A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Xmas Mixer (2013)

A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Xmas Mixer

Self-Released
Buy: Free!

This 3-song Christmas EP was released on Christmas day last year – so I’m guessing this is the first time that they may be finding their way to a Christmas mix, unless you were REALLY late last year. Xmas Mixer features three members of A Sunny Day in Glasgow, each taking a song and running with it. First, there’s Jen, who sings the awful “Christmas All Around” from Love, Actually. You know, the song that the washed up rock singer is pimping? Well, she does it quite well, for it being a generally awful song! Second up is Annie, who picks “The Holly and the Ivy,” which has become a song du jour in recent years. She strips it down, layers some vocals with what sounds like cello, then adds some fluttering digital bits, all to a beautiful result. Finally, Adam supplies a synth version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which I honestly can’t get into. Midi Christmas has never been my thing, and never will be. But hey, I’m not you!

Bottom Line: Lets see… Two solid tracks? Check. Free? Indeed. 4/5

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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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Worthwhile Way “White Christmas” (2013/2014)

Worthwhile Way/Madison Bloodbath Split

Eager Beaver Records (JP)/A.D.D. Records (US)
Buy: Bandcamp

Worthwhile Way is a country punk band hailing from… Japan! This track comes off their split release with Madison Bloodbath, The Moon in the Darkness, which was originally released on CD in Japan in October 2013, but got its first stateside release via A.D.D. Records on 10″ Vinyl in January of 2014. I tried to find some lyrics, to no avail. That said, it does appear that the song is sung fully in English. Despite the lyrical challenges, I am quite confident in saying that the song is most certainly not a cover of the classic “White Christmas,” but a wholly original tune. I like the vibe, even if I can’t make out the lyrics. Check it out for yourself!

Bottom Line: If you need something more upbeat for your mix, these Japanese cowpunks might have the song for you. 3.9/5

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Sugar & Tiger “Noël Christmas” (2011/2014)

Sugar & Tiger - Noel Christmas

Atmosphériques
Buy: Amazon UK | Band’s Webstore | Amazon FR MP3 | Bandcamp

Sugar & Tiger‘s “Noël Christmas” has been around since 2011, but the song was not properly released until this year on their debut, Télévisage. An extremely fun tune, sung largely in French with some English in the chorus, these Parisians expertly straddle the pond. They list their influences as the Ramones, the Raveonettes and Phil Spector… so it makes perfect sense that they recorded a rockin’ Christmas song.

Bottom Line: Upbeat with that certain, I don’t know what (hehe) that makes me want to listen to it multiple times. If only it were easier to purchase as a single song! 4.1/5

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Eux Autres – Another Christmas at Home (2009)

Eux Autres - Another Christmas at Home

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes7Digital MP3/FLAC

Eux Autres released their Another Christmas at Home 7-inch back in 2009, and in the subsequent four years, have earned (what I would consider) a status of indie-Christmas classic. Their original song, the titular “Another Christmas at Home” is 2:18 celebrating a warm fuzzy drinking-at-home Christmas that I’m sure a number of us can relate to. Short, sweet, and great. Their two covers, Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” and the Jacobites’ “Teenage Christmas” are equally wonderful – Eux Autres’ sound adds something to the song that makes you think they should be Eux Autres originals. (I especially love the lo-fi indiepop take on “Teenage Christmas.”) Unfortunately, the 7″ version will be hard to come by, as it was limited to 250 copies and is sold out – but do some digging and you might get lucky.

Bottom Line: The kind of solid effort you wish would come out more frequently. Truly enjoyable with some great choices. 5/5

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Aquatic Slime “Milestones (Another Year)” (2013)

Aquatic Slime

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

For a band who is not a band… this is one hell of a song. Hailing form Essex, Aquatic Slime’s only real internet presence is a Soundcloud account, which houses all their tunes for free download. The only place for additional information is Drowned in Sound, where they are a community member of the boards. Thus, in an oddly similar style to Faye and the Scrooges, Aquatic Slime is another yet-to-be-proper band that has snuck a great Christmas tune under the music radar; “Milestones” has 64 plays at the time of this publish, and likely 10 of those were mine. So give this electro-pop a spin, and feel free to let them know if you like it. Wonderful female vocals, excellent lyrics, and a certainly a different Christmas jam than you’re used to.

Note: I contacted the “band” to find out more: “We aim to make a Christmas track every year (past tracks include A Rave in a Manger, God Rest ye Badass Gentlemen, Ding Dong Merrily, I’m High…), but this was the first where we had a bit more originality. It was very fun to make too!” 

Awesome – so be on the lookout for this year’s track!

Bottom Line: Perhaps the best not-a-band out there. 4.8/5

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Hot Shorts – Xmas Single (2014)

Hot Shorts - Xmas Single

Self-Released / Cat from Japan Records
Buy: Bandcamp | Cassette

The Manchester band Hot Shorts has laid (first track-related pun!) some nice Christmas tunes on us with plenty of time to spare. Not trying to be taken too seriously, this 2-track release starts off with “Sex Christmas.” Here are the lyrics if you wish: “I wanna Sex Christmas / and I don’t even know what that means.” That’s pretty much it! The vibe is fun – heavy guitars, shouting, everything you’d hope from sexin’ it up at Christmas.

The second tune is pretty fantastic, and while I enjoy the cheekiness of the leadoff track, “I Don’t Even Want to Talk about It (This Christmas),” certainly satisfies my hunger for indie-rock Christmas tunes. I’m trying to find a good RIYL – perhaps Weezer if they hadn’t sucked for the past 10 years? Listen to it though. Its totally worth the 1:32 it runs…

Bottom Line: Two SHORT tunes, a name-your-own-price, and an opportunity to get a luxurious, double-sided artwork cassette tape? 4.3/5

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Linedance Fever “Last Christmas” (2011)

The Linedance Fever - Last Christmas

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Like my fellow friend-in-Christmas Stubby, I too believe that the Swedish country-punk band, The Linedance Fever, have recorded one of the most wonderful and original versions of the oft-covered Wham! classic, “Last Christmas.” I have included a few covers of this song on my mixes in the past, each one quite distinct from the other… and this version joins the Erlend Oye version as the best that you can find. (They also have another Christmas tune, 365 Days of Christmas, and I may review that at some point… and I do hope they make some more.)

Bottom Line: A gem. If you have any taste, you’ll think so too. 🙂 5/5

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Memoryhouse “Christmas Island” (2013)

Memoryhouse - Christmas Island

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Memoryhouse released their second Christmas tune this past season, a cover of the Andrews Sisters’ minor classic, “Christmas Island.” As to be expected, it is quite pretty. The synths and drum machine give it an atmosphere that I haven’t heard on this song before – so it certainly checks off that “make it your own” requirement of a good cover. Not quite sure how I feel about the guitar solos, but I’ve never been a guitar solo guy to begin with. The track also benefits the New Moon Rabbit Rescue, so with every seasonal dollar you send, they help care for some adorable rabbits.

Bottom Line: Memoryhouse highlight a less-often-covered tune, and do it well. They might not have knocked my socks off (yet), but I’ll give it some more time to sink in. Generally well chosen, executed, and intentioned. 3.9/5

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