Joyful Noise Holiday Party, Vol. 1

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

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

Color TV “This Christmas” (2016)

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

A Very Cherry Christmas – Volume 12 (2017)

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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Blackwatch Christmas VII

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

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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UPCOMING: “Indie for the Holidays, An Amazon Original Playlist,” “Acoustic Christmas,” and “Christmas Soul” (2017)

Amazon
Buy: Coming soon

Well, it looks like Amazon is continuing their tradition of providing high-profile indie Christmas tunes to the masses via their popular Indie for the Holidays and Acoustic Christmas playlists. Likely, the new tracks will just be tacked on to the already existing playlist, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. EDIT – Those playlists will be updated on December 1. In addition to these two returning playlists, be on the lookout for Christmas Soul, being released on Nov. 24 via Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music.

Some highlights to look forward to…

Indie for the Holidays has so far announced contributions by Kevin Morby, Lemon Twigs, Best Coast, JEFF the Brotherhood, Albert Hammond Jr. and Jessica Lea Mayfield.

Acoustic Christmas teased out a song on Brooklyn Vegan today, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” a cover by Courtney Marie Andrews, as well as listing off a few more contributors: Josh Ritter, Nicki Bluhm, Sera Cahoone and Lori McKenna.

There is much more info out there about Christmas Soul, as a few tracks have been released (linked below), as well as a large roster of participating artists: Tamir, Dawn Richard, JC Brooks, Joey Dosik, Buscabulla, Spacebomb House Band feat. Andy Jenkins, Blu and Exile, Ural Thomas & the Pain, Demo Taped, The Texas Gentlemen, Jacquie, Jungle Fire, Diane Coffee (!), Major, Robert Finley, Nicole Atkins, Marc Broussard, Ruth B, Davie, Open Mike EagleGemma (feat. Adrian Younge), Taliwhoah, Liz Brasher, The Soul Rebels and Don Bryant.

EDIT: There is also the All is Bright playlist, which is getting an update again this year too. Why anyone is recording “Baby It’s Cold Outside” anymore is beyond me, but Willie’s doing it.

BOTTOM LINE: I’ve got my eyes on a few of those names, but still too early to get this grumpy gus too too excited 🙂 Amazon keeps their stuff so close to the vest (and aren’t my favorite people – I’ve got a history…. ever notice that I push Bandcamp and 7Digital whenever I can?)

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No Monster Club - Sleigh Decibels Volume One

No Monster Club – Sleigh Decibels Volume One (2011)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Dublin’s No Monster Club treated us to a great new original (anti)Christmas song in 2016, “Start the Carvery” (kindly pointed out by Lie in the Sound), but did you know that they have a whole Christmas compilation EP that they released back in 2011? The hilarious titling of Sleigh Decibels Volume One certainly helps set up expectations, as the lyrics are clever and biting throughout. The lo-fi fun runs through the entire release, which compiles songs from comps by net label Rack N Ruin Records in the Netherlands, as well as Belfast’s CF Records. Each song has its own charm, but my favorite is the short and dirty “A No Monster Club Christmas,” which has an infectious chorus that I have found myself humming walking down the street on more than one occasion.

Bottom Line: No Monster Club’s lo-fi Christmas tunes stylistically compliment their clever lyrical point-of-view on this fantastic compilation EP.

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POLVO DE ESTRELLAS (Un disco navideño compilado por Polvo Bureau)

Polvo de Estrellas (Stardust) (2016)

Polvo Bureau
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

I’m going to do my best to use Google Translate and not make a complete ass of myself. Following the fantastic find that Lie in the Sound had with Jägermeister’s Merry Jäger Christmas, I bring you Argentina’s Polvo Bureau and their new Christmas compilation, POLVO DE ESTRELLAS (Un disco navideño compilado por Polvo Bureau). From the chillwave, Wild Nothing-esque Mi Nave with “Ojos Cuadrados,” to the indie rock Camaleón’s “Fuegos Artificiales,” there are some great-sounding tunes on here. Again, I don’t speak Spanish, but I know great sounding music when I hear it. The dream-pop of Queridas’ “Brillen” is ethereal and spectacular. I just want to put headphones on and walk down a snowy street with my eyes closed. The Spanish language version of Joni Mitchell’s “River” is not just fantastic because it’s the first time I’ve heard it in Spanish, but Superflan’s version shines because of the electro-pop touches they put on it. The lead out on Yuliett’s “Tanto Fuego!” Beautiful! This release is damn special, and I’m so very happy to have happened upon it tonight.

