Stubbys House of Christmas       
 
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Warning: massive post ahead.  In spite of being mostly absent this season (and it doesn't look any better for next year), I couldn't resist putting together our annual Stubby's House Christmas collection.  For one thing, these Stubby House mixes are ALWAYS better than my own annual mixes--a fact I attribute to the proximity to Christmas (the closer it gets, the more I feel the spirit).  As in past years, all of the music on A Stubby's House Christmas was available free on the Internets this year.  In past years, we've restricted ourselves to music we spoke about elsewhere on the site (mostly, the Free Page).  Obviously, we had to abandon that rule for 2013.  In fact, I thought we could kill two birds with one stone, by doing the collection and talking in a little more depth about the tunes as we went along.  Never occurred to me how long such a post would be.  So as not to totally freak the Weebly people and software out, we've split the post in two (when you get to the end of the first part, just keep going).  Due to time constraints, our initial filtering process was the old virtual needle drop technique, which can be brutal and unfair.  But, if you didn't capture our attention right away, you didn't make the cut.  A new rule we employed this year--again, due to our not being around much--was no double dipping; no matter how good any of the collections we came across (Santastic, Paste, Suburban Sprawl, etc.), we could only choose one song from each so we could tell you about more of them.  No Stubby's House exclusives this year.  Sorry.

This is our fourth season of A Stubby's House Christmas.  So, by now, you know I mean it when I say this collection is only available for a limited time and then disappears forever.  In this case, we'll leave it up until Little Christmas (January 6).  So you've got a little more than 2 weeks to get yer Stubby on.  Don't say we didn't warn you.

Everything you need to make your own little Stubby CD is included in the file, including artwork for both jewel case and full sized CD housings.  Here's the download link for "A Stubby's House Christmas 2013" (subtitled "The White (and Black) Album") or click on the pic of the cover, above.  Go get it and then, if you've got a few days, read all about it below.  Report broken links and other issues and we'll work something out.  Merry Christmas from yours truly and Mrs. Katz (not her real name). (Update 1/8/14: Link removed, as promised)

1. DECK THE HALLS - PRISCILLA AHN
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I think, even in this season of semi-retirement, Stubby's might have been the first blog to feature this ethereal take on the old warhorse that is "Deck The Halls".  Priscilla Ahn completely transforms the song into something new and unique.  I love when that happens.  Seemed like the perfect way to kick off our Stubby's House Christmas set.  Except for one thing.  When you begin a playlist with a song this special and unique, there's nowhere to go but down.  No disrespect to any of the great music that follows.  And let that be a lesson to you young mixtapers.  What lesson?  Never mind.  Anyway, Priscilla's "Deck The Halls" is free for the taking at her web site.

2. MY FAVORITE SEASON - MAGNOLIA SONS
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Remember the post of free stuff where I was falling asleep and ended abruptly?  This was one of the songs I'd intended to mention in that post.  Magnolia Sons' "My Favorite Season" was subsequently blogged on several of the other Christmas sites (I thought so, anyway), so I didn't, ahem, lose any sleep over it.  But it's a real nice pop/rock track with a retro feel from this Nashville ensemble and you should definitely pick it up (as well as the virtual flip, "The Christmas Joy", while it's free via Bandcamp.  It's an instant download, too--don't even need your email address.  Although, if you'd like to keep track of what Magnolia Sons are up to, maybe catch some more tunes, you can sign on to their email list at their web site.

3. PRETTY LIGHTS - KISSING PARTY
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I know it seems like we feature the same bands every year.  Certainly, we do on the Free Page, and that should tell you that those artists are turning out consistently wonderful Christmas music.  Should have you saying to yourself, "Hmm.  I wonder if the rest of their music is as good as their Christmas music."  Should have you heading to their web sites and, doggone it, buying some music to support these people.  

That said, I did some back tracking, checked my list once, checked it twice, and it turns out--even to my surprise--our annual Stubby's House collections have featured few repeaters (save one major exception and not including this year).  I was especially floored to learn that we've never included a track from Denver's Kissing Party.  And that surprised me because I love what they do.  When I listen to a Kissing Party song, I always come away smiling--even if its a depressing song.  Seriously, Kissing Party makes me smile (in spite of myself, cause I'm basically a surly cuss).  Forget the ghosts; Ebeneezer might have had a much brighter perspective on life had he listened to Kissing Party.  Which would have been difficult since they weren't around back then.  Timelord science!

I'm sure Kissing Party wasn't jockeying for a spot on our humble little collection when they decided to release an entire EP of Christmas music this year.  "Winter At The Pub" includes the group's previous holiday efforts as well as some new.  Yes, that includes the award winning title track.  What's that?  "Winter At The Pub" didn't win an award?  Well...it should have.

Though we went with "Pretty Lights", here--which I believe is new--I almost went with "Commit A Tiny Crime Together", which is neither new nor Christmas (near as I can tell).  "Pretty Lights" will make you smile, sure, but checkout "Commit A Tiny Crime Together".  Just awesome, amazing stuff.

