UPCOMING: You Wish (A Merge Records Holiday Album) (2019)

Merge Records
Buy: Discogs | Bandcamp

You leave town for the weekend and everything blows up. This record is probably going to be all over Stereogum in a matter of minutes (as that is where all the bigger indie labels seem to go), but for now, let’s talk about this upcoming Merge Records holiday record! Merge is celebrating their 30th year, and with that they started a celebration subscription at the beginning of the year. I was one of the ones who decided to party along with them, and boy am I glad I did. Over the weekend I received this amazing, unannounced, Christmas record from one of my favorite labels, You Wish (A Merge Records Holiday Album). Pressed on peppermint vinyl and containing tracks by a couple folks who have already made a CU Xmas mix (Coco Hames, The Essex Green, Mac McCaughan and Telekinesis), as well as many that I hope might make it this year! These full-length releases always take longer to write about, and I get antsy, so let this post and the tracklist just be that little teaser for the upcoming review, hopefully coming sometime this week if I’m lucky.

Of note – there are a few copies on Discogs right now, and while it is subscription-only, Merge has been making their 30th anniversary records available in indie record stores on standard black vinyl. As for digital, it will probably come out on all the usual services, since their last release (Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible covered by A Giant Dog) is available digitally.

A1. Coco Hames – Keep Your Christmas
A2. The Essex Green – Green Christmas
A3. Mike Krol – Won’t Be Alone Tonight
A4. Mac McCaughan & Annie Hayden – Down We Go (Sledding Song)
A5. Fruit Bats – Baby In The Hay
A6. Apex Manor – White Christmas
A7. William Tyler – Jesus Christ
B1. Hiss Golden Messenger & Lucinda Williams – Christmastime In Prison
B2. Eric Bachmann – I Was Made For Losing You
B3. Telekinesis – Christmas Time Is Here (Uh Oh)
B4. Mikal Cronin – Christmastime Heist
B5. Will Butler – Love Asked Me To Stay
B6. Tracyanne & Danny – Santa, Don’t Say No
B7. Shout Out Louds – Blue Christmas

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Fowler VW presents A Blackwatch Christmas Vol. VIII: The Sounds of the Season (2018) + WIN SOME VINYL!

Fowler VW/Blackwatch Studios
Buy:
Bandcamp (NYOP)

This season has been… long. I’ve been working until 9:30 a bunch, and still have things like laundry, dishes and the various domestic duties that we do as we strive not to look like a hoarder. I’m beginning to see the sun, or normalcy at the very least. And as those clouds part, I begin to catch up… and I have the pleasure of basking in the ALWAYS excellent Fowler VW and Blackwatch Studios release! The Sounds of the Season is their best one yet – and that is a high bar to clear. And you know what, there isn’t a version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” anywhere to be found! These are originals! Now, lets talk favorites… WAIT A SECOND – I LIKE THIS WHOLE THING! From the 70s groove of Sports, to Home Alone-inspired indiepop of Chair Model and the relaxed indie rock of Spaceface featuring LABRYS – this record will take your party to wonderful places. There are a whole handful of tracks on here that I have on my shortlist for next year… this record is fantastic.

BUT WAIT – THERE IS MORE! I live in Virginia, but continually find myself jealous of everything going on in Norman, Oklahoma. Fowler VW and its ownership are incredibly involved in making their town a better place, often taking part in efforts to help fund the public schools, as well as being great patrons of the arts in their community. This holiday season, I’ve been watching them promote Wrap Up Homelessness. This program sells locally designed wrapping paper, and is coordinated by the Curbside Chronicle, which is a street paper that “provides employment and empowerment to men and women transitioning out of homelessness.” Last year they helped get 41 people off the street and back into housing, which is pretty damn incredible. You know what else is incredible? There is some wrapping paper designed by Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips! So, you know that paper is crazy awesome! I would like to take this moment and encourage you to order some paper, or simply donate some money to this fantastic cause. Fowler VW does so much for their local community, but they also do so, so much for our alternative Christmas music community as well. As an added bonus, if you order some wrapping paper or donate to Curbside Chronicle, then tweet me, FB me, or e-mail proof that you did (screenshot will do!), you will be entered to win a copy of THE SOUNDS OF THE SEASON on VINYL! I’ve got a couple copies sitting here for you… so lets all show some Christmas spirit, help those in need and give thanks to those who bring us this great music year after year.

THE FINE PRINT: I got these LPs a little later than I had hoped, as the mail lost the first shipment, so they are likely not going to get to you by Christmas. BUT YOU CAN JAME TO THIS 1) Whenever OR 2) NEXT CHRISTMAS! This contest will run from Dec. 17-21, and you can email me at christmasunderground(at)gmail.com, tweet at me @xmasunderground, or comment on the Facebook post for this entry. Please use the hashtage #fowlervwisawesome whenever entering, either in your tweet/FB post or email subject line. I will choose a few folks at random, and ship you some records. UNFORTUNATELY, this offer is NOT open to our international friends. It costs about $24 to ship ONE LP outside the country. I’m terribly sorry… I just can’t afford to do it.

