If I had a nickel for every time I said, “You name your band Toad Venom, and I’m going to check you out.” Well, a bunch of psych rock musicians from Vikingstad, Sweden finally took me up on this well-known offer, and have also made some absolutely excellent psych Christmas music! 2021’s The Ingen vidare jul (Christmas is cancelled) EP is two tracks of badass psych, as the leadoff track “God Jul” blasts off, a soaring Swedish Christmas anthem (to which I have no clue what is being said). The flip, “Merry (Christmas) and me,” is in English, and very much suits their style as described on Bandcamp: “A band, experimenting the void between spaghetti western and psychedelic rock.” Those twangy western guitars that introduce the track – so terribly cool. The song builds and builds, at times triggering me to think a bit about Spiritualized for some reason. There are so many cool movements to this song, yet it still comes in at an economical 4:00. Perhaps one of the most badass Christmas tunes I’ve come across in a good while.
Bottom Line: Two extremely good tracks from my new favorite band and best friends (pending).
I suppose I’m back… gone much longer than I usually do. I often crash a day or two before Christmas, with a browser overloaded with open tabs that I stare at for a few months until I get the courage to finally sift through them. Well… a few months turned into more than a few months (does that make sense?). I suppose I’ll do my best this year, for what this might be worth, and try to hip you to some Christmas tunes I particularly like.
It does appear to be a bit early in the season, so I hope I can be forgiven for writing about something that “those in the know” already know about. Obviously, it is the new Los Chrismos EP by London’s premier surf/psych/rock quartet Los Bitchos. I don’t know what qualifies for an EP anymore, as with two songs, I might have called this a single! I’d like to dwell on that for a bit more, but even I am bored with me now. The lead track off the EP, “Los Chrismos” rides that seam between groovy and chill, exuding a great time from start to finish. Not that I’m completely scared off by an instrumental, but their giggling and chanting were engaging enough that I rather missed them when they weren’t there. I am quite curious what the b-side is going to sound like – but I’m sure at least this first track, “Los Chrismos,” is going to be on a lot of mixes this year.
For those (like me) who love a physical object, there is a flexi-disc of this single as added-bonus to their early-2022 debut, Let the Festivities Begin. So grab that “Los Chrismos Edition” of the vinyl LP and you’ll be the proud owner of a very limited and super-hip Christmas release that will likely make folks like me a bit jealous.
Bottom Line: Track one was fun, but it still leaves the question as to whether track two will bring on the apocalypse (or also be a fun Christmas song).
Memphis psych-rock taco afficianados Spaceface are quickly building a reputation for their badass Christmas songs. 2018 saw Spaceface release two holiday tracks, their woozy psych rendition of “Christmas Time is Here,” as well as their collaboration with LABRYS (Penny of Broncho), “Single Star,” which was a highlight from Fowler VW presents A Blackwatch Christmas Vol. VIII: The Sounds of the Season. This year (so far), they are releasing a lathe-cut, limited to 68 copies, naughty psych-rock jam called “Xmas Party (Nice & Naughty).” This song is an orgy for the ears, with a groove that recalls the kind of party music that Grapes and Friends throw down, combined with the naughty voiceover styles of Ryan Lindsey (of Broncho). Sandwich this song within a playlist, and who knows what is gonna happen. There does not appear to be a digital download of this… yet.
Bottom Line: This groove should sustain you all for a good while!
(The rest of this review is an aside. Up there… that is my one-word review. Pennsylvania’s The Stargazer Lilies have taken the dreamy Galaxie 500 cover and thrown on a glamour shot-shimmery sheen to this John & Yoko classic. This also provides all you mixmasters with a shoegaze version that comes in under 5 minutes! Perhaps you had forgotten that the wonderful Galaxie 500 version clocks in around 8 minutes…a bit long for me. Also of note, The Stargazer Lilies also have a new record coming out Nov. 1, Occabot, produced by Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow!)
Bottom Line: This song’s soothing glow eased my wordy proclivities… (sort of).
Don’t you hate it when you find a band, get all excited, then find out that band has JUST broken up. Well… consider this fantastic garage rock anthem Sapin‘s final Christmas gift to us all. This four-piece garage country-rock band from the Rennes, France countryside demands that you move around in your seat. The youthful exuberance seeps out of every pore with this song – from the lyrics of anticipation and angst – to the driving music and carefree, raspy vocals. This song is just damn, damn fun. Prendre plaisir! (Google translate, don’t fail me now!)
