Indie music and the Internets have been around long enough, now, that there are actually Christmas songs old enough to be considered "Indie classics". They are the war horses that get pulled out every year just as predictably as Bing's "White Christmas". That's not a bad thing. It means the songs have lasting value. One of those is from Polyphonic Spree, whose recording of John Lennon's "Happy Christmas" is nearly inescapable in Indie circles at Christmas.
The Polyphonic Spree was the brainchild of Tim DeLaughter of Dallas, Texas who wanted to create a sound that meshed the sunshine pop of the Association and Beach Boys with the aggressive vocal style of bands like Black Sabbath. What ultimately resulted was "choral symphonic pop". It may be that there is no better example of the Polyphonic Spree sound than "It's Christmas", a staple of the group's holiday appearances. But "It's Christmas" has never been officially released. Until now. The song was recorded in 2003, but the tapes were believed lost. They recently surfaced and "It's Christmas" will finally have it's day in the sun.
"It's Christmas" is available in MP3 and FLAC formats from Good Records Recordings, but also in 7" black vinyl and limited edition (to 300) colored vinyl. The vinyl versions contain a "mystery name your own b-side" only available on this vinyl release. Physical copies are expected to be mailed on or before December 12, but you'll get the download version tossed in; and that, they promise, will come within 48 hours of your purchase. My thanks to my friends at The Fa (FaLaLaLaLa.com) for the heads up.
For those who'd rather, Holy Grail's tracks will be released digitally (along with covers of Judas Priest's "Exciter" and Accept's "Fast As A Shark") with the digital EP arriving December 6. The vinyl single will be mailed out as soon as the label gets them, which is likely to be early to mid December.
Earlier this year, Dave Bazan was telling interviewers there would be a Christmas album this year. Instead, Bazan is releasing a non-Christmas 7", featuring Bazan with Deerhoof on "No One Asked Bazan To Dance" backed with Bazan's reworking of the Headphones tune "Gas And Matches". And that appears to be it for Christmas cheer this year from Dave Bazan. Bah humbug. If you're interested, go here.
J. Tex & The Volunteers have released or will release a 7" vinyl single of "Santa Comes 'Round" (there seems to be some confusion over whether the single was released on November 18th or will be released on the 25th) and this sucker is golden! Just the most beautiful country flavored sunshine pop you've heard in the last 40 or 50 years. I mean, even that picture sleeve is priceless (don't ask me why this one says "Santa Comes To Town").
The catch is it's not an American release. J. Tex was born in Detroit, but raised in Denmark. His record company is the Swedish Heptown label. But, hey, good news, Cats and Kittens! Amazon is carrying "Santa Comes 'Round" in ALL it's formats--7" vinyl, CD single and mp3. Phew! (Just wish I'd known that before I ordered from Heptown). Amazon will have the mp3 on November 25 (so there's still time for a "hold the presses" on your annual mixes) and the vinyl on December 13. (Just wish I'd known that before I finished my annual mixes).
Ahem, anyway, my personal stupidity aside.... The "B" side, "What Did You See", is a Christmas song also, though it doesn't sound like any one I can remember hearing (which is good, btw). But "Santa Comes 'Round" has the feel of all those classic Country Pop Christmas songs from the golden era of the 50s. Only better. It blew me away. Think I'm kidding? Check it out.
OK, let's move on to digital releases.
Bryan Adams. Remember him? Yes, he of the "Reggae Christmas"/"Christmas Time" single back in the mid 80s when MTV still played music videos (what a concept; wish we had a channel like that now). Well, he's back with a new Christmas song, albeit a digital only release. "Merry Christmas" drops on December 5th in this country (December 2 in Europe and, hey, they had it in Australia November 18--what's up with that?). It'll be at Amazon and iTunes and it doesn't sound bad. Sounds good. Sounds kinda like Bryan Adams. But it doesn't sound as good as J. Tex & The Volunteers. Just sayin'.
Carrack's new Christmas single--"Thinking About You (This Christmas)"--actually sounds to me more like the high grade stuff he was turning out with Ace. I like it. I like it a lot. But not as much as J. Tex & The Volunteers. (sigh)
Paul Carrack's new Christmas single isn't available yet at Amazon (though it will be soon) but you can buy it direct from Carrack's web site (the price is in British Pounds, so don't think it's any cheaper there).
Nicole Atkins is a sweetheart. If you're not familiar with her music, you need to be. Nicole has a new cover of "Little Drummer Boy" out there and it's selling for just 69 cents at Amazon. In today's market, that's cheap. Cheaper still is an awesome 5-song Live EP, "...Till Dawn", that you can download for free on Bandcamp. It's not Christmas, but it's really good. If you're looking for more Christmas music from Nicole, try the "Hotel Cafe Winter Songs" album. She's in there.
Quick update on the single from Gary Schwartz we told you about some time ago. Gary is the former drummer with The Jigsaw Seen and his solo Christmas single, "What's So Special About Christmas?" , is now available everywhere. Well, maybe not everywhere. That's a bit extreme. But you can get it through Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.
Nikki Bryant says, "Sarcasm wrapped in melodic bow." And that pretty much says it. Except there's an appropriately sincere Christmas pay off in the end.
This year's Christmas package from the synthpop duo is called "Wishes" and, though the lyrics aren't overtly seasonal, they say it's a holiday song and it's got sleigh bells. I'm not sure they'll ever top "Carol Of The Bells" though. Just sayin'. If you gotta have one, that's the one you gotta have.
"Wishes" is available on Bandcamp.