Bottom Line: I love a record you can enjoy all the way through. Fowler VW and Blackwatch Studio continue this glorious tradition, and somehow keep getting better!

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Joyful Noise Recordings’ Holiday Party Vol. 2 (2018)

Joyful Noise Recordings
Buy: 7″ Lathes | Bandcamp

Joyful Noise has done it again! Those delicious little lathe-cuts are back for a second season – only 100 of each song. You buy a snowflake, you get all the tunes! Or, you can pay $10 and just get the songs. Some highlights from this year are the Netherlands-based Eerie Wanda‘s cover of Yoko Ono’s “Listen, The Snow is Falling” and the Low Anthem‘s original “Fairy on Top of The Christmas Tree.” The crazy part about this whole project is that these songs are all tracked in one hour! They roll them in, figure out their parts (the bands also bleed over into each other’s tracks), and lay it down. In addition, 100% of the net proceeds will be donated to Second Helpings, a non-profit that rescues perishable food, to feed people in need, all while providing culinary job training for disadvantaged adults. Now that sounds like a plan!

Bottom Line: These snowflakes are for a good cause, and with a lineup like Kishi Bashi, Danielson, No Joy amongst many other notable purveyors of indie rock, it is certainly worth checking out.

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The Catenary Wires “Christmas Tree (Burn Burn Burn)” (2018)

WIAIWYA
Buy: Bandcamp

Those in the indiepop know are already well aware of this upcoming record being released by Where It’s At Is Where You Are (WIAIWYA). Stars was teased in a e-mail back in September (when it was supposed to be a 10″ – it’s a 12″ now because the songs were too long!), and I pretty much flipped out. WIAIWYA’s last seasonal comp, Christmastime, Approximately, was a fantastic release, thus this one has a fine pedigree to build upon. The lead single, the Catenary Wires‘ “Christmas Tree (Burn Burn Burn)” is a stellar piece of indiepop that grows on you with every listen. It has that classic indiepop signature of terribly sad lyrics with beautiful music, which I obviously adore. The two narrators sing through a fog of melancholy as they guide us though their relationship, bookended by Christmas at each end. The Catenary Wires are Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, partners in music and life, as well as veterans of many notable indiepop bands such as Tender Trap, Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, and Marine Research. They seem to specialize in songs of fraught relationships, while maintaining a happy life in Kent. One would have to think that this is a form a therapy – kind of an exorcising the demons with an indiepop twist. I tell ya, those demons sound real pretty… This is only one song of an entire record (minus the tracks of bells – very nice tracks, but bells) of fantastic indiepop Christmas tunes found on this upcoming release, Stars. I’ll have to review that soon too… (Of note, those who create Christmas mixes, and take it seriously, will love Whoa Melodic’s “Christmas Stars.” Trust me.)

Bottom Line: Melancholy indiepop? That is practically the name of this blog!

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Here it is! The world premiere of the video for the Catenary Wires’ “Christmas Tree (Burn Burn Burn)”

Gypsy Charms “It‘s Mother Fuckin‘ Christmas” (2013)

nollaig

Brown Bear Records
Buy: Free!

Brown Bear Records released three largely DIY/punk/experimental Christmas comps between 2013-2015, and as with any DIY Christmas release, the quality can have pretty dramatic swings from song to song. That said, there is a LOT to go through when you look at all 3 releases, 66 songs in total, and I thought I’d put a big ‘ol spotlight on the best of the best, this deliciously-titled track by  Chicago’s Gypsy Charms, “It’s Mother Fuckin’ Christmas.” A punk rock track, delivered with attitude and ramshackle, profane glee, this song is brilliant and less than a minute. Yes, I see the 1:40 next to the track title… but believe me, this thing really begins at 0:50. They kick some ass, then get out of the way, which is a sure fire way to win a fight.

Bottom Line: This is expertly crafted punk rock Christmas.

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DCR Mixtape #3 – A Christmas Compilation (2017)

Dinosaur City Records Christmas Compilation

Dinosaur City Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Dinosaur City Records… what can I say? Why would you release such a great Christmas release only 3 days before Christmas? This record is PACKED with excellent indie pop (naturally), indie rock, electro-pop, as well as some that forcefully eschew categorization. This comp deserves more than 3 days of listening! I am finding myself fighting the urge to get too specific, to single out any tracks I particularly enjoy, and I want to simply highlight the general strength of the whole damn thing. There is likely a song on here for everyone… and I want you to buy the whole thing. Lets to encourage Dinosaur City Records to do this thing again, because this whole release has left me smiling.

