I had a lot of things I wanted to do here today. Plan, oh, F or G was a piece on the things I haven't had time to talk about. But it turns out I don't have the time to tell you about the things I haven't had time to tell you about. (Is that irony or.....) Anyway, still busy on the Free Page, so there's that. And here's a video completely without any action. But it's funny. Well, I think it's funny. It's called "Ho Ho Ho (It's Your Mum)" and it's by Australia's Sallow. And you may not want the young kids to hear it because Sallow is spilling all the beans about Santa ("It's Your Mum") and pulling no punches in doing so. By the way, it's free, as are Sallow's earlier Christmas singles, at Bandcamp.
There's a small independent label in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that you might never have heard of. I never had, anyway. Bad Apple. Somehow, I ended up on their mailing list. I'm on a lot of mailing lists--honestly, it takes me at least an hour to go through my mail every day--but I don't recall having bought or downloaded anything from Bad Apple before. Well, what the hell. The email made notice of two things--a new Christmas EP from Re-Education Camp and a free download Christmas EP from Why They Came. Never heard of either of them. But I'm always down for free Christmas downloads.
Bad Apple, founded in 2001 by Brandon and Sarah Miles (more musicians than media moguls), is on most of the social media outlets. They do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. As an old dude, I gave up after Facebook. Everything that's come after is like another country to me. In fact, most social media platforms are more foreign to me than foreign countries. That might be why I don't know of them.
So anyway, it turns out that Why They Came have FIVE free download Christmas EPs--one from each of the last 5 years, each featuring 3 or 4 tunes. I searched around a bit and heard about 15 seconds from the Re-Education Camp record. Figured what the hell (again) and dropped it in my cart.
Taken together, the 5 Why They Came "Holiday Special" EPs give you an hour of free listening, with a wide variety of music. Up top was my favorite from #5, "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas", a great song from The Muppets you almost never hear (here's a Uke Pop cover from Hannah Freeman; bonus points for the Kermit outfit). Stupid me never asked who the female vocalist is on the Why They Came track. And several songs from the rest are instantly impressive. They do an excellent "Grinch" ("Holiday Special I"), a nice Grungey "Jingle Jingle Jingle" ("Holiday Special 4"), a brilliant "Christmas Time Is Here" ("Holiday Special 3"), and a great "Just Like Christmas" on "Holiday Special 2" (honestly, I think it's impossible to do a bad version of that tune).
But something wasn't clicking for me on some of the other songs. I mean, who knows why you like something or don't, really? Maybe you had a bad day at the office, or you've got the flu, or someone ate that turkey leg you were saving for a Midnight snack. Here's what turned it around for me.
That's effing brilliant, that is. I can't believe it only has 220 views. Hey, is this counter working? I could watch that on a loop for a week. I could listen to that song on a loop for a week. "Up The Wrong Tree" is from the new Why They Came album, "Holy War Hymnal". And I'll tell you honestly, there was a glitch in my order of "Christmas At The Camp" and they offered me a free download of "Holy War Hymnal" to make up for it. And I turned it down. And then I saw this video and I ran back and took it. I was like, "Oh my God, I hope that link is still active!" I swear it's true (hey, I'm not proud).
And, when I went back to the Christmas EPs, they suddenly clicked. I suddenly could enjoy every track (well, except "Blue Christmas"; I hate that song and nobody has done a version yet that I like). I felt like something had connected or a switch had been thrown or my ears had been cleaned out (This must be how Odell Beckham feels when he scores the game winning touchdown).
So, look, the Why They Came "Holiday Special" EPs are all free. You've got nothing to lose by throwing them in your Bad Apple shopping cart and taking the free downloads. But, just my opinion, I think you'll enjoy them more if you listen to some of their non-holiday music, if you get to know the band in their natural environment. I recommend "Holy War Hymnal" (personally, I don't see how anyone could deny the brilliance of "Up The Wrong Tree"), but feel free to get a second opinion.