Bottom Line: You are sitting on your couch, wearing your headphones, and your family begins to see you slightly convulse, legs wiggling, head bobbing, eyes wide. This sounds about right.
So many Aussies, so little time. Pond is a fantastic psych rock band from Perth who are the spiritual brothers of Tame Impala, even sharing members at times. “All I Want for Xmas (Is a Tascam 388)” came off of Pond’s excellent LP The Weather, released way back in May of 2017. I know Jim, you’ve known about this for a while, why now? Well, I got nothing – time is a fickle beast, and who knows when our time (or a song’s time) will come. This is a psychedelic delight with wonderful layers of synths, chunky beats, and a deep yearning for that Tascam mixer. Clocking in at just about 2:30, it also doesn’t overwear its welcome; Brevity is essential for a Christmas song that really only has one point to make. Santa, go grab that guy a Tascam 388!
Bottom Line: Mixing it up a bit with some psychedelic Christmas tunes, which can be hard to come by. Pond are top tier psych, and this is a pretty fun song.
I can’t even begin to explain who Argentinian-born, France-recorded, UK-reissued Jean-Pierre Bernard Massiera is, but I can say that this track from 1968, recently digitally reissued by London’s Finders Keepers Records, is pretty badass. The release, Bonne Année, technically contains two tracks, “Bonne année” and “Bonne année 1969,” but the first is so much slower and less interesting, and I really just wanted to yell about how much damn fun “Bonne année 1969” is. It is funky, it is trippy, it has off-mic screaming, a driving beat, one hell of a brass section, cackling and ho ho hos – so pretty much everything. It is, simply said, FUN.
Bottom Line: Would you drink water from the kitchen sink? Well no, but this kitchen sink, why yes I would.
Well how about that? Two posts on one day for the same exact song. Technically, three versions of the song if you really want to get into the nitty gritty. This version is a hell of a lot more fun though. Perennial Christmas Underground favorites The Kansas Bible Company are back with yet another collaboration, this time with fellow Nashville band Okey Dokey to do a psych-brushed take on “Blue Christmas.” These old standards really benefit from fresh sounds, and this super-combo, renamed The Nashville Country Cowboys has hit on something very cool. Still not my favorite song to begin with, but their psych + mariachi horn combo is damn entertaining. Check it out for yourselves!
Bottom Line: The Nashville Country Cowboys find their own entrance into “Blue Christmas” and make it their own.
This cassette (and download) release from 2013 somehow snuck by me. Its a small release with largely originals… exactly what I’m normally clawing through the internet to find.
“Wyoming County”, the Scott Rankie song that leads off the release is quite nice – sparse, with a solid, pained vocal. If this was an example of things to come, I would have been very pleased. However, like any Christmas compilation, this release ends up all over the board. The following track, Kevin Marlis’ “Saturday Slay” is a noisy, psych mess (though, in a good way), and I can’t quite hear the Christmas connection whatsoever. Other tracks are lo-fi indiepop (Songs by Thom’s “The Colours of Christmas”), 50’s pop-inspired profanity (“Jeffzilla’s “Christmas Song”), and what appears to be fuzzed-out karaoke (White Widow’s “When Santa Clause Gets Your Letter”), to name a few. It kept my interest, which I don’t say for a lot of Christmas comps… but I can’t say I really loved it.
Bottom Line: I found this comp to be unique, and at times, quite interesting. I have a feeling like some of you might find something else in these songs – that and the name-your-own-price on Bandcamp is encouraging. 3/5
The Burger Records’ crew is always churning out indie rock/garage rock Christmas tunes this time of year, and finally, Seth Pettersen has gotten in on the act! I really loved his 2012 release, Natural Machine, so I was pumped when I saw his song pop up on Burger’s Holiday playlist. It’s a simple song, Seth gets high, calls Sasha, gets the message. Perhaps done by anybody else, I wouldn’t enjoy it quite so much, but Seth is just great. I should be more academic, but I just really like Seth. Even if you don’t like this song, check out that link above for Natural Machine. I wore that cassette OUT.
Bottom Line: Seth Pettersen all up in your earholes. 4/4