out a live album back in 2012, the Mistletunes brain trust thought we might not be hearing much new music going forward, since three albums is plenty of material to base a seasonal act upon. But they're back for 2015 with this entertaining full-length collection. In the past, a lot of their material was pastiches of popular songs overlaid with Christmas lyrics; this time around it's mostly original songs, although the sentiments will be familiar, except when they snark around with them. "A Jingle Ate My Baby" is them messing around with the lyrics to "Jingle Bells," and "Story of Hanukkah" is a short reading of the legend over a Beach Boys/Jan & Dean bed. And they do a fairly straight reading of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" over a semi-calypso beat. The title song is a poppy ode to Christmas parties, "Ain't Got Nothing {On Christmas Day)" enlists a horn section in service of a soulful number about being alone on the holiday, and "Thought That Counts" recounts the awkwardness of getting unwanted gifts. "Leaping Lord" has fun playing with one of the lyrics to "First Day of Christmas," as does "Four Calling Birds." They break out the pedal steel for "(I Saw Mommy Kiss Santa) Last Night," a different take on the better known song in that Santa wasn't Daddy, and "Oh Dreidel" is an almost "Blue Suede Shoes" take on the Hanukkah custom. Wrapping things up is "Michael and His Christmas Tree," the plot of which escapes me except that they're apparently singing about Michael Stipe. Nevertheless, it's a fun album closer. All their albums are up at Bandcamp now, but you can also preorder the new one at Amazon.

Rocksea6.jpgThis organized charity in the Georgia/Florida area continues its annual drive to raise money for charity with musical outreach, and Volume 6 arrives for the 2015 holiday season. The musical style is, as always, mostly rootsy rock, which suits this site's mission statement. Sara Rachele kicks things off with the sprightly original "When the Fire Goes Out Tonight," the group von Grey offers the contemplative ballad "Cozy Tranquility," Mark Bliesener performs a nicely country-rock "It's Finally X-Mas Day," Eric Durrance contemplates "A Southern Christmas," and Martha's Trouble, about whom see more on this very site, donates their previously released "This Christmas." That wraps the original tunes on this collection; covers include the Electric Sons' semi-march treatment of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Charlie Oxford's traditional treatment of "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)," the Galavanters' Booker T-styled instrumental of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," Michael Logan's solo acoustic "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and Amy Gerhartz's similar piano treatment of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Another fine collection from Rock By the Sea to benefit good causes.

Somehow I have managed to miss the first eight volumes of this series, and Vol. 9 was actually out in 2014, but so it goes. It's the last of the series, according to the Australian producers' final statement on their Bandcamp page, and as it's free you should hie yourself over there, assuming you haven't beaten me to it as so many others probably have. The RAB folks are essentially curators, as they put out the call to indie rock bands to contribute finished tracks, and the final running order is what it is. In this case, it's a fine rock Christmas souvenir. Thee Knight of Thrashe cue the Bo Diddley rhythm on "Santa Claus (Here He Comes)," Burning Yule breaks down the fourth wall with the power-poppy "Santa Are You My Dad," the Click Beetles get compiled once again with their "So Glad It's Christmas," and Leadfinger get a sort of Jefferson Airplane groove going on the deceptively titled "Another Long Summer." The JAC with the Christmas Crew get a "Sweet Toothache" from Christmas treats, Class Action goes all primitive pop on "It Must Be Nearly Christmas," Cal Walker & Iain Wilson channel Bill & Ted on "Gonna Have a Wyld Time," and Ernie O With Richie Poate get a kind of late-60s thing going as they tell a Christmas story on "Gunna Tell You a Lie." Netherwood Lane dip into the garage-psychedelic well for "Christmas Without You," the Kiss-Offs offer a Blondie homage on "Santa Darlin'," Lotti Loop does what their band name suggests on the electronic "Crank Call Christmas," Hotlunch hearkens back to Mott the Hoople with "8 Letters For Going Home" and the Kleber Claux Memorial Singers wrap things up with the drone-backed chant "Treve de Noel," a song about the World War I Christmas truce. Someday I gotta go back and listen to the earlier volumes of this series.
This is the second collection from these Central Pennsylvania-based producers, and like the first one it benefits the Susan Giblin Foundation for Animal Wellness and Welfare. Also like the first one, power pop rules the roost, or the kennel in this case. This 2014 collection actually features bands from all over -- the Genuine Fakes, makers of the ballad "You Always Come Back Home," are from Sweden, in fact. The Honeymoon Stallions give us the uptempo "Snowbirds," for those who like tropical Christmases. The Bottle Kids (Featuring Captain Storm) yearn for a "Christmas in Paris," and feel free to use that as a shout-out in regard to the recent tragedy there. The Pengwins announce in Phil Spector-shaped tones that "Christmas Is Coming Again" to kick off the disc, and speaking of Spector, the Split Squad play off the progression under "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on their own song "Another Lonely Christmas." The patron saints of power pop get a nod on the jangly "Beatles Vinyl" by The Tor Guides, and Shake Some Action! not surprisingly evoke the Flamin' Groovies on "Christmas in the Sun." Dan Kibler provides us the folk-poppy ballad "Winter Sun," S-Connection goes all New Vaudeville Band on "Poor Boy," and Sonata Form offer an ode to "Kurtis and Bart," which sounds like the band's pets, and that would be in keeping with the premise behind the album. Acoustic guitars are to the fore on Stephen Lawrenson's "Glad It's Christmas," electric piano anchors Wyatt Funderburk's sweet ballad "Cold," and minor legend Martin Newell wraps things up with an ode to the "Ghosts of Christmas." An eclectic collection, sorry I missed it last year.

