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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Dogs on Tour "Music for Winter Volume 1 & 2"

Dogs on Tour – Music for Winter Volume 1 & 2 (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Way back in 2010, Stubby hipped me to a free download of Dogs on Tour Music for Winter Volume 2. I grabbed those MP3s, enjoyed it, then forgot about it. This is the curse of the Christmas mix… you end up listening to soooo much music, that sometimes it is tough to find the time to really sit down with a record. Fortunately, Dogs on Tour have given me a second chance. 2016 saw the re-release of both Music for Winter Volume 1 and Volume 2, put together as an extremely strong 14-song album. The album is comprised of mostly covers of classic Christmas songs, but there appear to be two originals peppered in there, the extremely solid “Six Words” and jam/sound-collage “I Don’t Know.” (Of note, this would not be a song to play for a Santa-believing child). However, for my money (and btw, it’s name-your-own-price), the highlights of the album are an absolutely essential version of “Christmastime is Here,” where they add saxophone seasoning to perfection. I don’t know what part of the Hudson Branch, Jadiid, Enoke, Andy Mills, Nate Henricks, All that Noise for Feeling mix (these musicians comprise Dogs on Tour at different times) brought the brass section, but thank youuuuu! Other tracks, such as their refreshing and contemporary arrangement on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and their subtle lyrical changes to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” really push this record up to the front of your seasonal rotation. The choices are interesting, the production is great, and that saxophone… that saxophone.

Bottom Line: “Christmastime is Here” is almost so good that it overshadows the other solid tracks, making them look weaker in comparison… but fight that urge. This is a great record. Dogs on Tour have earned themselves a spot on the top shelf of indie Christmas releases.

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Jesu - Christmas

Jesu “Christmas” (2010)

Robotic Empire
Buy: Bandcamp | Discogs (LP)

Post-rock Christmas! This is for those folks who dig Mogwai, or even… though this is a bit more of a stretch, those folks who dug the Mark Kozelek Christmas record last year! Why Koz? Well, he’s putting out a record with Jesu early next year! And whaddaya know? They both have a Christmas record! I don’t know how I missed this for so many years. Honestly, in the places I search, I would have thought that this would have been much more prominently featured, if simply based on indie name-recognition. Released in 2010, and remastered a few years later, this EP comprised of one song and 3 remixes is a great example hard, yet cinematic post-rock Christmas song. Give it a listen, and if you fall in love, the LP is $40 on Discogs. That’s a bargain at $10 a song! Ha!

Bottom Line: Certainly not my usual fare – but I have to say I enjoyed it. I don’t foresee it on my mix, they never get this heavy, but I’m not here just to serve me. Well… mainly me. 3.8/5

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Beans & Fatback "Tonight Girl I'm Coming Back Home"

Beans & Fatback “Tonight Girl I’m Coming Back Home (X-Mas Edit)” (2010)

Excelsior Recordings
Buy: Stream

The Netherlands’ own Beans & Fatback have just dropped a (I stand corrected – thanks Christmas A Go Go!) have a Christmas edit of “Tonight Girl I’m Coming Back Home,” and its a rocking, bar-band R&B good time. While it wasn’t originally a Christmas song, it very much works in the “Coming home for Christmas” milieu. They’ve even adjusted the lyrics very slightly to place it at Christmas, and it works perfectly. Check out this tune, then go down the rabbit-hole to their other stuff – its really pretty great.

Bottom Line: Solid Christmas R&B that could easily find a place on your mix. Points shaved off for no obvious way of purchasing or downloading this great song! 4.6/5

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Christmas With Naive Twins

Naive Thieves & Summer Twins – Christmas With Naive Twins (2010)

Self-Released
Buy: Free! | Also Free!

Way back in 2010, Naive Thieves and Summer Twins, two LA/SoCal-based bands, teamed up for a 2-song Christmas release, Christmas With Naive Twins. The result is a lovely little piece of indie-rock Christmas that sounds like Little Joy & Local Natives got together to record some seasonal sounds. Both “Holiday in the Sand” and “What Better Time than Now” have a timeless feel, contemporary, but harkening back to a 60’s feel at times. These tracks really are something special that should be heard by more people. While it was posted on the Summer Twins Bandcamp page at one point, it no longer resides there, nor on the Naive Thieves Bandcamp. I’ve tried contacting them through Bandcamp and Facebook multiple times, but to no avail. I, for one, would love to pay them a few bucks for FLACs, but for now we’re going to have to settle for the free downloads that still exist on Soundcloud. Thankfully, they are high-bitrate MP3s.

Bottom Line: Both tracks are superb. 4.8/5

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Psst. There are free mp3s over here.

Fletcher C. Johnson "Merry Christmas"

Fletcher C. Johnson “Merry Christmas” (2010)

Burger Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Fletcher C. Johnson has a great pop sensibility, in a garage-rock sense of the word. “Merry Christmas” is the B-Side to his Happy Birthday 7″. It has a truly excellent groove – certainly a groove good enough to be in the running for a mix. Fun, happy lyrics that I genuinely enjoy (believe it!) with the kind of pretty (yet still dirty around the edges) production quality that I am a sucker for. I just have to get over the children’s choir that is low in the mix of the chorus. Certainly worth a listen… I’d imagine you could edit it down to not have such a long intro too…

Bottom Line: Certainly better than most, this tune is solid, though I’d be a much bigger fan if there was a childless version. Oh, and I’d love a download… anybody know if you get an MP3 or FLAC download from the actual 7″? It doesn’t appear to be so on Bandcamp… 3.9/5

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkXoPwt2bMY]
A Very Radiant Christmas (2010)

A Very Radiant Christmas (2010)

Radiant
Buy: Free!

