Tuxedo “Wonderful Christmastime” (2014)

Tuxedo "Wonderful Christmastime"

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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Nieves “Cure (Christmas Song)” (2014)

Nieves Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Free!

I love a good Scottish brogue in my Christmas songs, as those who may have ever listened to a mix of mine, or listened to my non-Christmas music collection. Nieves already had a leg up coming into this, hailing from Glasgow, and then I heard their song. It begins with, “There is no Christmas / There are no bells,” and continues from there. “What have we to be grateful for? / This year has been a bastard / 12 months, crawling on the floor.” This shit is DARK. And of course, I love it.

Bottom Line: Scottish, dark and free. 4.7/5

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Lapland “Maybe on Christmas” (2014)

Lapland

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Lapland, the moniker of Brooklyn singer/songwriter Josh Mease, just released a nice indiepop “original song hastily recorded” today, and I rather dig it. Synths flutter as a flickering flame as Mease sings about staying safe & sound by the fire on Christmas – in a tone that I’d equate to a Mark Mothersbaugh-scored scene in Life Aquatic. So, turn off your “Switched on Santa” and give this modern-synth Christmas a spin.

Bottom Line: Certainly growing on me – would love to have an actual download of it somewhere. 3.9/5

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Kate Canaveral “Merry Christmas Everyone” (2014)

Kid Canaveral

Lost Map Records
Buy: Free!

Kid Canaveral are a Scottish indie pop band who weaseled their way onto my 2013 mix with “Low Winter Sun.” They also throw a Christmas party called “Christmas Baubles,” and are on their fifth year of this wonderful event. I say wonderful, but alas, I only imagine it is… since I can’t pop across the pond for every Christmas concert.

Kate Canaveral is one quarter of Kid Canaveral, and she has taken it upon herself as self-appointed “head of mainland operations” for Lost Map records to record and release a great little electro-indie-pop cover of Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone.” I sure hope that Lost Map gives us a few more tracks for #Baublemas!

Bottom Line: Great choice for a cover – and certainly put her own mark on it! 4.5/5

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Jolene Films presents A Wonderful Christmas Time (2014)

A Wonderful Christmas Time

Tiny Teeth Records
Buy: Free!

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

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCggNo-xQDI]

Naive Thieves & Summer Twins – Christmas With Naive Twins (2010)

Christmas With Naive Twins

Self-Released
Buy: Free! | Also Free!

Way back in 2010, Naive Thieves and Summer Twins, two LA/SoCal-based bands, teamed up for a 2-song Christmas release, Christmas With Naive Twins. The result is a lovely little piece of indie-rock Christmas that sounds like Little Joy & Local Natives got together to record some seasonal sounds. Both “Holiday in the Sand” and “What Better Time than Now” have a timeless feel, contemporary, but harkening back to a 60’s feel at times. These tracks really are something special that should be heard by more people. While it was posted on the Summer Twins Bandcamp page at one point, it no longer resides there, nor on the Naive Thieves Bandcamp. I’ve tried contacting them through Bandcamp and Facebook multiple times, but to no avail. I, for one, would love to pay them a few bucks for FLACs, but for now we’re going to have to settle for the free downloads that still exist on Soundcloud. Thankfully, they are high-bitrate MP3s.

Bottom Line: Both tracks are superb. 4.8/5

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Psst. There are free mp3s over here.

Faye and the Scrooges “Christmas Number One” (2013/2014)

Faye and the Scrooges

Self-Released
Buy: Stream

THEY ARE BACK! Faye and the Scrooges have returned with a new song for 2014, and much earlier than they usually do! (Well, I just found out that it’s technically 2013’s song – they just hadn’t shared it yet!) It’s fun, funny, and well produced. This song greatly shares my sentiment – “What were they thinking when they wrote those Christmas singles / This year, something’s got to change.” I have a ton of work to do today, so I’m simply going to post it and let you do the listening.

Bottom Line: This “band” knows how to put together a fun Christmas song. 4.2/5

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Memoryhouse “The Year Will Be Our Year” (2012)

memoryhouse - this year will be our year

Self-Titled Magazine
Buy: Free!

Why not round out the week by rounding out my Memoryhouse posts with their one remaining Christmas/New Years track? Back in January 2012, Memoryhouse covered this classic Zombies’ track to celebrate the new year. Posted and hosted by Self-Titled Magazine, this cover is certainly worth your time. The noisy guitar parts that they every-so-often intersperse differentiate it from the wonderful Mynabirds’ version enough to let it stand on its own.

