Dearnley “Christmas in a Strip Club” (2018)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

David W. Dearnley has managed to take a provocative title, which many a song relies on exclusively, and surprises the hell out of me. The song does not just being and end with that title – it is the little details that make this song so damn special. However, this song  would not be possible with David’s voice, which has a quality that can’t be denied. It is one of those voices that sounds lived in, one with a patina that grows more beautiful under bar lights. Stubby wrote about this record earlier in December, and he rightly loved this track as well. He loved the twist as much as I… that the protagonist is recapturing childhood memories at the strip club, the one “where the Stuckey’s used to be.” You’ll have to listen to the whole thing to get it, and even when you know the reveal is coming, it is still so very worth it. “Christmas in a Strip Club” is a dirty, sad, thoughtful, beautiful song that is worth your money… so bring a stack of singles.

Bottom Line: This song reminds me of a Raymond Carver short story – dark, personal, and fascinating. Highly recommended.

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Delicious Christmas Vol​.​3 – Return of the Christmas (2018)

Delicious Clam Records
Buy: Bandcamp

THEY ARE BACK! Sheffield’s Delicious Clam Records is back with Vol. 3, and while it is a brisk 2-track affair, wow are they fantastic! The first track by Thee Mightees, “Christmas Song,” is a stone-cold mix-worthy indie rock classic. The groove is infections, and the lyrics are brilliant: “I hate Christmas rock n roll / Shane MacGowan and Kristy MacColl / I hate Jesus / I hate Chuck Berry / I hate Santa and his big fat belly.” HA! Wizzard, Slade, Paul McCartney, Band Aid amongst others, also get a serving of shade. It is a TON of fun.

The second track by Five Leaf Nettles, “Moonwalk in the Snow,” is a gorgeous, simple guitar and vocals song. The lyrics are nostalgic, touching, and the perfect foil to the wonderfully bitter lead track. “If I can’t walk backwards, then I don’t wanna go.”

All proceeds go towards HARC (Homeless and Rootless at Christmas). So, while you are donating to help the homeless in Norman, Oklahoma, why not keep your wallet open and help out the needy in Sheffield?

Bottom Line: This is so so so so so so so so so so good. What a pair. WHAT a pair.

Whyte Horses “Next Year Will Be Mine / Coldest Night of the Year” (2018)

CRC Records
Buy: Limited 7″ | iTunes | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Truly, what more can I say about this record? First, Snowflakes Christmas Singles wrote a full history of them! If you dig this – then please go there and find out all about them… you’ll find that this is an indie super-project of sorts! That said – If there is one release this holiday season that all my blogger friends can seem to get behind, it is most certainly this one. Manchester’s Whyte Horses have put together a fantastic double-A-sided 7″, with one original and a perfectly-chosen cover on the flip. “Next Year Will Be Mine,” in all its Phil Spector-glory, will leave folks at your Christmas party asking “who sings this??” The mistakes, problems, and shit of the last year are a memory – replaced by a hope that this new year is going to be different. The content is pretty heavy at times, but the music wraps it up in beautiful paper, a wonderful dichotomy indeed. The cover, “Coldest Night of the Year,” is pitch-perfect. Lucy Styles and Natalie McCool’s vocals both have an uncanny Vashti Bunyan-quality, while the orchestration’s subtle changes are just beautiful. This whole thing is a standout of the season.

Bottom Line: Whyte Horses have laid down the first release that everyone I know loves, and since I know you… so you will love it too.

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Space Raft “Another Holiday is Here” (2017)

Space Raft "Another Holiday is Here"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Milwaukee’s Space Raft have crafted a wonderful (and perhaps the greatest) Christmas party/drinking song with 2017’s “Another Holiday is Here.” If you were crafting a Christmas party playlist, you would want to time this song to be about 2/3s into the party… not too early, and not too late, because you want maximum party when this jam comes on. The chorus lends itself to shouting, which every non-singer in the room can most certainly join in on: “So break out the wine / It’s Christmas time / Another glass of gin before we begin / Another holiday is here.” The song stinks of booze and fun, which are two qualities I most certainly look for in a Christmas tune.