That leaves Re-Education Camp and "Christmas At The Camp". From the Christmas set, they're a band that combines Blues, Rock and Hip Hop. And it still isn't really my thing. The Beastie Boys I could take in small doses and I can't stand Eminem (and don't even bring up Kid Rock who I can't even stand as a person). I don't even know if those are fair comparisons. The band says they're trying to bring the music back to it's Blues roots, but I'm a Blues guy and I'm not getting that from a lot of this record. I mean, if that's what you're going far, I'd recommend this album from Amerigo Gazaway. But I'm probably not the guy to go to on a Rap record, anyway. Or maybe I just need to buy one of their non-holiday albums. While it lasts, though, you can make up your own mind by checking the Bad Apple Soundcloud stream.
I will say that I did like three of the eight tracks on the record--"O Holy Night" (which was an instrumental and more of a showcase for guitarist Derek Price of Sempervivi, I felt), "Three Kings" and "To The Faithful" (featuring Leigh Ann Napier). Coincidentally, those are the 3 songs I hear the Blues influence in. And this is a good place to mention that (aside from "O Holy Night"), these are songs "inspired by traditional carols", but wholly original. The goofiness of D'Awesome and "Holiday DJ" didn't help me any.
But, overall, I'd say this little label might be one to pay attention to. At least they're trying things. Perhaps the best way to keep up with Bad Apple is the (usually) weekly Bad Apple podcast. Bookmark it.
And, in fairness to Re-Education Camp (and for those too lazy or busy to visit the stream), here's "Three Kings".
As you can see from some (not all) of the posts, the formatting monster is back at work--throwing in extra spaces wherever the heck it feels like it. I haven't been able to figure out how to stop it (since it may or may not do it to any given post). I've been up going on 36 hours, so I surrender.
And you might wanna know that the "2016 Cigar Box Nation Christmas" collection is out. Details on the Free page.
In advance, I want to say that I don't control the rhythm of the season. And mid - late December, Rock singles usually dominate. But here's one you're going to want to run out and get. Power Pop at its finest from Somerdale.
Somerdale are veterans of the Power Pop scene and "Merry Christmas Time" is a perfect Power Pop Christmas original. Imagine this coming on the radio? Man, I'd love to hear music like this on the radio (do we really need to hear "The Christmas Shoes" again? Who wants to hear that crap?). The trio that is Somerdale hails from the Garden State (South Central New Jersey). Among others, they once recorded for Kool Kat Musik, a label I've always liked. They have 3 albums to their credit so far, releasing "Shake It Maggie" on FDR earlier this year. The band just signed to JEM Records and plan to have a new album out this spring. Something to look forward to during these cold winter nights.
Speaking of cold winter nights, "Merry Christmas Time" is just the thing to warm you up. Get it from Amazon and iTunes.
EDIT: I feel like an idiot. I've just been reminded that "Merry Christmas Time" by Somerdale is included on this year's "Arbor Christmas", which is presently a free download. Apologies for my short memory.
Ace Enders of The Early November and Nik Bruzzese of Man Overboard got together for this slice of awesome Indie Rock pie -- "Jacob Marley". There are lots of Christmas song themes, but not enough, in my opinion, about the centuries old tale that there's always time to change. Songs about Scrooge and the Grinch abound, but most focus on those charcters when they're bad and not many about the transformation. I suppose its considered implied, but is it? In the dark days of 2016, I've seen far more evidence of those who aspire to be the Grinch or Scrooge before they change. And that is nothing to aspire to. What kind of world have we become where so many people want to be the bad guy and identify with the villain? Me, I love stories of redemption. One of my favorite shows was "Dexter", but I watched it in the hopes that it was a journey of redemption. In the end, I suppose you could make the argument, but it would be mighty thin. And, in that, I think the writers of that show missed the better story line.
Enough sermonizing. Let's just say there is good in everyone. But its a choice you have to affirmatively make. Or, as all the great philosophers have argued, and to quote Ghandi directly, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Ace Enders, by the way, put together one of our favorite releases in 2015, the Indie excellent "Silver & Gold". "Jacob Marley" is waiting for you at Amazon ...or in your nightmares, if you don't change your ways.