Bottom Line: Free download. Great song. Great Band. Why not? 4.4/5

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Sing a Song of Christmas: Three New Tunes Exclusive to the Guardian (2013)

The Guardian Christmas

The Guardian
Buy: Stream

Last year, The Guardian newspaper asked three singer/songwriters to write an original Christmas song, with the only rule to include five provided phrases they felt “sum up the spirit of the holiday:”

“Do I have to wear this paper crown all day?”, “No really, sprouts do make me sick”, “The trains are pathetic on Boxing Day”, “I think you threw away the gift vouchers” and “Will someone turn the heating down?”

Their website provides the whole background on the songs, including interviews with the performers. I like the concept, and very much hope they do it again.

Dan Croll‘s “A Guardian Christmas,” is my favorite of the bunch. The sparse beats and R&B vocals are very much a sound-of-the-moment (and a sound which I like), and he does it well. I would certainly edit out the “Ho, ho, hos,” and everything after the second set of jolly laughs – and that 1:30 running time would be easy to squeeze into any mix. I really like the feeling of the final bit – that’s what sold me.

Gabrielle Alpin‘s “Untitled Christmas Song” also has some of the elements I like to look for – a sense of the melancholy of Christmas, and a bit of humor. She has a lovely voice, and the song is well done and quite short (bonus!). I suppose the only thing that would make it better would be a more fleshed-out production. Otherwise, really quite good.

Lewis Watson‘s “Home Alone (at, or before, Christmas) here” is my least favorite of the three, but it most certainly has some redeeming factors. The song is an ode the the McCallister family of the Home Alone movies – and tickles the bit in me that associates my own Christmas experience with Christmas TV and movies. However, it remains the least satisfying by having a low production value, and a part where he throws as many lyrics in as possible. Still good enough to be listenable, no doubt.

Bottom Line: All these songs are enjoyable enough to play in the background at a party – so perhaps consider adding them to your Soundcloud playlist, or use one of those fancy websites to download the MP3s. Most certainly an above-average collection, and had they offered easy, free downloads, may have scored higher. 3.8/5

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Noise to the World: Converse Rubber Tracks Holiday Music (2013)

Converse Noise to the World

Converse Rubber Tracks
Buy: Free!

How did this thing slip by me? And how did this slip by my fellow Christmas bloggers? This would be like missing the Target comp of years ago, in that it is packed with “indie” bands with a  large corporate backer – so how did it make a noise in a few music publications but never come across my googling? Noise to the World is seven tracks of varying styles, but all with a certain level of quality where I don’t hate anything – it’s truly listenable. As an added bonus – there appear to be vinyl copies of this out there somewhere.

We’ll run down the release track-by-track, as it is a short release and each one is worth a note. Roxy Roca offers a funky original that elicits the imagery of a picturesque Christmas, but not without you. Warm Soda (the band that really made me excited to hear this) mines the same fertile ground of Roxy Roca, and many bands before, with their “Without You By My Side.” Their power-pop delivery takes the melancholy lyrics and lifts it up enough with the music to not feel like a dirge. The two songs are so similar in their main thesis, yet so very different in the approach, tone, lyrics and delivery that the only thing that ties them together is “without you.”

Fresh Daily and Black Spade contribute a surprisingly strong Christmas rap song with “Holiday ’93.” I don’t normally get into a hip-hop holiday, but this track is not only enjoyable and is perhaps the best song on the record. They don’t make it a joke, like so many other Christmas rap songs, and their attitude and lyrics strike me as very much in genuine & nostalgic vein of Ahmad’s “Back in the Day,” which is very welcome.

Mother Merey & the Black Dirt take the holiday staple, “Run Run Rudolph,” and deliver a wonderful, country-noir song that is just downright refreshing. They make it their own.

Workout’s “Jingle Bells” is the most-skippable track on the release for me, for two reasons. First, Jingle Bells. Second, pop-punk is just not my bag. However, they become very listenable by exuding a sense of humor about the whole thing, and being so damn short. Kudos.

The She’s “December Tide” is another in a recent wave (pun!) of surfin’ tunes. I can’t recall such a melancholy surfing Christmas (well, winter) tune in a very long time. This song is the kind of indie-pop that I’m quite receptive to, and would gnaw at any pop-punk fan… we are just different species, you and I. I especially like the end of the song, with the layering of the vocals… if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know how much I love a good ending.

Finally, Low Fat Getting High’s “Deck the Halls” will please the headbanger in you. They do “Deck the Halls” hardcore and fully commit. Not normally my thing, but oddly, not unlistenable. Had it ended at 1:40, I would have liked it a bit more.

Bottom Line: Wow. Pretty excellent all the way through. Free, with super-high-res MP3 download. Quite listenable and at times downright fantastic. Pleasantly surprised, and certainly recommended. 4.4/5

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