Niagara Balls - Jingle Balls

Niagara Balls – Jingle Balls (2014)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

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

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Cocktails - The Most Wonderful Time (For a Beer)

Cocktails “The Most Wonderful Time (For a Beer)” (2012)

Father/Daughter Records
Buy: Bandcamp

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 too4.5/5

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Small Reactions "Happy Christmas to Y'all"

Small Reactions “Santa Claus” (2014)

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:

  1. “Santa Claus” (the Sonics)
  2. “Run Rudolph, Run” (Chuck Berry)
  3. “Christmas Spirit” (the Wailers)
  4. “Don’t Believe In Christmas” (the Sonics)
  5. “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

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Simon Love "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

Simon Love “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” (2014)

freakScene.
Buy: Bandcamp

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

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Noise to the World 2

Noise to the World 2: Converse Rubber Tracks Holiday Music (2014)

Converse Rubber Tracks
Buy: Free!

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

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Pulled Apart by Horses - Merry Christmas Everybody

Pulled Apart by Horses “Merry Christmas Everyone” (2014)

Too Pure Singles Club
Buy: 7″ Vinyl @ NormanRough 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

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dz deathrays

DZ Deathrays “Lonely This Christmas” (2014)

Too Pure
Buy: Soon?

I knew I should have posted this days ago when it had 5 plays on Soundcloud – Blast! Kudos to you Christmas A Go Go! Australian punk/garage rock band DZ Deathrays‘ cover of Mud’s “Lonely This Christmas” appears to be one of (perhaps two) the seasonal selections from the Too Pure Records singles club (which after last year’s fantastic release, may raise expectations). They definitely rock the hell out of the song. This will certainly fit the bill for some punk/pop-punk Christmas music fans out there.

Bottom Line: Not quite there for my personal tastes, but remember, I’m a bit twee. 3/5

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Short Skirts - Christmas Depends on You

Short Skirts “Christmas Depends on You” (2013)

Self Released
Buy: Free!

I love the rabbit hole that is Soundcloud. If I find a song I like, I’ll explore all the playlists that its been added to, in the hopes that the listener has equally good taste as that particular selection. At some point, this journey led me to Short Skirts, a fantastic garage rock band from Norway. “Christmas Depends on You” brings in Ida Horpestad from Blomst on vocals, and her touch really brings this garage/surf Christmas song to the next level. The lyrics are fantastic – I really don’t want to ruin them for you before you listen. To top off an already great song… they are offering it as a free (WAV) download on Soundcloud.

Bottom Line: This song is good enough to be covered for years to come. 5/5

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Chin Chin Records Vol. 2

A Christmas Chin para ti, Vol. 02 (2013)

Chin-Chin Records
Buy: Bandcamp | CD

How the heck do I write this review? I am using a Bandcamp page to give me translations of the titles… so I have at least a clue of what they are singing about. I should cite the Spanish language titles, rather than the English titles – this I know. But now I’m jumping back between two pages for 36 tracks of fantastic Spanish garage rock/indiepop Christmas tunes – and it is feeling quite overwhelming. So, I think I may take the pressure off my shoulders, do a very shallow review, but let you know that THIS IS AWESOME. I largely have NO idea what they are saying, but I don’t care. There are a few that I know, such as The Fraukettes Spanish cover of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” which is absolutely lovely. Then there is Ooby & Dooby’s “Uvas o lentejas,” which Google translates to “Grapes or Lentils,” yet sounds JUST like “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Really, this record is all over the place. Perhaps if I understood Spanish, I might have some criticisms of the lyrics, or perhaps I’d like it even more! There are two English-language tracks on here too – check out the moody “Seasons Greetings” by Leather & Lace.

Bottom Line: I have no idea what they are saying, but I like the groove on 75% of these super-short Christmas tunes. With a name-your-own price on Bandcamp, and a reasonably priced CD version (with beautiful artwork), how could you go wrong? 4.5/5

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the liminanas rarities

The Limiñanas “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (2014)

Trouble in Mind
Buy: 7Digital FLAC/MP3 | Amazon UK | Amazon UK MP3 | iTunes

Get ready for a lovely slice of French garage rock from the duo known as the Limiñanas. This unreleased cover of Phil Spector’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” can be found on their new rarities compilation on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records, (I’ve Got) Trouble In Mind: Singles & Rare Stuff 2009/2014. They don’t stray too far from the spirit of the original (not a dirge to be found), yet their rough-around-the-edges delivery makes it feel like something new. Check it out, buy a copy and impress your friends.

If you find that you like their sound, and want to make a bit more of a commitment, you can even pick this up on vinyl. So, finger to the wind… how does it blow for you?

Bottom Line: I already like the song, and the Limiñanas give me that little bit extra to make this tune mix-worthy. 4.8/5

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