Porridge Radio "O. Christmas"

Porridge Radio “O. Christmas” (2017)

Art is Hard Records
Buy: 7″ Flexi | BandcampiTunes

DIY just premiered Porridge Radio‘s sloppy (in a good way) new Christmas single, “O. Christmas,” and it is a ramshackle delight. The frayed edges of nearly every instrument, vocals included, compliment the the sentiment perfectly, as “the song is the soundtrack to that Christmas Eve where you remember how much you hate your hometown and walk home alone in the rain.” Sure makes me wonder exactly how bleak Brighton can be! Readers of this blog, as well as my wife, know I love a good Christmas downer, which you’ll no doubt appreciate too as the song appropriately ends with: “The sun goes around again / It always starts again / I’ll break your heart again / I’ll break your heart again / I’ll break your heart again / Merry Christmas.” So just slap this track on if your over-enthusiastic aunt comes over. That’ll teach her. (If you want the flexi, go now, because there are only 300 of em!)

Bottom Line: This song is a ramshackle delight of a Christmas dirge. First time I’ve ever written that sentence!

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Polish Club Xmas Single

Polish Club – Xmas Single (2017)

Island Records Australia
Buy: 7″ Vinyl | zDigital (FLAC/MP3)

Polish Club are Australia’s answer to the Black Keys, a great, LOUD blues/indie rock two piece comprised of drums and guitars. They’re latest release following their 2017 full-length debut, Alright Already, is a double A-sided 7″ vinyl Christmas single appropriately titled, Xmas Single. Both tracks are foot stompers, with a bruising pace, crashing cymbals and buzzing guitars. “I Hate You But You Gotta Stay (On Christmas Day)” is about losing your cool with your significant other on Christmas. You’re fighting, but dammit, you’re not leaving me here with your family alone. A clever approach wrapped up inside a rocking song. The AA-side is an equally balls-out version of “All I Want for Christmas is You.” This song has been covered similarly by other bands, and Polish Club do it quite well and really sell it with the vocals. This is indeed a true double A-sided single, as both tracks are strong enough to be considered for any mix that needs a kick in the chestnuts.

Bottom Line: Certainly one of the more rocking-out Christmas releases of the season. Unfortunately, due to geo-restrictions, these tracks are hard to come by. I’ve done my best to provide some options, but it may be a week or so until it is available in more traditional venues, if ever.

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Susto - Casual Christmas

Susto “R.I.P. Santa” (2017)

Missing Piece Records
Buy: 7″ Vinyl | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

I know I’m partial to synthesizers, depressing tunes and the Swedish, but I came across a great, domestic, alt.country song about the season that pairs well with a glass of spiked eggnog, and I thought I’d gather around the digital fire and tell you about it. Charleston, SC’s Susto’s alt.country, drinking song about the death of Santa Claus is yet another excellent approach to what can be a very predictable genre. I’m just loving some of these lyrics: “That jolly old mister was a north pole drifter. / I ran into him once or twice. / He’d say “Hey ain’t the weather / nice this time of year, / as long as you don’t slip on the ice…” / I met him at a diner, / he said he was a miner. / I could tell by the twinkle in his eye, / he was telling me a righteous lie. / That man was a saint.” The imagery at the diner is pretty damn fantastic; there is a spark of story in that small moment that I want to hear more about. The track itself has a great alt.country vibe, lots of nice piano lines and Justin Osborne’s vocals convey the story beautifully. Of note – this track is also available on a limited (to 300) vinyl picture disc, available on their website. The record includes “Feliz Navidad,” which is also featured on Amazon’s new Indie for the Holidays playlist, an acoustic version of the same track, also featured on an Amazon playlist (Acoustic Christmas). The final track is not a Christmas song, but yet another Amazon playlist entry, “Serial Monogamist,” which features on the Love Me Not playlist.

Bottom Line: I must admit – the title had me skeptical. However, with some great lyrical imagery, this drinking song about the death of Santa is quite engaging and enjoyable. Digging it for sure.