I'd say this new song from Dashboard Confessional is along the same thematic lines as "Jacob Marley". And, OK, it's not a Christmas song. Not remotely. But it's pretty great. And "Heart.Beat.Here." is a free download via Soundcloud. I'll take free music from Dashboard Confessional any day. And they do mention "winter" once, so that's all the excuse I need. Heck, I don't even need that much of an excuse. I love sticking non-Christmas songs in a Christmas mix. I do.
With a reminder that, this year, Hanukkah and Christmas are sharing the same space (Hanukkah begins at sundown on Christmas Eve and ends on the evening of January 1....which is kinda scary, if you think too much, like I do...I mean Hanukkah and Christmas at precisely the same time.....and with all the deaths this year....Prince, Bowie, Sharon Jones, Ali, Arnold Palmer, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Choo Choo Coleman....I mean what better time for the world to end, right?), we haven't shared out much Hanukkah music this year. And I do feel a little guilty about that (even if you're not Jewish, there's a Jewish mother inside of us all).
Alright, so are you familiar with The Macaroons? The Macaroons are a group that does Indie Alt Pop music that sounds like it's for kids--which it certaonly could be--but is also pretty awesome if you're all growed up. Think Kids music meets Brave Combo. If it helps you any, they're actually a spin-off group of the LeeVees. They've done Hanukkah songs before, but they've got a new one out now. Since EIGHT days of Hanukkah are so cool, they're campaigning for TEN. Oy! Sounds like there's either a theramin or a musical saw in the mix, too. What more could you want already? Get yer "10 Days of Hanukkah" from the Macaroons on over at Amazon.
One more Hanukkah song we'll mention, here, though this one won't be released until December 24. The artist is Kyra Goldman and her coming single "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" isn't a tune about latkes or dreidles. "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" (A Great Miracle Happened There) is the story behind the celebration. A Folk Pop artist who has drawn inspiration from and comparisons to Joni Mitchell, Kyra grew up in a mixed household, both Christian and Jewish; and, although apparently considered a Christian artist, has tried to use her music to bridge divisions between faiths and between the faithful and the secular. Four songs from Kyra's debut record, "By The Light", were translated to Hebrew by an Israeli for Kyra and the resulting EP is available through Amazon. Kyra is working on a video for "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" and, though I'd think it has to be close to completed if the plan is to get it out this year, you can donate to the project if the spirit moves you (Kyra figures the cost at around $5000). Donations, she says, are tax deductable through Shema Music. We don't have audio of "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" to embed, but the 30 second clip at Amazon sounds tremendous.
Back in 2010, we had the exclusive free download of "No Better Time" by Natalie Prass for a very hot minute. Since then, she doesn't call, she doesn't write.... What am I, chopped liver? Now I have to learn about her new music out in the streets. *sigh* I thought we had something.
We still love Natalie, here, even if it's unrequited. While "No Better Time" had a bit of a throwback sound (somewhere between the era of "Baby It's Cold Outside" and 70s Folk Pop), her new Christmas song--"Everybody's Having Fun (It's Christmas Time)"--has more of an 80s Synth Pop meets 90s Indie feel. And look at that cover art. It almost looks like she stepped right out of a Devo album cover. She just needs one of those stupid hats.
Natalie says she has had trouble connecting with the spirit of the season, this year. But, if you fall into a funk like that, you can either sink into the quicksand or get up and fight. Says Natalie:
"This holiday season is, for many of us, a confusing and frustrating one. This Christmas video is a statement on all of that. To try your hardest to be a self contained vessel of joy. To fight against what seems like a decaying wasteland of the world around you.... I'm hoping this video makes you want to dance and feel free to be who you are - no matter how alone you feel or how different you are than your family or community. There's a place in this country for everyone."