Hailing from New South Wales, all these songs were performed live on Radiant Radio, and thus, you can expect a bit less of a stretch when it comes to overall performance and product.

It starts with a deep-voiced gentleman, Kirin J. Callinan, working through “Merry Christmas,” a song he just wrote. Tough to get through, but to be expected for a song he’s only worked through on his way there.

Packwood’s “Oh Holy Night” is a ramshackle folk performance that comes in and out of tune and key, but that rawness directed to a song that you normally heard sung by a huge voice and soaring orchestra might just be what the doctor ordered.

The Maple Trail and A Casual End Mile & R. Somerset each do covers of traditional songs as well, and none of them are notable enough to highlight. They are both perfectly fine, but the song and the performance just don’t lend themselves to comment.

The Preachers “Run Run Rudolph” is notable for the single fact that you’ve got a woman covering a Chuck Berry tune that is most often covered by dudes. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, you got a twist. Otherwise, nothing too crazy. Excellent guitar playing, but not exactly what I’m looking for.

The Holy Soul’s “Six White Boomers” is a original, normally a bonus a cover (Stubby has corrected me, it is apparently a Rolf Harris tune)… and the production value (e.g., the sound… not everyone is mic’d well) torpedos it. I can’t say that I think the song is very good either. If you are an Aussie, you might enjoy it a bit more; I doubt I get the humor, especially when it sounds like they are having sex in the middle of a song.

Side Note: This is the second review where I have missed a cover version and assumed it was an original. I either have to take more time doing research (which I likely will not have time for) or you will just have to take what I say with a grain of salt.

Bottom Line: Overall, not something you need to take the time with unless something I described above sounds particularly appealing. 1.5/5

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Kite Club “Royal Gums” (2010)

Speak’N’Spell
Buy: Free!

Melbourne’s Kite Club first came to my attention via their recent profile on The Line of Best Fit (a wonderful music blog if you don’t already read it). So, I headed over to their Soundcloud page, pressed play, and began to do some work. While listening to their 2010 EP Esoterica, I heard jingle bells. “Royal Gums” is an oddball of a Christmas song… one that I would really love to know all the lyrics to. If I am not crazy, it begins as such: “Gorgonzola on Rye, made the Christians cry.” I really want to know these lyrics. This track sounds like it would be a great compliment to a Parenthetical Girls’ Christmas release… so if you like that vibe, you’ll like this one too. I’m about 95% sold that it will be on 2013’s mix. Oh, and its free for download on their Soundcloud page!

Bottom Line: Really interesting, could claw back that .5 to be a classic… just give it time. 4.5/5

The Love Language

The Love Language “White Christmas,” “Gsus,” “Christmas in Toyland” (2008-2011)

Bladen County Records/Merge Records/Self-Released

The Love Language make some fine indie rock in Raleigh, NC… and in the proud tradition of their fellow Raleigh-ites, The Rosebuds, have some incredible Christmas tunes.

In 2008, the Love Language released “White Christmas” on a (now long-lost) download-only comp put out by Bladen County Records. However, this is not your parents’ “White Christmas.” You can’t get much darker than “Santa bring my baby to me / I’m gonna hang myself from a Christmas Tree / But all the ones that I’ve bought / They’re only six feet tall.” So… be prepared… and also be ready for some fantastic music. This song sounds amazing.

2010 saw the Love Language move on from Bladen County Records, and head for the bright lights of indie-rock powerhouse Merge. It also marks the first year of (what I really hope is) a yearly tradition of last-minute Christmas songs released to the Raleigh-centric (duh) blog NewRaleigh.com. “Gsus” is a fantastic groove, one that made its way onto my 2011 mix and remains a personal favorite. It was recorded by Stu and BJ, with voicemails from the band members who were out of town – which sounds odd, but totally works. YOU NEED THIS.

The Love Language released “Christmas in Toyland” to NewRaleigh.com last year… also in the nick of time (Dec. 23). Another great song… a bit of a slow-burner, but very well worth it. Check it out.

My fingers are crossed… and I’ve been checking The Love Language’s FB and NewRaleigh.com for the past few days, hoping for another late Christmas gift from one of the great composers of indie rock Christmas classics.

Bottom Line: Free downloads of fantastic original songs. 5/5 

The Aislers Set

The Aislers Set “Cold Christmas” (2010)

Self-Released/Suicide Squeeze?
Buy: Free!

I wanted a quick post today, just to keep things rolling. So, I thought I’d dip my toes into the generally excellent back catalogue of Christmas tunes that The Aislers Set have amassed. Their most recent xmas release was 2010’s “Cold Christmas,” released too late for most to enjoy during that year. However, if you were lucky enough to come across it in early 2011, then you are in your second season of grooving to this indie-pop classic. “Cold Christmas” is good enough to be on anybody’s Christmas mix – I only wish that they would release it properly… on a site such as Bandcamp, so that I might have a FLAC. Hear me Aislers Set? I will pay for this… my $1+ is at the ready.

Bottom Line: Free and FANTASTIC. 5/5

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