This Long Island artist had a long history performing around his stomping grounds and occasionally opening for national artists before putting out a solo album in 2013. For 2015, he's got a full album of Christmas goodies. Self-identifying as "Americana," that's a tip to you that there is rootsy rock with blues and country influences on offer. And extra points to Johnny for leaving the sheet music for the holiday canon in the piano bench in favor of original tunes. "Christmas Cards" is a Bo Diddley-rhythm ode to the slowly dying custom of mailing cards, "It's Christmastime Again" is a fine boogie shuffle to open the album, and "I Wanna Be Your Santa Claus" rocks out with a little role-playing before the jolly elf himself crashes the party. "Hey Santa Claus" borrows a bit from some of the holiday's blues classics but puts a slinky beat under the proceedings, and "Santa's Housetop Blues" gives the upright bass the lead on a jazzy tune. "Christmas Eve @ Santa's Workshop" is an instrumental that evokes the scene described in the title, and "Christmas Night" is mostly instrumental with a brief vocal chorus in the middle. "North Pole Hop" is an uptempo song selling us a new holiday dance craze, something we never get tired of here, and Johnny tops things off with two year-enders, "Have a Happy New Year," which dwells more on Christmas traditions than the inevitable singing of "Auld Lang Syne," and "New Year's Party," which trades on mid-70s hard rock rhythms to get the celebrants on the dance floor. Although the themes of the various songs are a bit on the same-y side, well, this is a Christmas album after all. Roots music fans will enjoy this most, but it's enjoyable no matter what your favorite genre is.

The story of the angel in the title, as rendered in the traditional carol, gets a solid reading over a hip-hop backing in this 2015 single. The artist, PC Munoz, is an experienced and eclectic musician with collaborations with everybody from Jackson Browne to members of the Kronos Quartet to his credit, and vocalist Worm has worked with Bobby McFerrin among others. Very polished and very original. Grab it from Bandcamp.

The indie artist management company keeps the holiday string going for another year in 2015 with another collection drawn from its artist roster. Alejandra O'Leary kicks things off with an imaginative arrangement of Chuck Berry's "Merry Christmas Baby" that opens as a folky drone before the band kicks in behind her melodic vocal. It's at once a blues and a non-blues arrangement, if that makes any sense. "Winter Wanderland" by Art Peace is a modern hit-radio styled ballad about traveling on the holiday, "Not a Holiday Song" by Calisse plays with 1930s pop before turning into something that Nillson might have done, and Joseph Demaree's "Celebrating Every Day" is a lo-fi dirge that belies the sunny title. Magnuson knocks out a grungy cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter," Revolt Revolt darkens "White Christmas" with dark, low-note vocals, Stubborn Son's "Snowed In" manages to be poppy and rockish at the same time with its prominent fuzz bass countermelody, The Winter Sounds takes us back to the 80s with "MasX," and once again XO gives us our fix of Piney Gir, this year giving us the singalong classic "Love Is a Christmas Rose." As usual, download it for free.

"Linus & Lucy," Los Straitjackets (Yep Roc)

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So far this only exists live, taken from the Nick Lowe Quality Holiday Revue in 2014. They're out again this year, check Nick's website for more info. UPDATE: This heralds a Quality Holiday Review live album, first on vinyl for next week's Record Store Day, later on other media. Thanks, Stubby.