To those ends, Natalie wrote "Everybody's Having Fun (It's Christmas Time)" with Kyle Ryan, made the video, and, to further be a positive force fighting the descending darkness, 100% of the proceeds of her Christmas single will go to the School of Performing Arts in the Richmond [VA] Community. That's a school that's open to all children and which was founded on the principle that no child should be turned away simply because they can't afford the tuition. You can find "Everybody's Having Fun (It's Christmas Time)" at Bandcamp. And, if you can afford it, consider paying in a little bit more than the sticker price. Remember, 'tis better to light a single candle--or purchase a single Christmas song--than to curse the darkness.
We get lots of bands from Austin, Seattle, NY & NJ, Kansas City, LA, Cleveland, and even a fair amount from Florida. You don't see too many bands from Arkansas.
Knox Hamilton got a little bit of help getting their name out there when, earlier this year, Katy Perry took to Twitter to praise the group's "Washed Up Together" video. The praise was well deserved but, hopefully, the video didn't distract from how cool the song was. As big as this year was for Knox Hamilton, next year figures to be even bigger as the Indie Pop Rockers will be releasing their first full-length album ("The Heights") AND appearing at SXSW.
A few days ago, Conan O'Brien's Team Coco debuted the group's update on the Beach Boys classic "The Man With All The Toys", which you can now get at iTunes and Amazon. The band's Boots Copeland said they felt the Beach Boys Christmas album doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Really? I don't know, man. Maybe in Arkansas. But, on the east coast at least, it gets plenty. Only Spector and Guaraldi get more. Just sayin'. Of course, none of that takes away from the super sound treatment Knox Hamilton brings to the table in their super cool cover of the Christmas classic "The Man With All The Toys".
Still waiting for the first snow of the season in Eastern Carolina, but I'm guessing folks in Doreen Taylor's hometown of Alden, New York, have already seen enough to last them 5 winters.
A versatile singer and actress, Doreen Taylor got plenty of praise for her Country Pop album "Magic" in 2012. Her Christmas single, "My Christmas Wish", which Doreen wrote, is more of a "standard" which should be playing well with Adult Contemporary audiences (Josh Groban is currently #1...again).
And, while you can certainly find "My Christmas Wish" digitally at iTunes and Amazon, you can get a signed CD-single from Doreen (and, I know I'm a dinosaur, but hard copy still matters to me). Not only that, but $1 from every sale of a signed CD-single of "My Christmas Wish" will be donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, one of the many charitable foundations Doreen supports (and I think those are some of the kids in the video).
Blues Traveler have weighed in with a new version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain". I don't have any audio to embed, but you know those guys, right? And you gotta love the cover art. Best of all 100% of the proceeds go to The Salvation Army. And, let me tell you, The Salvation Army is always there even when no one else is. I've seen disaster situations where The Salvation Army are the only ones who will help you out. Everyone else seems content to just count their money. Love The Salvation Army, I do (oh, dear lord, I'm starting to talk like Yoda). You can pick up the single just about anywhere, including Amazon and iTunes. And, though I'd rather not, here is (allegedly) the link to listen to Blues Traveler's Christmas song on Spotify. Can't swear to it. I can't do Spotify. It won't load and usually crashes the computer. My college roommate always says to me, "Stubby, these are things that only ever happen to you." And that may well be, but it doesn't change the fact that they do happen to me.
I'm gonna give you a couple of singles that owe some heritage to T-Rex. Here's a new one from BLAHA! (I know just how he feels).
BLAHA! is Mike Blaha of The Blind Shake and there's a lot of stuff in the mix, here. He's calling it "Freak-Roots", but there's Blues, Psych, Punk, Garage. Tell me you don't hear T-Rex in there, too. (Marc Bolan, man, the world misses you). "It's Christmas Time (And I Have Nothing Left To Lose)" might be the best Christmas song title of the year. Fortunately, it's also a great sounding record. Get your download at Bandcamp or Amazon.
Now the other new tune borrowing a page from the T-Rex playbook is one we told you about before it was released and, thus, we had no audio to share (oh, yeah, that formatting monster has been busy screwing up the whole website). Carly Jamison's "Keeping Christmas" is a good enough song for us to remind you to pick it up before the season's over. And, now, we've got sound!