Grab the free "Winter At The Pub" EP and visit Kissing Party at their Internet home.  And, hey, what say we check out the video for "Pretty Lights", right now?

4. I HEAR (CLICK, CLICK, CLICK) - THE ROSEBUDS
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North Carolina's Rosebuds have made quite a name for themselves in college radio and Indie Alt Rock circles.  And there was more than a little buzz surrounding the release of last year's Christmas album, "Christmas Tree Island".  Thank goodness, for us, they haven't broken through completely, yet.  If they had, you can bet they would not have offered up last year's Christmas album as a free download this year.  Originally, the free download was only supposed to last a week, but you can still grab "Christmas Tree Island" at Noisetrade, if you hurry.

"I Hear (Click, Click, Click)" originally appeared on the 2009 local artist CD "Have A Holly Raleigh Kidsmas", the first of the "Holly Raleigh" collections featuring music geared to kids (both big and small) and, sadly, the last of the four "Holly Raleigh" sets released (the call went out in 2010, but no finished product emerged).

The Rosebuds' latest non-holiday full-length, so far as I know, is "Loud Planes Fly Low".  The bands gigs constantly and they even had a Halloween single this year.  Stop by their Facebook page sometime and don't be a stranger.

5. THE CHERRY TREE CAROL - SOLAS
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And now a cautionary tale.  I was out searching for free Christmas music, prior to putting this set together, and I was downloading left and right (click).  I really dug this sprightly version of "The Cherry Tree Carol".  Ordinarily, people tend to do the tune like a dirge, but this version genuinely swung.  Into the Stubby's House mix with ye!

But the only tag on the file was "CherryTreeMix" and I could not remember the name of the band, nor how I'd come upon them in the first place.  Wasn't sure whether to drop them from the mix or put them on a milk carton or something.  Kids, let that be a lesson to you; properly tag your audio files so people know who you are.

Long story short, I did eventually find them again, but it wasn't easy.  The band is Solas (Gaelic for "light"), an Irish-American band.  They've been around for 15 years, have ten albums under their belts, and clearly have a substantial following.  "The Cherry Tree Carol" was actually their second free Christmas download this year.  Their first, an original titled "Home For Christmas Day" was posted to SoundCloud and, if I recall correctly, Soundcloud caps the free downloads at 100, so it wasn't free any longer by the time I found it.  No such issues with "The Cherry Tree Carol", though, which is free via something called "dropify".  Stop by the Solas web site to catch up on the last 15 years and learn about their amazing Shamrock City project.  Or drop in at Facebook and follow the links to your free download of "The Cherry Tree Carol".

6. DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS - DAN ANKERS
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Dan Ankers' holiday offering, a cover of Chris Rea's "Driving Home For Christmas", comes to us from Small Bear Records and their 2013 Christmas collection "Tinsel Machine".  A UK Indie label (I'm guessing), Small Bear's overall philosophy seems to be about getting the music out there and seeing what happens.  Outside of recouping the investment in physical releases, they don't seem all that concerned with making money on downloads.  Which is precisely why you should tip them generously, if you can.

"Driving Home For Christmas" impressed us immediately with the jangly guitar open, but also felt musically compelling throughout.  Unfortunately, the combination of "needle drop" and having one computer with a sound card and no Internet and another with Internet but no sound card means I can't be very helpful on the rest of the set.  I sort of remember liking Nanaki's take on Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You".  And "It's Christmastime, Like" from Bri Slutcher & The Gnasher Downham Experience seemed like a good drinking song for the pub, like.

And we can't leave without telling you that this is Small Bear's second holiday collection.  The 2012 Christmas set, "Enter Snowman", was released so close to Christmas last year that I (and I suspect a lot of you) missed it.  No worries.  It's still a name-your-own-price download at Bandcamp.

7. FOLKS IN THE STREET - SHELLEY GORDON
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The "no double dipping" rule put a cramp in things right about here.  2013 was a good year for Christmas Folk music and I absolutely loved this year's collection from Rarebird.  As the title suggests, "Rarebird In A Pear Tree, Vol. 3" is the third annual holiday collection from Rarebird and there were at least three songs I wanted to include.  Jason Paul Johnston does a superb take on "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and the nice psych opening to "Waiting For Snow" by terns was so tasty that we almost abandoned the no double dipping rule.  In the end, we stuck with Shelley Gordon's "Folks In The Street".  Given this track and Shelley's downbeat album closer, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", she's not having a bright and cheery holiday, but rather one of those nose-pressed-to-the-window-pane, on-the-outside-looking-in affairs.  Unlike us, you don't have to choose just one song from this great collection; you can grab all three Rarebird holiday sets free via Noisetrade (un, deux, trois).