Bottom Line: As if grown in a lab to liven up your Christmas party, “Another Holiday is Here” is a drunken-holiday-funtimes bullseye.

 

 

Polish Club – Xmas Single (2017)

Polish Club Xmas Single

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.

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Pauline Andrès “Christmas from Paris, TN” (2017)

Pauline Andrès "Christmas in Paris, TN"

Self Released
Buy: Stream | Bandcamp

Originally “born in France a coal miner’s daughter,” then a Berlin-based country artist, Pauline Andrès has found a new home in Nashville to record her latest album, due in 2018. In the meantime, she has recorded this excellent new Christmas tune, “Christmas in Paris, TN.” The song begins as a intriguing title, and quickly expands into a melancholy, country-rock standout of this Christmas season. One would think that a track about Christmas in Paris would be a song of beauty, lights and romance – but add that Tennessee onto the end and you’ve got a wholly different scene. This song is about being extremely lonely on Christmas, where every reminder of Christmas makes it worse. So, she writes her family a postcard, “Alone for Christmas, Alone in Paris.” It takes a round or two of that line before she adds “Tennessee,” and that delay is so clever and effective – just wonderfully crafted. Her voice shares qualities with Lucinda Williams, and as with Lucinda, the rough edges compliment the lyrics beautifully. The production is wonderful, and the addition of country organ is the icing on the cake. I’m sure this song will find a place on someone’s mix out there, no doubt.

Bottom Line: Pauline has a very dark approach toward Christmas songs (check out her 2015, A Happy Christmas Song EP), and with “Christmas in Paris, TN,” she’s delivered her strongest song yet. Beautifully crafted, on all fronts.

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Twaague Records’ Christmas Tape (2015)

Christmas Tape

Twaague Records
Buy: Bandcamp

I know everyone is all about the NEW NEW NEW songs… throw a “2015” after a song and nobody wants to retweet it. BUT, when nearly all the seasonal releases come out in a month’s time, you are bound to miss some great stuff. Berlin-based Twaague RecordsChristmas Tape was one of those misses… released on December 12 of last year, this release certainly suffered from missing the “christmas” tag on Bandcamp, which made it nearly invisible to my search. (Bandcamp really needs to up their game on search – they limit results and don’t let you combine tags…) This was the tape that led me to Skiing! This was the tape that led me to Hanemoon! And this is the tape that will make you love Milwalkie. Get comfortable, I’m going to cover my personal highlights of this excellent release.

The tape leads off with “26th December,” originally appearing on Skiing’s excellent Generous Fire EP. Its anti-consumerism rhetoric is comfortable terrain for me, and the punk rock aesthetic is invigorating. A very strong start.

Colorado’s Kissing Party is no stranger to Christmas songs – they have 2 featured on their Bandcamp as I type this review. “Merry Christmas Darling (Maybe Next Year Things will Change)” was originally released as their 2014 single, and it remains a great indiepop downer.

Berlin’s Milwalkie contributes one of my favorite tracks on this release with “This Year (All I Want is You).” From what I understand, this begins a string of tracks exclusive to this release. What they might call cheesy (and they do), I call simple and nearly perfect. Playful and nostalgic, this song hits all the marks without getting too sweet; A wonderful, perfectly seasoned (pun!) Christmas tune.

Who would have expected Berlin to be a hotbed of amazing indie Christmas songs? My head has been stuck searching in London for years… should have been looking here! Berlin’s Man Behind Tree channel 90’s-era Merge Records indie rock and blends their jangly guitars, dark lyrics and understated vocals into a fantastic Christmas song, “I Was Santa Claus.”

Hanemoon, who we featured a week or so ago with his 2013 gem, has blessed us with the equally wonderful “My Bell Ride.” This is a driving indie rock Christmas song that I could imagine Yo La Tengo (or my much beloved Mendoza Line) just ripping shit up with; It has the kind of frayed edges that I am such a sucker for.