Bottom Line: I might lack the language skills to fully understand these songs, but our common language of music has sweet talked me tonight.

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Shelter Scotland Home for the Holidays

Home For The Holidays: A Christmas Songbook (2016)

Shelter Scotland
Buy: Bandcamp

I’ve been following the progression of this project for a little while now, and it is finally out. This MASSIVE compilation of Scottish/UK bands had their release party just a few days back, and I had no idea as to the extent of this collection. 37 tracks… 37 tracks… some of which you’ll recognize, such as “Cheap Gold” by Frightened Rabbit, or Allo Darlin’s “Will You Please Spend New Years With Me,” but there is still plenty of new stuff to discover here! And hey, I don’t think that Frightened Rabbit track was ever available as something other than a MP3. I seriously can’t take the time to give a full review of the entire collection, it’s just so massive (and so nicely priced!), but who knows… maybe sometime in July? So check out the likes of Broken Records, Kid Canaveral, Withered Hand, Sweet Baboo, This is the Kit, The Spook School, Jonnie Common, De Rosa, and many many many more.

Bottom Line: I’m six tracks in… and there is not a clunker in the bunch so far. And every sale benefits Shelter Scotland, which helps “over half a million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness

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A City Without Snow

A City Without Snow (2016)

Middle Class Cigars
Buy: Bandcamp

Singapore’s Middle Class Cigars has released, from front to back, one of the most enjoyable compilations I’ve heard this year. A mixture of Books-esque spoken word folktronica, indiepop, lo-fi folk and downtempo chill-out music, the production value is uniformly excellent, and the taste level is on-point. If I had to pick out a track or two to highlight, for me it would be the lovely “A Song to Sleep to” by Ferry, and the dreamy “0212” by Cosmic Child.  You could put this album on, and not have to skip any horrible tracks… which in the Christmas-music world is a RARITY. Most certainly worth a listen – and for those in the US, it’s only a dash above $10 to have the limited edition cassette (ed. of 50) shipped from Singapore!

I found their description both useful, and endearing.

Music plays an important part in the season of Christmas, as we sing along to the carols written years ago, it still remains as powerful as ever.

With contributions from 9 Singapore-based musicians, A City Without Snow is a Christmas compilation album consisting of seven original songs and two renditions of classics. Born from different emotional perspectives of the season, each composition is a musical vignette of a uniquely Singaporean Christmas.

A City Without Snow is Middle Class Cigars’ proudest release thus far, encapsulating a collective dynamic of warm and intimate sounds of which the label thrives in.

Bottom Line: Just a pleasure. A pleasure. A pleasure.

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UPCOMING: Indie for the Holidays, An Amazon Original Playlist (2016)

Amazon Music
Buy: Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3

So… today is nuts. So much. So much. Amazon not only has an Acoustic Christmas playlist, but they’ve also resurrected Indie for the HolidaysLast year’s playlist had some gems – OscarIvan and Alyosha and Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff. It was generally pretty solid. Now this year we are being treated to…

01 “Sister Winter” – Joseph
02 “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Savoir Adore
03 “When Christmas Comes” – Los Campesinos (This is a new, more stripped down version)
04 “Carol Of The Bells” – Melvins
05 “Hard Candy Christmas” – Inger Loree & the Nymphs
06 “Christmas (The Way It Was Back Then)” – Chris Staples
07 “Azusa” – The Album Leaf
08 “Plastic Mistletoe” – Glint
09 Santa, Baby” – Red Rosamond
10 “Holiday Road” – Tennis
11 “Headphones For The Holidays” – Blake Hazard
12 “Silver Bells” – Dandy Warhols
13 “Ritmo De Vida” – Nortec Collective Presents Bostich + Fussible
14 “Snow” – Sam Evian
15 “Come On Home (It’s Christmas)” – PINS

Looks damn solid to me. Can’t wait to hear more tomorrow. I’ll likely update this post to a review as well.

Bottom Line: Looking good so far – can’t wait to hear the Album Leaf, Tennis, and PINS tracks specifically.

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