I’m in a mood tonight. I want to just yell and swear (in a good way) about every record I find. You have no idea what I’ve already written and deleted for this review, but let your mind go crazy. Glasgow’s The Martial Arts is a project of Paul Kelly, whose CV is a murderers row of great bands (BMX Bandits / Carla J Easton / The Primary 5 / Ette / Radiophonic / Tuckshop / How to Swim / The Hector Collectors) has put together this just FUCKING FUN AND WONDERFUL Christmas EP, recorded over eight years and finished over lockdown. The first two bouncing, beautiful tracks, “Stockings” and “Snow Flakes,” just take off like a rocket and shoot sparklers out of their ass for four minutes a piece. I devoured every second, with a giant grin on my face. “My Christmas was in June” is a cover of a Ze Malibu (feat. members of Redd Kross and that dog) song, and while the tempo slows to a stroll, the scenery is gorgeous. The final track and the only one actually fully-recorded in 2020, “Blinded by the Night” takes me back to the 80’s, to an emotional moment in a movie with lots of driving in the rain and staring out the window. “Stare into my bright disco eyes,” god I love that line. Go buy this record, but wait a few hours for #Bandcampfriday, why don’t ya?
Bottom Line: This is an indie/power/retro pop mixture that, like the unholy concoction the Long Island iced tea, will fuck you up real good.
Dot Dash / Remote Control Records
Aussie Jeremy Neale LOVES Christmas. His first Christmas single, 2016’s “Christmas Time (Is My Favourite Time Of The Year)” pretty much sums up his holiday attitude. (That track is great too, maybe I’ll need another post.) His 2017 Christmas single, “Christmas (Turn This Around),” finds Jeremy giving a holiday humbugger a pep talk – they have never found happiness in Christmas, but he is going to turn their holiday around. The driving power-pop rhythm culminates in a flurry of brass and congas that will not be denied, making this perhaps the happiest Christmas song that I can possibility stand at the moment. I mean, can’t you tell I’m falling apart here? I am writing about HAPPY MUSIC. I’m desperately trying to be positive. GO VOTE.
Bottom Line: This song is so happy it could turn a grinch into a Who! GO VOTE. *smooches*
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.
HELL YEAH! Make Like Monkeys, whose back catalogue of Christmas tunes is vast, has made what I consider to be… his best Christmas song yet! This power pop jam of a boozy Christmas has a complex levity that I truly appreciate at this particular moment. “So screw the bills, the mortgage and the cat / you gotta grab it now, cause Christmas doesn’t last.” There is screaming along to Christmas songs, drunken joy and close friends, but also a reminder of those credit card bills waiting for you on the other side. You know, reality. But I FEEL that sentiment… you gotta grab it now, cause Christmas (hell, everything) doesn’t last.
Bottom Line: Make Like Monkeys has upped his game even higher. Truly pleased Mark reached out today. (Of note, I find this song best listened to loud… louder than your computer speakers might let you. Just gives it that extra bit of oomph.)
Ok… so I pretty much just chose one song, because to tackle the whole thing would be overwhelming. There are 20+ songs on Make Like Monkeys’ Soundcloud account – some covers, and lots of originals. Not many have over 50 listens, and for these most recent ones… I was the first tick on the counter. “Xmas Time W/ U” is one of 6 new tracks released overnight, each one with the same 60’s influenced, lo-fi power pop treatment. I wish I knew more about MLM, but truly, Soundcloud is it – no other social media to be found. Simply said, the songwriting and production are certainly more interesting than most milquetoast Christmas releases, and especially for you power-pop folks, you may just find what you’re looking for here.
Bottom Line: Make Like Monkey’s Christmas output is certainly worthy of many more listens. There is some really solid stuff here.
Grande Vague Musique
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon MP3 | Vinyl (shipping from Canada)
How about some surf/power-pop from Québec for your hump day enjoyment? Los‘ released Big Surf on October 7th, their LP follow-up to the EP Small Surf, and snuck a Christmas song on the end! “Christmas in D” has me recalling the feel and sound of Mojave 3 at their most poppy, which isn’t necessarily very poppy, but more a mid-tempo, atmospheric, country-twinged dream pop scenario. I’m thinking this through as I write it, so bear with me. I’m really feeling a healthy dash of Pernice Brothers too, especially with the dark lyrics and the vocal layering. “All is well, you never can tell / If heaven is a place to sell / if loving is a wishing well / pulling you under” Los has some nice turns of phrase here, highlighted nicely with multiple listens (so listen!). Los has delivered a complex and interesting Christmas song, perfect for a place like Christmas Underground, and poison for a Christmas party. Hey… that would be a good tagline for this site!
Botton Line: A complex song stylistically, lyrically, and emotionally. Los has my vote! #twomoreweeksofhell
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
Tiny Teeth Records
This is a two track free download of tunes from A Wonderful Christmas Time, an improvised (yes… improvised!) film coming out in the UK soon (Already On Demand, in theaters Dec. 12). The two tracks they’ve put on Soundcloud are pretty great. The Lovely Wars‘ “The First Noel” is a great, modern take on a song that is usually pretty straightforward; their vocal choices really set this version apart. Jon Windle‘s title track, “A Wonderful Christmas Time,” is a lot of fun. Upbeat, cooky, and everything you’d want from a powerpop Christmas tune. To top it off… the artwork for this digital single was done by Rob Taylor from Los Campesinos!
Bottom Line: Two great tracks for zero money? YES! 4.8/5
Buy: Limited 7″ | iTunes | 7Digital MP3
Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers/Scud Mountain Boys), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and Mike Belitsky (The Sadies) have created an alt.country/power pop supergroup called The New Mendicants, and are looking to release their first full-length LP on January 28. This would be news in itself, but the fact that they also released a limited, white vinyl 7″ entitled A Very Sorry Christmas Eve is the reason why I write this post! Joe has a history of some Christmas-related songs in the past (see SMB’s “A Ride” and another that I can’t put my finger on), but nothing so explicitly so. Thank goodness it finally happened! “A Very Sorry Christmas” is a fantastic song, the perfect bummer for the humbug in your family (which would be me!). But as with any Joe Pernice project, its a bummer that sounds beautiful while sucking out your soul. As for the B-side, “A Very Sorry New Years,” is the exact same song, just adjusted for New Years Eve. Oddly hilarious to have done so.
Bottom Line: If shipping from Canada wasn’t SO EXPENSIVE, I would rate this higher. I honestly don’t know when I’ll be able to afford it. Why I am telling you about it before I have the chance to own it… I have no idea. Perhaps the world will have some cosmic justice and I’ll get a copy. 4/5