Strand Child (also from… Berlin!) contribute their dark electro-pop “Yer Feet.” Is this a Christmas song? No idea! But I like it. “I was drunk when I met you / I was drunk when you walked out the door.” It may take place during Christmas… as might the equally non-Christmas specific “F&f” by Berlin’s Mother of the Unicorn. They are a bit less confusing on their Facebook than Strand Child, as they address their song as “not so Christmassy really, but it is a bit sentimental, so that’s the same thing right?” They are tapping into the same deep emotional well as The National… which I consider a high compliment and comparison.

Finally, Farfara’s instrumental “Flying Pan” is also damn good. Again, it suffers by not having an explicit nod to Christmas, but overall a great track that, depending on your own personal mix rules, might still qualify for consideration. At the very least, this track proves them to be an excellent band, worthy of further listening.

Overall this release is extremely strong, and with few exceptions, immensely listenable and wholly enjoyable. I would consider 3-4 of these songs for my own personal mix, which is like scoring a hat trick… very, very hard to do on a Christmas compilation. Tapes are still available via their Bandcamp, as well a digital downloads for a very respectable €5!

Bottom Line: Berlin is just killing it right now. One of the strongest compilations of 2015, easy.

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Mark Kozelek “O Holy Night” (2016)

Mark Kozelek sings Favorites cover

Caldo Verde
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | iTunes | Amazon UK MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

I consider myself a Mark Kozelek fan, and despite the challenges he continues to send my way, I still maintain this status. Thus, when a new Koz Christmas tune sneaks out, I feel obligated to make at the very least, a small mention of it. Mark gave us an entire Christmas record only 2 years ago, has snuck Christmas tunes on multiple live records, and he thankfully seems determined to continue to churn out little Christmas baubles for us to enjoy. “O Holy Night” appears on Koz’s latest, Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites, and simply said, it is quite lovely. The cover is certainly not a reinvention of the song (as I could somehow imagine Jose Gonzalez doing while not veering far from Koz’s guitar style), more so a faithful and lovely, traditional cover of this traditional song. The female vocal harmony provided by Mimi Parker (of the equally Christmas-loving Low) is that little bit of nutmeg that makes this eggnog tasty. Without Mimi, it might have been just a tiny bit… bland? Glad she is there.

Bottom Line: A tasty glass of eggnog, thanks to Mimi Parker of Low. Certainly not my standard fare – doesn’t hate on Christmas, doesn’t have any swear words – this one’s for you traditionalists out there.

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Frontier Folk Nebraska – Drop the Ball, Waste Another Year 7″ (2013)

Frontier Folk Nebraska - Drop the Ball, Waste Another Year 7"

No Chaser Records
Buy: Bandcamp

I know, I’ve been doing some housecleaning, posting some songs that did not come out this year. Well… that’s ok, because this site is as much about what’s coming out this year, as it is about the great stuff that has been hidden in the past. Frontier Folk Nebraska are not a folk band and are not from Nebraska. So who the fuck are they? They are, simply said, a badass rock band from Kentucky. Some of the influences they point to are Sleepy Jackson, the Replacements, Uncle Tupelo and Guided By Voices amongst others… and I would have to agree (to a point). I mean… Sleepy Jackson? I haven’t listened to that first Sleepy Jackson record (Lovers) in a good while, and while I don’t hear a drop of that influence on this 7″, I’m psyched that they like them enough to be mentioned. I loved that record! Those other bands… much more in line with the sound of FFN.

Now to the record: Both tracks on this 7″ are fantastic – the hearty singalong “Ho Ho Ho & Away We Go,” with drinking, theft and lighthearted debauchery mixing together to wish us all a merry fucking Christmas. You can’t help but want to be there. The flip side find FFN at New Years, and “Happy New Year” takes it’s Replacements meets GBV vibe and tears through a rough New Years morning. Love the music, especially the guitar interplay. These songs are all wonderfully conceived and executed – truly stellar tracks from front to back.

Bottom Line: How this band has not sold out of their 275 copies of random, multicolored 7-inch vinyl records is an absolute mystery to me. 5/5

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

Cocktails - The Most Wonderful Time (For a Beer)

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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