You can find Carly's "Keeping Christmas" on Bandcamp, Amazon and wherever fine downloads are sold. Be sure to check out her other Christmas singles from Christmas Past, if you don't already have them.
By the way, have you seen Carly's blog? It's like she sees all. She knows when I'm posting about her practically before I do. Hey, you don't suppose she's.....Santa?
No audio available for this next one (as yet), but it's an old favorite of ours, Tristen, with a new Christmas song (or, more accurately, a new seasonal song). Nashville based Indie singer/songwriter Tristen has swum (swam?) in Christmas waters before. Back in 2011, I think it was, she released a 3-song EP on vinyl. Then, a few years back, she recorded "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" with Battlepod 8. There's at least one big difference between those earlier Christmas outings and "In Winter Blues". The others were covers and this one she wrote. Tristen has such a sense of melody, it had to be her's.
There's another big difference, too. This one counts. Tristen is donating all proceeds from "In Winter Blues" to the International Rescue Commission. The IRC was founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein. The IRC has, for 83 years, provided aid to those forced to flee their homes and their countries because of conflict or natural disasters. And, if you've seen the news at all, recently, you know about the slaughter in Aleppo and the ongoing turmoil in Syria. So the IRC needs all of the financial support they can get right, now. The crisis abroad is worse than any since WWII. So, though the cost of "In Winter Blues" is one dollar, Tristen asks you to please give more if you can.
As for the song, itself, it's gorgeous. The 3-song EP she released in 2011 was a little raw and hewed closer to Indie Rock. "In Winter Blues" qualifies as Indie Folk Pop, but, to me, it sounds very much like an early 60s Pop ballad. Except, there's some beautiful layering and the lyrics aren't about boys and dating (although you could read them that way, if you were of a mind to; I'm reading them more as the passing of a season and the year...but then I'm pretty literal).
Buried my sorrow in a sad song
Cried behind the evergreen
Real friends make a toast to remind me
they never like you anyway
in Winter Blues
With Tristen on "In Winter Blues" are Erin Rae McKaskle, Austin Hoke, Jim Hoke & Diederik van Wassenaer. The song is being offered at Bandcamp and every penny helps.
Of late, the off genre singles have really sucked. So I'm going to close with another album cut, just to get a bit of variety in here.
As it happens, I only just discovered Kerry Patrick Clark's wonderful Americana/Folk Pop album, "The Heart of Christmas", which is a 2016 release. Rushed it to our List (though you've got to drift back to, like, October 28). Hard copy CDs available from the artist.
For some reason, Fruitcake songs are always a big hit, so here's another one, "Fruitcake Round", trading off the pros and cons of the thing. Pros about fruitcake? I didn't think there were any (although that College of the Ozarks fruitcake is actually delish...and I'm not being paid to say that).
And I see our friends at Lie In The Sound have found the new "Ho Ho Ho Canada" release (and I was just over there yesterday). Ah, well, I try to be first with Polaroid and Brigitte is always first with "Ho Ho Ho Canada". There is balance in the universe. You'll have to wait at least a day for my thoughts.
There's enough Christmas music to keep you busy for days on the Free Page, today. I think I counted 7 new entries, and I could have kept going. But then we run into the whole sleep thing, again, and it would have pushed the Arbor collection back a page and I didn't want to do that on only its second day up.
The one annoying thing is the stupid forced formatting. All year, its always been whatever you start writing first is going to be the lowest, and whatever you start writing last is going to be up top. So the thing picks today to go completely crazy, posting stuff wherever the hell it wanted them. And, short of making up future dates, you can't change 'em. For some reason, the site was incredibly fond of "Magical Roofs". It wanted that one up top, no matter what I did. But I finally got one up over it.
Rather than fight for supremacy over on the Free Page, I saved my favorite freebie found today for the front page.