This Los Angeles duo comes to us via a British label, performing mellow psychedelic garage pop, at least if these two sides from 2014 give us anything to go on. (The Urban Dictionary definition of the band's name contributes to that impression.) "Round Christmas Time" asks in a dreamy tone, "Why do you always love me more round Christmas time?" And on "The Psychedelic Lights of Christmas," acoustic guitars and jingle bells offer a spacey ode to our electric decorations (though probably not to those aggressive suburban displays set to Trans-Siberian Orchestra). These tunes make for an enjoyable change of pace.

Pure Holiday, Ice Choir (Cascine)

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Old-school synthpop rears its head here with the two sides of this Brooklyn band's holiday single for 2014. "It's Different Now" is reminiscent of a ballad by Erasure, a sort of coming-of-age Christmas song. "Cut Down the Tree" is also a ballad about harvesting the holiday decoration, although it's hard to tell because the vocals are mixed kind of low. Still, this will fill that Depeche Mode-sized hole in your holiday playlists.
eatme.jpgThis British band calls themselves purveyors of "shambolic rock music," and this kind of punk-ish uptempo number will make your Boxing Day celebrations more enjoyable. This 2014 tune is at Bandcamp, leave them a tip even though there's no minimum.
From Portland, Maine, this band appears to have an affiinty for 70s-era hard rock, and they sound really good doing it. "Can't Spend Another Christmas (Without You)" is a solid uptempo original with that sound, and the EP rounds out with Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means To Me" and Elton John's "Ho Ho Ho (Who'd Be a Turkey at Christmas)." Although the EP was released in 2014, "Can't Spend Another Christmas" was on CDBaby as early as 2011 by itself. Grab it from Bandcamp.

"At Christmas Time," WJLP (self-issued)

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WJLPxmas.jpgHere's a Netherlands band that named itself after William J. LePetomaine, if the Soundcloud URL is to be believed, anyway. This 2014 holiday rocker is solid gold power pop and needs to be in next year's holiday playlist. (Better make a note of that myself.)

cafeine.jpgMissed this when it was a free download at Soundcloud (you can still stream it there), but it was a single in time for Christmas 2014 and will be on the artist's 2015 album New Love that drops in February. It's a nice raging uptempo rocker, guitars to the fore, and it's all about Christmas in the big city, as you might well imagine.

sotaxmas.jpgSOTA is a production company from Georgia, or "music collective" as the popular phrase currently goes, and they promote, produce and even make their own rock-Americana flavored music alongside a small roster of artists. For 2014 they decided to try their hand at Christmas music, and they've put together a nice collection of music featuring their own roster along with a few guests from outside. Things kick off promisingly with a fine uptempo arrangement of "Silent Night" from Marshall Ruffin, a song that too often gets the reverent, or worse, the diva approach. The Shadowboxers acquit themselves well on "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday," Alex Gordon Hi Fi offers a guitar/bass instrumental rendition of "Deck the Halls," then they back Marshall Ruffin on "Angels We Have Heard on High." Indianapolis Jones offers a fine uptempo original by Galavanters' bass player Nicholas Niespodziani called "Peace and Harmony," and then that band comes back with their own organ-led instrumental take on "Jolly Old St. Nicholas." Big Mike Geier gets help from Larkin Poe on "Christmas Island," Trs Lechers perform a jazzy xylophone-led "Joy to the World" and Michelle Malone, who has a past Christmas album to her credit, performs the original "Feels Like Christmas." Stephen Kellogg, with help from the Galavanters, performs his syncopated original "Christmas in Cancun," the Handlebars render Ellis Paul's "Santa Claus & the Tooth Fairy," in which a mild Bo Diddley rhythm meets a child-sung chorus, Tim Smith takes on NRBQ's "Chrismas Wish," and Mike Snowden breaks out the cigar box guitar and accordion for a suitably rocking exit to the disc with "Auld Lang Syne." The producers imply in their liner notes that this may become a tradition, and that's all right with me.

baycityrollers.jpgI'm always bemoaning when artists from the now-distant past attempt to make themselves relevant again with a Christmas release, especially when they use their rock brand name to make something that's more in the adult contemporary vein. And of course, the Bay City Rollers is not a brand name that suggests rock integrity. Nevertheless, this is a strong pop-rocker that draws on the BCR legacy but hammers out a fine rock rhythm. You might want to check out this 2014 single before you dismiss it entirely.
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