Al Riggs - Hell House

Al Riggs “Christmas Parade” (2017)

Bull City Records Presents
Buy: Bandcamp

Durham, North Carolina’s Al Riggs is one of the most prolific singer/songwriters I’ve come across on Bandcamp. You know those links that let you buy entire discographies? I can only imagine how much it would cost… because you would be about 70 releases! The record I want to highlight now is his latest, Hell House. Included on this warm recording of sad songs is the beautiful “Christmas Parade.” The song is a vignette of a moment right before Christmas, where just being with a friend means more than whatever you might be doing with them – “Neither of us like the Christmas parade / but it means a lot. / but it means a lot / ….” Al’s voice is not terribly pretty, it is genuine –  exactly how I like my singers (e.g. David Berman, Mark Eitzel, etc). This really is a beautiful song, the production matches the sentiment perfectly… wouldn’t change a thing. (Again – thanks Ned!)

Bottom Line: Al is not a stranger to Christmas tunes (When the Saints Go Stag, Good Reasons to Freeze to Death,Yulemen), and while I have only scratched the surface, I think you may dig what you find underneath.

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Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club

UPCOMING: Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, 2017 Edition

Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club
Buy: Bigcartel Shop

It may have been 85 degrees out (30 celsius for my international friends), but snow is in the air… as this past week or so has brought the announcement of the always-wonderful Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club lineup! For the uninitiated, the SCSC is a label that exclusively releases limited-edition Christmas 7″ vinyl singles, with the A-side being an original, and the B-side being a cover. Such a fantastic premise, and one that is realized beautifully by the hard work of our fellow underground-Christmas devotee, Robert.

This year’s crop is a doozy – starting with perhaps the biggest name to grace the SCSC, Bis! Bis have been releasing quality indiepop since 1994 (with a hiatus or two), and astonishingly enough… I think this may be their first Christmas release! How they missed releasing a Christmas single when they are both 1) an indiepop band and 2) Scottish, beats me. I just wrote about 2 Scottish indiepop bands last week!

Next up are the French garage-rock band The Limiñanas. Previously featured on Christmas Underground for their cover of “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” this year they are teaming up with Pascal Comelade for the deliciously-titled “Curse of Santa Claus,” as well as what I’m imagining will be an interesting take on “Silent Night.” Should be interesting!

Finally, St. Petersburg, Florida’s Seafang will lend their shoegaze/dreampop sounds to their original “Happy When it Snows,” as well as the Primatives’ “You Trashed My Christmas.” The Primitives cover could be great fit for Seafang – I’m curious how they’ll make it their own.

All-in-all, it promises to be another very strong year for the wonderful Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club. I hope you check it out, order early and often, and help keep this tradition going!!

Bottom Line: Being that I haven’t heard a thing yet, I can’t really say – but I most certainly can say that I’M EXCITED.

 

 

UPCOMING: The Minus 5 – Dear December (2017)

Yep Roc
Buy: Record Store Day (LP) | Amazon.fr (LP)?

The Minus 5 is essentially Scott McCaughey and his band of merry, quite famous and somewhat famous friends rocking out and taking names. I presently have his Down with Wilco on my shelf, which, you can imagine, features members of Wilco. My friend Ned just hipped me to the fact that Scott also likes to hang with friends… and record CHRISTMAS SONGS. Dear December features M. Ward, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/Postal Service), Peter Buck (R.E.M. – duh), Mike Mills (ditto), Colin Meloy (Decemberists), Chuck Prophet, Tammy Ealom (Dressy Bessy), The Posies, Kelly Hogan (The Flat Five/Neko Case), Nora O’Connor (The Flat Five/solo badass) and more. That’s a rather impressive lineup, as most of the Minus 5 albums are… which obviously raises my expectations. The first single, “When Christmas Hurts You This Way,” does not disappoint. It is a downer with a Wilco AM vibe: “When the last one your remember / is the last one you deserve / you look back at all the mistakes you make / that somehow made much worse.” DARK! Love it! This is not a safe leadoff single, and that is what make this a great leadoff single. Hell, I love Nick Lowe, but I’d much rather listen to this than “Christmas in the Airport” – it is just so much darker and interesting to me! (No offense Yep Roc, you continually release Chatham County Line records, so you’ve got my love.) McCaughey can write a great song, and he obviously is respected enough by some stellar artists to lend their name to the project; Thus, if the rest of the songs are as good as this… well hot damn.