I knew Charlotte Carpenter was special the moment I first heard her sing "All I Want For Christmas Is You" in January 2015 (yeah, I was a bit late on that one). There is something about her voice that commands attention. "Enthralling" is a word you hear a lot about Charlotte, and it fits. The voice is enchanting and hypnotic, and her style is so stripped down, there's nothing at all standing between you. Her music is soul to soul.
Charlotte is turning a lot of heads, these days, and, following a year of great progress on her musical journey (in which she earned the praise of people far, far, far more influential than I've ever even aspired to be), she wanted to reward those who've offered encouragement along the way with her original Christmas song, "Cheer". "Cheer" comes out of the memory of a few Christmases ago when a family member had passed, but her mother was determined that her presence would be felt at the dinner table and that the death would not be a cloud over the holiday for others. And the person who takes on that responsibility--to make sure everyone else enjoys the holiday in spite of other events--that person shoulders an unimaginable burden. God bless Charlotte's mom. God bless us all.
I'm gonna hold it all together
For this day and into the new year
I'm going to keep it all together
For this day, let's try to let out some cheer
If there's a way to cheer, now
Won't somebody please tell me how
If there's a way to cheer, now
Won't somebody please tell me how
Tell me how
Tell me how
I'm gonna hold it all together
For this day and into the new year
I'm going to hold it all together
For this day, I'm gonna let out some cheer
Maybe it ain't been so bad a year
How do people do this blog thing and still have time to sleep? I don't get it. I can't do it. Every freakin' night, I tell myself, "OK, we're gonna get an early start and wrap it up by 2:00 AM. OK, no later than 3." It's freakin' 5 o'clock in the morning. There's a freakin' infomercial going on (and way too loud) because I don't even have the freakin' time to change the freakin' channel or even just turn the freakin' thing off. I've got a freakin' crapload of stuff I want to do, here, and I don't have the freakin' time to freakin' do any of it. I even put a couple of quickies in my back pocket for just such an occasion and I don't have the freakin' time to do them.
Pardon me. I'm just freakin' out.
So, as was the case last night, I have to figure out the thing to post that isn't going to keep me here til noon.
Well, at least its one that might interest you.
While we at Stubby's cater to the Christmas music obsessive, a few of our tribe have achieved a degree of fame (or possibly infamy). One such is DJ lo-fi, aka Andy Cirzan. Andy has a regular day gig. But he spends much of his free time hunting down obscure Christmas records. Or, as he refers to them, "holiday obscura". From these, he assembles a little Christmas mix which he then shares via the website of the "Sound Opinions" program on Chicago's WBEZ. Of course people want to know about the collection, so Andy appears on "Sound Opinions", just like Santa, to spread the good cheer and weird music. The Christmas episodes of "Sound Opinions" aren't limited to the songs on the collection. Andy gets talking and the next thing you know, he's reached into his sack of goodies, and pulled out something altogether different. This year's episode aired last night, which means that the new collection is now available.
Andy stopped doing these collections a few years back. But thank goodness nobody told Andy. That would be a Christmas disaster, a year without a Santa Claus. This year's collection is "Warblings From The Enchanted Forest". I like to challenge myself to see how many I know and how many I own. Earlier, I thought the number was 3, but I've revised up to 5...and maybe 6. See? Now I'm feeling a little better about myself. I'm nearly halfway into the obscura club. The others...eh, no clue. The Robin Sisters "Chimney Top Twist" (see the video) is one of the ones I own...yes, the original 45. And I've got two copies of Wayne Champion, who was a pretty good singer for an office supplies salesman.
Here's where you go to download "Warblings From The Enchanted Forest". You should be aware that Andy presents his tales of "holiday obscura" as Side A and Side B, just like the old days of vinyl recordings. Andy's special mixes only last until January 1 and then, poof, they're gone gone gone. If you'd like to download the "Sound Opinions" episode, you can do that here. Looks like there's a good deal on the show that isn't on the mix. And, if the spirit strikes you, the old mixes are gone, but the old Christmas episodes remain in the archives (well, back to 2005 anyway). You can just click on the "Andy Cirzan" tag under this year's episode. Though they don't appear to be in order, the episodes you're looking for a 4, 55, 108, 160, 212, 264, 316, 368, 420, 472, and 525 (thanks, Ernie). This year's is 577 (for future reference). It's free. Enjoy.
