UPCOMING: “Indie for the Holidays, An Amazon Original Playlist,” “Acoustic Christmas,” and “Christmas Soul” (2017)

Amazon
Buy: Coming soon

Well, it looks like Amazon is continuing their tradition of providing high-profile indie Christmas tunes to the masses via their popular Indie for the Holidays and Acoustic Christmas playlists. Likely, the new tracks will just be tacked on to the already existing playlist, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find. EDIT – Those playlists will be updated on December 1. In addition to these two returning playlists, be on the lookout for Christmas Soul, being released on Nov. 24 via Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music.

Some highlights to look forward to…

Indie for the Holidays has so far announced contributions by Kevin Morby, Lemon Twigs, Best Coast, JEFF the Brotherhood, Albert Hammond Jr. and Jessica Lea Mayfield.

Acoustic Christmas teased out a song on Brooklyn Vegan today, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” a cover by Courtney Marie Andrews, as well as listing off a few more contributors: Josh Ritter, Nicki Bluhm, Sera Cahoone and Lori McKenna.

There is much more info out there about Christmas Soul, as a few tracks have been released (linked below), as well as a large roster of participating artists: Tamir, Dawn Richard, JC Brooks, Joey Dosik, Buscabulla, Spacebomb House Band feat. Andy Jenkins, Blu and Exile, Ural Thomas & the Pain, Demo Taped, The Texas Gentlemen, Jacquie, Jungle Fire, Diane Coffee (!), Major, Robert Finley, Nicole Atkins, Marc Broussard, Ruth B, Davie, Open Mike EagleGemma (feat. Adrian Younge), Taliwhoah, Liz Brasher, The Soul Rebels and Don Bryant.

EDIT: There is also the All is Bright playlist, which is getting an update again this year too. Why anyone is recording “Baby It’s Cold Outside” anymore is beyond me, but Willie’s doing it.

BOTTOM LINE: I’ve got my eyes on a few of those names, but still too early to get this grumpy gus too too excited 🙂 Amazon keeps their stuff so close to the vest (and aren’t my favorite people – I’ve got a history…. ever notice that I push Bandcamp and 7Digital whenever I can?)

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Lindby - Merry Christmas, Baby

Lindby “Merry Christmas, Baby (ft. Leon Bridges & Ali Grant)” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

So… Lindby… what a score. What timing. Leon Bridges on your Christmas EP. Was that, a week ago that he played SNL, and only a few days after a Grammy nomination? “Merry Christmas, Baby” is off of this Fort Worth, Texas band’s 4th holiday EP, which I somehow had missed in the past. Be rest assured – they have been added to my “Bands Who Love Christmas Section.” Lindby’s electro-funk sets a nice stage for Leon and Ali’s vocals, and they both have voices that you kinda want to pay attention to! All the pieces come together to create a great version of a song that (IMHO) is normally covered by-the-numbers. The ending is the best part; You just gotta stay to the end.

Bottom Line: How did this premiere on Ft. Worth Weekly, and not some place like Stereogum… or Rolling Stone? Certainly a solid tune worth your time – and free on Bandcamp!

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Neil Gretzky

Neil Gretzky – Christmas Song (Demo) (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

So, I often go down the Soundcloud rabbit hole. Don’t really know why, it’s so packed of choral music and sermons that it sometimes feels futile. Then… you find something like this demo by the elusive Neil Gretzky. Not only did Neil not respond to my message inquiring about him and this wonderful song, but he specifically states that he “Keeps to himself” on his Soundcloud. While Neil chills, this song seeps into your life. It piqued my interested on first listen, the simple programmed beats, the raw vocals, the (one might say) unglamorous lyrics. Day after day, I find myself with this song in my head. This song is not perfect, it is certainly a demo. But those ragged corners make it even more endearing. I do hope you feel the same.

Bottom Line: Neil Gretzky released a demo better than most fully-produced Christmas songs. Take that, guy who wrote “Christmas Shoes.”

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Tuxedo "Wonderful Christmastime"

Tuxedo “Wonderful Christmastime” (2014)

Stones Throw
Buy: Free!

I never thought I would heard a version of this song that I liked. Then Mayer Hawthorne reposted this song into his Soundcloud feed… and it blew my mind. Tuxedo is a new band comprised of Mayer Hawthorne and Jack One, and hot damn they are funky. They have made one of my least favorite Christmas songs both funky and soulful – and ultimately not only listenable but glorious. I want this to be played at every single Christmas party in the country.

Bottom Line: WTF. I can’t believe I like this song. 4.8/5

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PDXMAS 2014

Pdxmas 2014 (2014)

PDXMAS
Buy: Bandcamp

PDXMAS is back for its third installment since its debut in 2009. Those old tracks from 2009 & 2010 can also be found on their revitalized Bandcamp page. As I recall, when I originally hunted the PDXMAS comps down, they had a full, standalone website. They then disappeared, then reappeared on Bandcamp with a very incomplete tracklist – but everything appears back now. The third installment benefits a charity, as most of these local comps do, specifically Mercy Corps NW. This fact leads me to want to talk up the compilation a bit more than I likely would. Honestly, I find most Christmas comps so hit-and-miss, that I would equate baseball batting averages as comparable (as in .300+ batting average is stellar). PDXMAS 2014 however, just can’t get above that Mendoza line. There are some notable names on here, Typhoon being perhaps the most recognizable outside the Portland, OR area. Their take on “Silent Night” is just fine, but certainly nothing to write home about. The lone standouts (for me) are Ben Darwish‘s soulful “All I Need,” and Timmy Straw‘s mournful “Hard Times.” There are certainly other songs that were fine, just not many that spoke to me. I am most certainly not the final word on taste, so please judge for yourself. I have been known to be wrong… I remember when I didn’t quite get Father John Misty. Then, one day I did, and my world became better for it. Perhaps a song lives on PDXMAS that I’ll come back to, and truly love.

Bottom Line: There are a few special tunes on here, and its for a good cause. Listen for yourself and support some local Portland communities. 3/5

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Adam Arcuragi - Baby Please Come Home

Adam Arcuragi “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” (2011)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Adam Arcuragi has a number Christmas tunes… and every damn one is excellent. He has been on 2 of my mixes, and this one narrowly missed making it onto this year’s (strictly a flow thing). It will remain the in the hopper for 2014…

This version of the oft-covered “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” has just what I look for in a cover – originality in interpretation. He re-imagines it with much darker production, slowing it down and finishing with a beautifully emotional last chorus. Hey, its short too. I always gotta love a short one, especially when its slowed down.

Bottom Line: I will likely write about Adam’s other tunes, but if you are so inclined, hunt down “The Belgian” and “Christmas Song.” This man needs to put out a Christmas record. 4.7/5

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