Wellington, New Zealand’s The Undercuts have created a ramshackle gem of a weirdo Christmas song with “The Grunge Who Stole Christmas.” Electronic voices part to make room for a funky beat and vocals that remind me of the greatly-missed The Rapture, which I would consider a high compliment. While I would love to dissect the lyrics a bit more – they aren’t quite distinguishable… but that has never stopped me from liking a song! However, they do finish it up with a quite understandable and urgent “MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.” A deliciously distressed Christmas song for a distressingly disturbed time.
Bottom Line: Need to mess up your mix a bit? This rough ditty by The Undercuts might be the perfect fit.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
Illinois’ la-goons have dropped a tight, two-track single that is absolutely worth your time. The garage/punk energy of “Krampus” and “(Mid)westy” have a understated quality that I haven’t quite heard all season. Each song has a midwestern bitterness that is given some levity by the fast beat and lo-fi production. Or more simply, it’s a punk rock aesthetic – some angry shit that puts a smile on your face. Truly enjoyed both tracks, and I think you might too.
Bottom Line: These Illinois goons strike a win for those who hate the cold, which is everyone at some point, no matter how much you like snow.
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.
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3
Glasgow’s Catholic Action had a nice track “New Year” on their recent debut, In Memory of, this past year. Checked it out, dug it, but for some reason didn’t find myself compelled to write that very moment. Then, they whip out this holiday single with a brand new track, “No Angels,” along with a new mix of “New Year,” and I just gotta. “No Angels” throws the bar down immediately – “You can’t have sex at Christmas / you can’t make love or screw / celebrate as he intended / with television and food.” Who doesn’t like a Christmas song with attitude? This song has attitude to spare, but hidden amongst that swagger are some damn clever turns of phrase: “I’m old enough to know better / but young enough to want more.” So, the A-side is fantastic, what about the B-side, “New Years – Christmas Miracle Mix?” This song rocks more than “No Angel’s” dirty walk, with dirty guitars raising up the shout-worthy chorus. “Casiotone I’m painfully alone, I’m pining over you.” Even a namecheck for one of the legends of indie rock Christmas! This band obviously know the indie-Christmas canon they are joining, and what an entrance.
Bottom Line: Perhaps the strongest 1-2 punch of the season. I don’t know what held me back before, but this pairing is just what I needed to see the light.
Just based on the titles, I knew I was at least going to like Niagara Balls. Then I heard them… and I was right! I do enjoy a slightly fucked up Christmas song, and “Don’t Be a Dick At Christmas” is exactly that. Not only does it have a good message, but throwing in some PG-13 language is refreshing in Christmas music! “I’m not saying / you can’t party / I’m just saying / Don’t be shitty.” Words to live by.
“Casual Racism at the Dinner Table” showcases once again Niagara Balls’ spectacular ability to lure me in with a great title. This is a story-song about Boxing Day that leaves no family member unscathed. The one truth that I can specifically relate to is that yes, everybody should like Michael Caine. Solid, but not as… charming?… as the first track, IMHO.
The final track, “Christmas ’96,” is a completely unexpected electronic dance track that samples Biggie’s classic “Juicy.” Most certainly apples to oranges. I dig it, just can’t find a compelling reason to consider it on a Christmas blog beyond the title.
Bottom Line: There’s some great stuff here. “Don’t Be a Dick on Christmas” will most certainly find it’s way onto someone’s mix. 3.8/5
I apologize for the language; I’m apparently quite fond of profanity in 2015.
San Francisco’s Cocktails are the perfect follow-up to that Pupppy track – they are both on the same label, Father/Daughter Records, and they both recorded drunk Christmas tunes. Shit really appears to be hitting the fan – girl is gone, transmission is busted, life has kicked them in the nuts. “I don’t hear the children singing / I don’t hear the sleigh bells ringing / Its the most wonderful time / Its the most wonderful time / for a beer.” The contrast of the shit situation with the upbeat, happy chorus makes for a great, interesting song from what could easily have been a throwaway with a good title.
Of note, Cocktails also appear on the Bay Bridged 2014 Holiday Compilation, previously talked about on the always-influential Stubby’s House of Christmas. Check it out – its another great power-pop Christmas song for your earholes.