Dear December will be a Record Store Day release on vinyl, with an advent calendar-inspired gatefold sleeve on colored vinyl, limited to 1500 copies. It will also be released on December 1 on CD, as well as on your favorite digital retailers (7Digital??? Bandcamp??? They have FLACs!!!)

Bottom Line: Looks damn promising. Yep Roc – hook me up! I want it early! (In a curious twist of fate, most of the stuff I get sent is not Christmas-related at all… not gonna happen.)

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The Just Joans – The Just Joans’ Seasonal Greet (2010/2016)

WeePOP! Records
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Way back in 2010, the wonderful Scottish band The Just Joans released The Just Joans’ Seasonal Greet, a limited mini CDr Christmas EP, on the wonderfully-titled WeePOP! Records. And it looks like just about every holiday season, they would pop a track out here or there, released on Soundcloud or as a live recording on Youtube. However, it appears that in December 2016, the whole EP became readily-available again via their Bandcamp page! This is a wonderful turn of events, as there are some excellent tunes on here for those who like a melancholy, slow-tempo Christmas. “Card from a Multipack” is (for me) the strongest of the bunch, as the approach is interesting and the delivery feels genuine – there is some pain in this track. My second favorite would be the vaguely indie-folk rendition of the classic “Last Christmas,” where their Scottish brogue and gently strummed banjo give this stale song a fresh feel. Certainly worth your time and money.

Bottom Line: The Just Joans are due for another Christmas EP… just throwing it out there 🙂 But until they do, I’m happy to have “Seasonal Greet” to tide me over.

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Christmas A Go-Go is Back!

Christmas A Go-Go is back! Stubby (out of semi-retirement) and I have been here, in varying levels of posting activity, waiting for the season and our favorite seasonal bloggers to figure out their passwords and start posting again. Of course Ernie has his Christmas in July, but beyond that mid-year burst of related content… it can get a little lonely around the Christmas tree. Christmas A Go-Go has been posting since 2006 – they have me beat by 6 years! – and routinely hips me to cool, mix-worthy tunes from around the world. If you have found my site, you likely know theirs… but just in case you hadn’t realized they were back… THEY ARE!

 

Marble Gods “I Remember Xmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Scottish popsters Marble Gods somehow snuck a sweet little indiepop Christmas tune by me last year… and if I ever find out how, there will be hell to pay! They even have it tagged properly! “I Remember Xmas” is a lovely, jangly little indiepop song that is right up my alley. Upbeat guitars with a dash of melancholy in the lyrics… the perfect indiepop blend for your anorak Christmas. “Driving home I remember Christmas / when we were young. / We thought would last forever. / Oh how we were wrong / So it’s Christmas time, / and you’re everything I want. / But my only fear / is that you will break my heart.” Beautiful!

Bottom Line: Marble Gods’ “I Remember Xmas” is some finely chiseled, indiepop perfection.

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UPCOMING: Dude York – Halftime for the Holidays (2017)

Hardly Art
Buy: CD/Digital via Hardly Art | Bandcamp

Seattle’s Dude York is early to the game, premiering their new track “Break Up Holiday” today on Stereogum – the site where every notable indie rock band seems to release Christmas tracks. (Someday, Stereogum, I will beat you to the punch… someday…) Turns out they are actually releasing a whole EP, Halftime for the Holidays! Nine tracks, nearly all of them originals… this looks (and sounds) promising. The first track, “Break Up Holiday,” is a bitter and funny tale of having to see an ex at the holidays. A dash of pop-punk with a healthy dose of Weezer at their poppiest, I’m curious if the rest of the album will sound like this, rather than the less poppy (though not without pop), more indie rock style that I’m used to. I await more tracks!

Bottom Line: Too soon to tell, but promising!