Bottom Line: There are few Christmas compilations that make me feel so warm and fuzzy about them… this is one. I wish I had found it before they sold out of cassettes…

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Joyful Noise Recordings’ Holiday Party Vol. 1 (2017)

Joyful Noise Holiday Party, Vol. 1

Joyful Noise Recordings
Buy: 7″ Lathe Cut Vinyl Snowflathes with Digital Download | Bandcamp

Joyful Noise Recordings has a wonderful concept for their new release, Holiday Party Vol. 1. Each track is pressed on a single, lathe cut 7″ (a Snowflathe!), limited to 100 snowflathes each, and costs $20 for one. Wait a second – that is crazy expensive! I am going to have to spend $180 on the entire album! Yes, but no. Buy one 7″ for $20, and you get a MP3/WAV download of the entire record. THAT, and all proceeds go to The Fund for Global Human Rights. So, this is starting to sound cooler, eh? Want it to get even cooler? YES? Well, these tracks were recorded live at the Joyful Noise holiday party!! They all sound beautiful, full studio-recording quality, with highlights by Richard Edwards covering Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” and Psychic Temple’s Curtis Mayfield cover, “We Got to Have Peace.” This whole thing is pretty damn strong (and sometimes weird, but still well done), and very much worth your time and money, especially if you are a Christmas vinyl collector – Pick your poison!

Bottom Line: Great concept, wonderful cause and solid tunes.

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Color TV “This Christmas” (2016)

Color TV - This Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp | Vinyl

The other day while checking out what my fellow Bandcamp enthusiasts are buying… I came across this powerpop gem from LA’s Color TV. The production is great, the lyrics are clever, but it’s the attitude that really sells this song. This band has a polite snarl (yeah, wrap your head around that description) that just works so well. This song could get WAY more eyes, had it only had the “christmas” tag in Bandcamp! Quick side note… BANDCAMP, get your act together and give us a better keyword search! OK, got that out of my system – but THERE IS MORE TO THIS SONG THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. This track is part of a new, vinyl (or digital download card) compilation on Gearhead Records, Rodney On the Rock Presents: Santa’s Got a GTO Vol. 2 LP, which is available (with no additional track list) at the Gearhead Records website. So, throw some money at them – either $1 at Bandcamp, or $22 if you’ve got money to burn and collect Christmas vinyl! I know there are some crazy folks out there… go now, it has got to be pretty limited.

Bottom Line: Power-pop with attitude that bleeds through the speakers. Brilliant.

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A Very Cherry Christmas – Volume 12 (2017)

A Very Cherry Christmas - Volume 12

Cherryade Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Cherryade Records and DJ, music promoter and fellow alternative Christmas music fan Gareth Jones have done it again, for the twelfth time to be exact! Which, might I say, only makes them one year behind me (I’m coming on 13 this year!). This latest collection of indie Christmas tunes is only available to 200 lucky souls, as they only license the tracks to sell physical copies, and when they are gone, they are gone. And while you can often hunt down many of the tracks on Bandcamp if you miss out, think of all the work you are going to have to do hunting down 25 songs just to preview them. THEN, on top of that, paying about $25 do download each one, instead of the killer £6 price tag on this nice little package. Some highlights (for me) include Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (whose 2017 Christmas EP, Christmas Revisited, reimagines some tracks off his 2016 Xmas record), Marble Gods (also featured here on CU), and that leadoff single from Shrill Fit, “It’s Been A Shitty Year (So Give Me All Your Presents).” I’m all for bitter Christmas songs – and Shrill Fit’s indie rock jam certainly scratches that itch.

Bottom Line: Well, not a real review, as I have yet to receive my record yet – but you can’t beat the price, and I’m pretty excited that I barely know any of the bands on there. Discovery is why I do this gig…

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UPCOMING: Fowler VW Presents A Blackwatch Christmas Volume 7 (2017)

Blackwatch Christmas VII

Fowler VW/Blackwatch Studios
Buy: Bandcamp

It is that time of year… and Fowler VW has been hinting about their upcoming Christmas record on Twitter, much to my delight. There are few Christmas releases that have such a high level of quality, and each year that they keep the tradition alive, is a year that the entire alternative Christmas music community can give thanks. Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Breakup are given the honor of being the first track out to the public, and it is fantastic. The electro-pop jam about being together at Christmas has the kind of slinky groove that just might take your office Christmas party off the rails. Eyes meeting over the punchbowl, we all knew Jim and Pam were meant to be together, they just needed “Be With You” to seal the deal. Want to know the rest of the tracklist? Go to NewsOK and give them the clicks!

The entire album will be available for stream/download on Black Friday, or better yet, #BlackwatchFriday, and for those lucky enough to live in the Norman, OK area, there is a big, free party on Dec. 8 at Stash, where the first 200 attendees get a free copy of it on VINYL. Yes, there are copies out there on vinyl… I am the proud owner of 2014’s “The Naughty List,” but these things are tough to come by. They have never sold them online – you gotta grab them from local Norman, OK venues like Fowler Volkswagen, Guestroom Records, The Social Club, STASH, and Tree & Leaf Clothing.

Finally, isn’t it great that these albums are free? And if the generosity of Fowler VW and Blackwatch Studios makes you so very happy… then, as you download this year’s new record, why not throw them a few bucks toward Norman Public Schools elementary music programs, because that is where 100% of donations go!

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