DZ Deathrays “Lonely This Christmas” (2014)

dz deathrays

Too Pure
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3 | 7″ Vinyl

I knew I should have posted this days ago when it had 5 plays on Soundcloud – Blast! Kudos to you Christmas A Go Go! Australian punk/garage rock band DZ Deathrays‘ cover of Mud’s “Lonely This Christmas” appears to be one of (perhaps two) the seasonal selections from the Too Pure Records singles club (which after last year’s fantastic release, may raise expectations). They definitely rock the hell out of the song. This will certainly fit the bill for some punk/pop-punk Christmas music fans out there.

Bottom Line: Not quite there for my personal tastes, but remember, I’m a bit twee. 3/5

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Short Skirts “Christmas Depends on You” (2013)

Short Skirts - Christmas Depends on You

Self Released
Buy: Free!

I love the rabbit hole that is Soundcloud. If I find a song I like, I’ll explore all the playlists that its been added to, in the hopes that the listener has equally good taste as that particular selection. At some point, this journey led me to Short Skirts, a fantastic garage rock band from Norway. “Christmas Depends on You” brings in Ida Horpestad from Blomst on vocals, and her touch really brings this garage/surf Christmas song to the next level. The lyrics are fantastic – I really don’t want to ruin them for you before you listen. To top off an already great song… they are offering it as a free (WAV) download on Soundcloud.

Bottom Line: This song is good enough to be covered for years to come. 5/5

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A Christmas Chin para ti, Vol. 02 (2013)

Chin Chin Records Vol. 2

Chin-Chin Records
Buy: Bandcamp | CD

How the heck do I write this review? I am using a Bandcamp page to give me translations of the titles… so I have at least a clue of what they are singing about. I should cite the Spanish language titles, rather than the English titles – this I know. But now I’m jumping back between two pages for 36 tracks of fantastic Spanish garage rock/indiepop Christmas tunes – and it is feeling quite overwhelming. So, I think I may take the pressure off my shoulders, do a very shallow review, but let you know that THIS IS AWESOME. I largely have NO idea what they are saying, but I don’t care. There are a few that I know, such as The Fraukettes Spanish cover of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” which is absolutely lovely. Then there is Ooby & Dooby’s “Uvas o lentejas,” which Google translates to “Grapes or Lentils,” yet sounds JUST like “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Really, this record is all over the place. Perhaps if I understood Spanish, I might have some criticisms of the lyrics, or perhaps I’d like it even more! There are two English-language tracks on here too – check out the moody “Seasons Greetings” by Leather & Lace.

Bottom Line: I have no idea what they are saying, but I like the groove on 75% of these super-short Christmas tunes. With a name-your-own price on Bandcamp, and a reasonably priced CD version (with beautiful artwork), how could you go wrong? 4.5/5

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The Lonely Wild “Holidays” (2014)

the Lonely Wild - Holidays

Ursa Major Recordings
Buy: Amazon UK MP3 | Bandcamp

I wonder if not really having seasons effects how you feel about the holidays? LA’s The Lonely Wild have released a great, bitter Christmas tune to really get you into the holiday spirit. I love a good anti-Christmas song as much as I love a Christmas song. When you add lyrics like “Holidays are coming / to rip your heart open. / Just don’t freak out / Just don’t let me down,” and “Miracles are waiting / to be found in the gutter,” you know you are in for an anti-Christmas treat! Beautiful harmonies and some killer guitar make this song one of the highlights of the (anti) season for me.

Bottom Line: I love me some bitterness at Christmas. You need a healthy mix of sweet and bitter to not rot your ears. Hey, Lonely Wild, put this on Bandcamp, why don’t ya?? Thanks! You did! 4.7/5

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Pdxmas 2014 (2014)

PDXMAS 2014

PDXMAS
Buy: Bandcamp

PDXMAS is back for its third installment since its debut in 2009. Those old tracks from 2009 & 2010 can also be found on their revitalized Bandcamp page. As I recall, when I originally hunted the PDXMAS comps down, they had a full, standalone website. They then disappeared, then reappeared on Bandcamp with a very incomplete tracklist – but everything appears back now. The third installment benefits a charity, as most of these local comps do, specifically Mercy Corps NW. This fact leads me to want to talk up the compilation a bit more than I likely would. Honestly, I find most Christmas comps so hit-and-miss, that I would equate baseball batting averages as comparable (as in .300+ batting average is stellar). PDXMAS 2014 however, just can’t get above that Mendoza line. There are some notable names on here, Typhoon being perhaps the most recognizable outside the Portland, OR area. Their take on “Silent Night” is just fine, but certainly nothing to write home about. The lone standouts (for me) are Ben Darwish‘s soulful “All I Need,” and Timmy Straw‘s mournful “Hard Times.” There are certainly other songs that were fine, just not many that spoke to me. I am most certainly not the final word on taste, so please judge for yourself. I have been known to be wrong… I remember when I didn’t quite get Father John Misty. Then, one day I did, and my world became better for it. Perhaps a song lives on PDXMAS that I’ll come back to, and truly love.

Bottom Line: There are a few special tunes on here, and its for a good cause. Listen for yourself and support some local Portland communities. 3/5

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UPCOMING: Los Campesinos – A Los Campesinos! Christmas (2014)

Los Campesinos! Christmas

Stubby, I don’t know how you pipped me on this. I don’t even see it on their website… YOU ARE THE MAN.