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Minor Miracles - Christmas All Over Again

Minor Miracles “Christmas All Over Again” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (might come back) | Stream

Tom Petty’s death is a bigger blow to me than George Michael, Prince, David Bowie or any of the other legends that have passed in recent memory. I likely have listened to more Petty than all three of those legends combined over the years… not to take away from how much I loved them, just that Tom Petty was with me for a long time, and in heavy doses at different moments in my life. That said… I’ve never been the biggest fan of his modern (mini) classic, “Christmas All Over Again.” So, I began poking around for an interesting version, one that takes slightly different directions to get to the same place. Athens’ Minor Miracles have achieved this, covering Petty back in 2014 and releasing it on Bandcamp (presently gone) and Soundcloud. Normally a really upbeat song, lending itself to garage rock/lo-fi treatments, Minor Miracles have toned it down, added a drum machine, layered some lead vocals, sprinkled some synths, and made it their own. The chorus leadout with dueling keys is truly fantastic, and well worth the wait. I hope you dig it too.

Bottom Line: Minor Miracles dim the garage rock down to reveal a cool synth version of the Tom Petty classic. Of course… Stubby knew all about this back in 2014.

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Terry Malts "Our Love"

Kids on a Crime Spree “The Saddest Time Of The Year” (2017)

Emotional Response
Buy: Bandcamp (Full EP) | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Jen and Stu over at Emotional Response Records have a well-known affinity for Christmas music. They released a bunch of records as Boyracer (including a wealth of Christmas tunes – google em), as well as two recent Christmas Comps, and they continue with this latest split by Terry Malts and Kids on a Crime Spree. As they said in the writeup of this 10″, they snatched a couple songs out from underneath Slumberland Records’ (TM & KoaCS’s usual label) watchful eye and luckily for us, one of those songs is a Christmas song! Kids on a Crime Spree’s “The Saddest Time of Year” is a great, lo-fi indiepop jam about desperately needing your love at Christmas. There is a beautiful simplicity to the main thesis of the song: “It’s the saddest time of year / and I want to make it clear /  you’re all I want and / always, like the setting sun, / and always, out of everyone.” A perfect palette cleanser if your mix has gotten a bit too optimistic and cheery… not quite a dirge, but not quite happy. Delicious! (and thanks to Bennett for the tip!)

Bottom Line: Kids on a Crime Spree have slipped a great lo-fi Christmas song under the Christmas tree, and a bit early too!

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Jay Stansfield's "Christmas is..."

UPCOMING: Jay Stansfield & SAY – Christmas is… (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (Preorder)

Popping over to Bandcamp for a second to find something new on the top of the new arrivals list, I don’t normally expect to find something I haven’t seen (there is not a lot of turnover this time of year), let alone something this promising. I often judge Christmas tunes by their covers, and it rarely surprises me. Jay Stansfield‘s Christmas is… sports a simple cover of the decapitated snowman, which was odd enough to get me curious, even as I thought the typography could be a bit more interesting (sorry Jay, I can’t get the graphic design snob out of me). The cover may have gotten me in the door, but it was the description that convinced me to press play.

“Over the years I have written many happy, optimistic Christmas songs featuring death, homelessness, zombies and old people burning alive. This album celebrates those moments along with four miserable tracks from the SAY Archives.”

Well that sounds interesting! Only two tracks are available to preview, and both are solid. The Beach Boys’ harmonies of “Wake up the Children” bloom into some lovely holiday sentiment that could inspire any Grinch to feel optimistic. The second track, “The Man in Red” has moments when you imagine Vampire Weekend has put out a Christmas record, which would no doubt light up any indie-kid’s holiday season. Both these tracks are really strong – from the lyrics, to the music and the production – this may be the Winterval of 2017. (Of note, Jay’s got another from 2014, “Christma$ Twenty Fourteen,” and while it has its moments, it is not quite as strong as these two tracks… but worth a listen too!)

Bottom Line: Two tracks in and I’m willing to call Jay Stansfield’s Christmas is… a winner. Can’t wait to hear more, but we’ll have to wait till Dec. 1.

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