Bottom Line: Clocking in at 2:07, shotgun this beer onto your mix if you want to pick up the pace. Maybe see them live with Wild Nothing on May 22nd too! 4.5/5
Deer Bear Wolf Records
Buy: Cassette | Bandcamp
Small Reactions are a garage/indie rock band from Athens, Georgia, who happen to also share members with the excellent Slumberland band Gold-Bears. In November 2013, they recorded a 5-track cassette in the band’s basement, which the version of The Sonics “Santa Claus” comes from. The reverb-drenched vocals huddle next to the rocking organ in this faithful, fun & dirty cover. I can’t wait to hear what the other tracks sound like.
Merry Christmas to Y’all tracklist:
- “Santa Claus” (the Sonics)
- “Run Rudolph, Run” (Chuck Berry)
- “Christmas Spirit” (the Wailers)
- “Don’t Believe In Christmas” (the Sonics)
- “Dancin’ With Santa” (the Trashmen)
These Merry Chistmas to Y’all cassettes have begun popping up in various places in the Atlanta area, gift wrapped and gratis. However, for those of us who cannot travel a couple hundred miles to hunt one out can pick one up on their Bandcamp page. Hot tip, (likely for a limited time) if you purchase a CD/LP, you get the cassette for free!
Bottom Line: Excellent version of an excellent song. Can’t wait to hear the rest. 4.6/5
Simon Love already has one Christmas song coming out this season, “Santa’s Beard”, found on A Very Cherry Christmas 10. He must really have found the spirit, because he felt another was in order. Simon Love acheived exactly what he set out to do – cover “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” as The Jesus and Mary Chain. You cannot get more fuzzed out guitars if you tried. Certainly a unique take on a classic song. However, I do feel that this is less a crowd pleaser and more to a particular taste – perhaps yours?
Bottom Line: “Winter Wonderland” is certainly not my favorite Christmas classic, but points for an original take. 3.9/5
Converse Rubber Tracks
Converse is at it again! Noise to the World 2 dropped, and while the Soundcloud play count suggests otherwise, they snuck by me once more! Well, for 2 days or so at least. This one is looking HOT! Four of the six tracks have dropped, with two more coming tomorrow (DUM DUM GIRLS with an ORIGINAL SONG!).
For starters. The GRMLN track, “Before December (You’re Alive)” has a great vibe that any self-respecting indie rock fan will enjoy (hi, I’m one of those folks). I love the programmed beats with the acoustic guitar. GRMLN’s got a new record out, as well as some great covers on their Youtube channel – check them out.
Deer Tick have written yet another Christmas tune, “White Havoc,” though the melody is crazy familiar. Fuzzy guitars, dark lyrics and instruments that sound as though they are battling for space – love it. When are they just going to bite the bullet and write an fuzz rock Christmas classic record?
I’ve got to say – These Rubber Tracks releases seem to seek out and find great rap Christmas tracks. The Michael Christmas track, “Pleasant Winter,” has a great backing track. I love the mix of nostalgia and getting some – there’s something real there. IamSu! Feat. HBK CJ & 1-O.A.K. bring us “Next Season,” while not terrible, is unfortunately not my vibe. The production, with the autotune and the tin-ny programmed beats are certainly a rap convention… but not one I tend to be attracted to.
The final two tracks are just about as different as you could get. Torreblanca & Iraida Noriega’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is the only non-original song on the release… and while its quite nice, the only part that I really got into was towards the very end. The vocals & the music swell in an unexpected way, which was quite nice. The Dum Dum Girls‘ electro-pop “On Christmas” strikes me as a natural progression from the sound of their last album, Too True. Synths dotted that album, lying just under the Jesus & Mary Chain guitars… they just went full-electro on this.
Bottom Line: An even stronger showing than laster year’s generally excellent Noise to the World. 4.6/5
Too Pure Singles Club
Buy: 7″ Vinyl @ Norman, Rough Trade, Piccadilly, Banquet or Action Records
Pulled Apart by Horses has taken this Slade song that I am normally pretty bored with, and ripped some shit up. I don’t know if you can rock this song out any harder without losing the melody. I especially love when they layer the vocals, with one voice screaming while the other sings. I’m trying not to use any more profanity, but this song makes you want to swear. This is the a-side to the DZ Deathrays track, and while I can’t find it digitally yet, it is available for preorder from all the fine retailers you see above.
Bottom Line: Fresh, fucking urgent take on a “classic” song. 4.8/5