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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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Couples Skate Only feat. Zebra Zebra

Couples Skate Only feat. Zebra Zebra “Absentees & Invites (The Solstice Show)” (2017)

Gotta Groove Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Gotta Groove Records has been sending 7″ records to their customers (they are primarily an indie vinyl pressing plant – check them out!) for the past seven years, and thankfully, Tim Thorton (half of Couples Skate Only and an employee at Gotta Groove Records) has posted a few copies on their Bandcamp for the past few years. Back in 2015, when I discovered this wonderful little tradition through the Couples Skate Only Bandcamp, they still had copies left of their 2013 release, featuring a track by Tim and his wife Cari, who together are known as Couples Skate Only (a wonderful band name, IMHO). This track, “First Christmas,” is absolutely fantastic, and when I saw that 2017 features Couples Skate Only again, I was psyched. I purchased it, song unheard, and sit here ready to plug what I thought, and confirmed, would be a damn fun song. “Absentees & Invites (The Solstice Show)” follows “First Christmas'” wall-of-synths production, and once again features Cari’s lovely indiepop vocal stylings. The song involves a couple trying to find their way to a winter solstice party, which is of particular note as I’ve been making a mix for 13 years now and this my be the first solstice song I can remember. Please know, I’m sure there are many more, but I can’t honestly peg any at this moment, which makes this song even more interesting. As for Zebra Zebra’s contribution, I’m guessing that the sampled shouts were either Laura and Eileen Thorton, AKA Zebra Zebra. I know that Laura is a toddler/big girl (I have a 4 year old “big boy”), so perhaps Eileen is a baby? This is indeed a family affair, which makes it all the more adorable.

Bottom Line: A synth-drenched indiepop treat indeed. Couples Skate Only have the potential to be one of the indiepop Christmas greats, alongside Christmas Aguilera, Charlies’s Hand Movements, etc, etc.

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Tamu & J’aime – Cantan a la Navidad (2017)

El Nébula Recordings
Buy: Bandcamp (Vinyl/Digital)

This day can’t get any better. (That is a challenge to you, Universe!) Our friends over at @Popcasting hipped me to a project he’s been working on, and what do you know? It is FANTASTIC. Granted, I have very little idea as to what is being said, but I do recognize a “navidad” here and there. You see, back in high school, Spanish was my best subject when we tried out foreign languages, but there were lots of cute girls taking German, and thus, Deutsch! Alas, I remember very little, as I use Google Translate every time I visit Lieinthesound.de! The first track, “Without You There’s No Christmas (Sin ti no hay Navidad)” has a classic feel, with jangly guitars and a strolling beat. The guitars ring out, evoking a country-feel at times, and I totally dig it. “Christmas without You (Navidades sin ti)” sounds much more contemporary, with beautifully layered vocal melodies and some absolutely stellar guitar accents. The ending builds in a mist of reverb, voices rising from the background to join the fray, leading to a beautiful payoff. As an added bonus, those readers who love some good xmas vinyl will be happy to buy (quickly) one of the 250 copies they just got in. Tell em Christmas Underground sent ya.

Bottom Line: A fantastic single – front to back – from our friends at El Nébula and @Popcasting. Perfecto!

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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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Boo Ray and Elizabeth Cook

Boo Ray and Elizabeth Cook “All Strung Out Like Christmas Lights” (2017)

BRRB Music
Buy: 12″ Vinyl | 7Digital MP3 | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

I think it is about time to mix it up from the contemplative indiepop tunes – we need a palate cleanser in anticipation of the feast to come. So, I present this boozy country Christmas single from Boo Ray and Elizabeth Cook, “All Strung Out Like Christmas Lights.” Plenty of pedal steel, bottles of wine, and some seriously fun back and forth between Boo and Elizabeth. I love a good drinking Christmas song, and this one’s outlaw country vibe is just what the doctor ordered today. Pick it up on vinyl too! Cheers!

Bottom Line: Boo and Elizabeth have laid down one of the most enjoyable country Christmas tunes of…. well, the last few years no doubt. I can’t stand pop country, and they obviously can’t either.

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Girl Ray Christmas 7"

Girl Ray “(I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift) This Christmas” (2017)

Moshi Moshi
Buy: 7″ Vinyl + MP3/AIFF | Bandcamp

The wonderful London band Girl Ray has lined up yet another Christmas song for our ear-holes. Last year’s “Christmas Wrapping” was a solid, very faithful cover of the original. This year has them throwing an original our way – “(I Wish I Were Giving You a Gift) This Christmas” is a solid piece of twee longing. Throw in some bonus saxophone, which I’m a sucker for when used tastefully, and the song comes together nicely. The B-side of the limited edition 7″ looks to be a cover of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” which is a nice song, but certainly not one of my favorites. When it’s Girl Ray, who put out a great record earlier this year (which I own), I’ll certainly take anything they want to dish out.

Bottom Line: Solid, longing indiepop for those who dig that kind of stuff (like me).

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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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