8. PLEASE COME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS - SIX & THE SEVENS
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Nope, not the Charles Brown track.  This "Please Come Home For Christmas" is a much more desperate pleading blues-rock original from Six & The Sevens, taken from this year's "Suburban Sprawl Holiday Sampler".

For as long as I can remember, I've always been drawn to that desolate, dreary little guitar riff.  I don't think there's any sound more instantly evocative in music.  That Six & The Sevens go all John Lee Hooker on the chorus is just gravy on the stuffing to me.

Speaking of stuffing, our friends at the Michigan Indie collective Suburban Sprawl have been putting out humongous Christmas collections since at least 2002.  And they're all still available for free at the label's Christmas site, in handy zip files or a la carte.  Go get your feedbag on for there is no better way to go from no holiday library to massive holiday library.  And did we mention its all free?

After you get your fill at Suburban Sprawl's holiday trough, be sure to stop by the label's web site and the web site of Six & The Sevens as well.  Those cats are going places.

9. I DON'T WANT YOUR PRESENTS - THE JAC
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The JAC is the latest incarnation of Australian legend Joe Algeri, who has been recording annual Christmas songs since the Internet was young.  Sometimes Joe goes all experimental, sometimes sweet, sometimes Swedish, sometimes kitchen sink Spector, and sometimes awesome Power Pop.  This year's outing, "I Don't Want Your Presents", reflects Joe's fascination with the sound of the Byrds (who could forget "Chris Hillman Christmas"?).  And the result is a track you're going to want in your Christmas arsenal.  Download "I Don't Want Your Presents" free at Bandcamp.

But wait.  What's this?  "I Don't Want Your Presents" is included on the compilation "Merry Rock Against Bullsh*t Xmas, Vol. 8".  VOLUME EIGHT?  How have I missed that all these years?  Dang!  Well, Volume 7's still up and here's a link to Volume 8.  I guess we'll just have to ask Santa for the rest.

10. I BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS TIME - KIRBY KRACKLE
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Seattle's Kirby Krackle is, apparently, a six man group fronted by Kyle Stevens making a name for themselves in the under appreciated genre of Nerd Rock.

A lot of bands wouldn't think it cool to wax nostalgic about "GI Joes and Thundercats", but, c'mon, we weren't born old.  In fact, that's part of what makes Christmas special; its a chance to embrace, celebrate, and indulge the child that still exists in all of us.  Pretend all you want.  If you're stopping by a blog like Stubby's, you're still a Christmas child at heart; you still believe in Christmas Time.

"I Believe In Christmas Time" was just so sweet and sincere (nice production values, too), it had to have a place on a Stubby's House Christmas.  Had to.  The track is free at Bandcamp (as are the Kirby Krackle Christmas singles from 2012 and 2011).  And feel free to knock on the door of the group's home web site.  They'll welcome you in and make you feel right at home.

11. THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - THE CLOTHES
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One of my favorite--perhaps THE favorite--annual Internet Christmas collections is "A Polaroid For Christmas".  Polaroid is an Italian blog.  As Polaroid's curator says,  "I called some friends and some bands, and asked them if they wanted to write a song for this season, or at least play a song that could keep me company while decorating the Christmas tree."   For something seemingly so informal, the Polaroid collections are amazing and fresh and genuinely capture the Christmas spirit.  The Polaroid collections often slip below everyone's radar in this country and most of these bands and songs won't turn up anywhere else.  Unless, of course, Stubby's can call them to your attention (I try to do my part).

Once again, the "no double dipping" rule proves a pain in my.... but, if I had to pick just one song for OUR collection, it was going to be "The Night Before Christmas" by The Clothes.  Not all the groups and artists on "A Polaroid For Christmas" are Italian, but The Clothes happen to be.  You should definitely stop by and say "Hi" on Facebook and grab their free album, "Fairy Lights Dress", on Bandcamp.

For an Indie Pop tune that is never going to get the exposure of Mariah Carey, Susan Boyle, or even Charlotte Sometimes, "The Night Before Christmas" is amazing.  It's epic!  It rocks, it rolls, it's retro and contemporary, it goes through more changes than "Bohemian Rhapsody" and it just sounds like the musical distillation of the joy of Christmas.  Dig it!

Grab the entire collection, "A Polaroid For Christmas 2013".  Its free and its awesome.  And, if you're up for it, a little searching through the Polaroid archives may turn up some of the earlier volumes as well.

 


Comments

Chris Ballard
12/21/2013 23:55

Thanks Stubby, for putting together another awesome collection this year. Most appreciated! MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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12/23/2013 10:23

Thanks from the JAC!

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12/23/2013 15:08

Thanks for keeping this tradition alive, Stubby. You always manage to find the best of what's out there.

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Der Bingle
12/23/2013 17:10

Awesome work Stubby - thank you!

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12/24/2013 15:21

Merry Christmas Stubby!

We finally found time to listen to your mix while unwrapping our gifts. Very well done.

Hope you have an amazing Christmas!

Brigitte & Christoph

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