YES, Los Campesinos! is going to put out a Christmas 12″, which will no doubt become an indie classic. It compiles their three previous WONDERFUL efforts with three more holiday tracks. I can’t imagine they’ll be pressing too many of these, so I would order early and often.

Los Campesinos! have finally confirmed the release of this new EP – and they will have a new track streaming, as well as a direct-from-band preorder (which they will have some in the US store too) on Monday. This also confirms that this release will also be available digitally, and my fingers are crossed that the digital copies may be available slightly earlier than the vinyl (for my mix!).

EDIT: Both the EU and US preorders are sold out. We have learned that the vinyl will include a CD inside it as well, and if you were one of the lucky 400 to get a copy from the band, it will apparently ship well before the official release date. Hooray!

Side A:
1. When Christmas Comes
2. A Doe To A Deer*
3. The Holly & The Ivy*

Side B:
4. Kindle A Flame In Her Heart*
5. The Trains Don’t Run (It’s Christmas Day)
6. Lonely This Christmas

*previously released

 

Faye and the Scrooges “Christmas Number One” (2013/2014)

Faye and the Scrooges

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

THEY ARE BACK! Faye and the Scrooges have returned with a new song for 2014, and much earlier than they usually do! (Well, I just found out that it’s technically 2013’s song – they just hadn’t shared it yet!) It’s fun, funny, and well produced. This song greatly shares my sentiment – “What were they thinking when they wrote those Christmas singles / This year, something’s got to change.” I have a ton of work to do today, so I’m simply going to post it and let you do the listening.

Bottom Line: This “band” knows how to put together a fun Christmas song. 4.2/5

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The Very Most – Winter EP (2009)

The Very Most - Winter EP

Indiecater Records
Buy: Indiecater MP3iTunes | Indiecater CD

You would be hard-pressed to find a band who loves Christmas more than Idaho-based indie-pop band The Very Most. For years they have been steadily producing indie-pop Christmas classics, and their 2009 Winter EP is the strongest of the bunch. This was the last of the series of season-themed EPs, which were later compiled into the full-length, A Year with the Very Most. All three songs featured on the EP are extremely good, beginning with a fantastic indie-pop take on “Away in a Manger.” If the focus of your mix is to give traditional tunes new life, then I would highly recommend The Very Most’s take on that classic. The next two songs are both originals, which I very much appreciate. “It’s the Best Thing” sets the scene in the evening, lit up by the streetlights just as snow begins to fall. All is quiet, except for the excited shrieks of his giddy children. It’s a beautiful scene, so honest and so easy to place yourself into. I truly love that song. Finally, “When Does the Goodwill Start?” rounds out the EP, wondering (because it’s Christmas) when the goodwill and peace on earth will start. Its a melancholy Christmas song wrapped in indie-pop paper – truly wonderful in its execution.

Bottom Line: You can’t get indie-pop Christmas better than this. 5/5

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Mark Kozelek – Sings Christmas Carols (2014)

Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols Cover

Caldo Verde
Buy: 7Digital FLAC/MP3 |Caldo Verde CD | Discogs LPs | Amazon UK

Mark Kozelek took his classical guitar into the studio in November/December 2013 and recorded a (largely) classical guitar, classic Christmas record. Classic, you say? Yes, but I mean it more in the terms of the subject matter than the execution. The whole tone doesn’t exude the warmth that most classic Christmas records do – I don’t know if Mark Kozelek could do warm & fuzzy, it’s not in his (performing) character. Don’t get me wrong though, the record is lovely. So, if melancholy classical guitar Christmas loveliness is what you’d like, then this LP is for you. This record will fit the bill if you have left-of-center tastes (as in, you love that Low Christmas record) and have a soft spot for very traditional Christmas tunes.

Mark excels in the early traditional songs on this record, such as “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Away in a Manger.” There are moments that you can imagine one of those songs being played over a melancholy scene in a Christmas movie. The more contemporary you get, the more hit-and-miss it can become. “Christmas Time is Here” is a standout track; the classical guitar approach is refreshing on a song that has been covered more often than it should, and the spoken word section adds a bit of humor that is very much appreciated. “O Christmas Tree” is a misstep if only for the song selection. Do you know anybody who really loves that song? It’s Christmas white noise, one of those songs that you hear, don’t hate, but truly… never love. Mark’s stab at the Pretenders’ “2000 Miles,” while pretty straightforward, is also excellent (though its ending feels quite abrupt). It’s simple, and quite lovely. I very much admit my bias here, as I lean toward new Christmas, rather than classic Christmas, when it comes to my Christmas mix. There is nothing on this record that I completely disliked, probably because I enjoy Mark Kozelek’s voice too much. However, it did leave me slightly underwhelmed. I appreciate Mark for taking a stab at the Christmas genre that he has flirted with for years, but the Christmas genre is one I am way too familiar with to find full satisfaction with a release with not one original song on it.

Bottom Line: Having a dinner party or scoring an indie Christmas film, add a full point to this score. Otherwise, a missed opportunity by one of our greatest living songwriters to have penned an original song. 3.7/5

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God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Listen via Stereogum)
Christmas Time Is Here (Listen via Stereogum)