Crap, I've been typing like a maniac and it's nearly 6. Crap. I just don't know how people do this.
Our friends at Mistletunes spotted "Fallin' Like Snow" by Jaymay, which I had clearly missed. There's much to recommend the rest of the record, but it's the Alt Rock tune at the top of the set that's a must have. I wish Jaymay had done more like "This Is A Christmas Song, My Love".
"Fallin' Like Snow" is available at Amazon in digital form, but Bandcamp has CDs and both the Bandcamp CD and Bandcamp digital download of "Fallin' Like Snow" include an additional 13 digital Christmas tracks (which were, at one time, available as "Jaymay Sings Christmas"). Your choice is clear, is it not?
If Jaymay can toss in 13 bonus tracks, I can certainly include a bonus video.
Holy crap! "A Polaroid For Christmas 2016" has been out for two days and I'm only finding out about it now? Let me tell you, sleep depravation will destroy your life. I like to toss up one song to listen to, but that's been tough this year. I'm not finding any Soundcloud or Bandcamp streams for these songs. Except for our old friends The Soda Fountain Rag. Their contribution is an oldie, but a goodie, but is a mere 47 seconds long. Oh, well.
It's a shame I'm too tired to truly appreciate this right now. And I gotta get some sleep. I don't even want to know how many typos are gonna be in this write up. And Mrs. Katz (not her real name) has been pissed at me for days. So I gotta keep it short. But I wouldn't dare deny you for another minute.
Polaroid is an Italian music blog. Every year, the humble host of Polaroid asks some of the artists and bands they know if they would like to write a Christmas song or, if not, just play a song to keep them company while they decorate their tree. And the result is always a wonderful, unique, original collection of special music from special people. And Polaroid then posts the collection as a free download for all. I'm pretty sure I first came across them in our first year, 2010. Surely that was when I discovered the Neverending Mojitos. And, much as I loved the Santastic collections and Suburban Sprawl and the Cherryade comps, this was always that special gift I came to look so forward to every year. It's definitely one I try to beat the other Christmas music blogs to (and maybe they let me). I just feel a special connection to "A Polaroid For Christmas".
One of the things that helps make "A Polaroid For Christmas" so special is that it's an Italian blog. So there's a bunch of bands we don't know about or hear much from over here in the states. Our friends at Lie In The Sound perform a similar service from their outpost in Germany. Many, if not most of the songs on the Polaroid collections are initially recorded specifically for Polaroid. So some of these songs might not even exist, but for Polaroid. Their Christmas collections have an underground chic that makes bands want to be included. And I've always found them to be, by and large, full of seasonal joy and warmth, somehow. The performances sound genuine and heartfelt. Genre-wise, pretty much anything goes, though Indie Rock and Indie Pop dominate. But it would, as that's the music Polaroid covers throughout the year. So many music blogs come and go, it's reassuring to me every year I find Polaroid still there.
I have to warn you that this year's collection contains a good many songs in foreign languages (like Italian, mostly). Me, I barely speak English, so I can't really tell you what they're singing about. As for favorites, I haven't had time to sit with it, yet, really. But there's JJ MAZZ with "Dear Santa", that's part Dream Pop and part Shoegaze. It's otherworldly and I love it. Sweat's "Sorry, Santa" has a bit of a retro feel to it, like something from a Frankie & Annette movie that sat in the sun just long enough to develop a cool Indie Rock sunburn. I have loved the raw rawk Garage Punk sound of The Jackson Pollock for awhile (since first discovering them through Polaroid) and "The Yeah Song" is no exception. Baseball Gregg's "Blue Snow" is precisely the kind of joyous Indie Christmas song we might not hear but for the efforts of this wonderful blog--one part big top spectacle, one part 80s inspired synth pop, and one part modern Indie Pop greatness. I have no idea what Una Bella Cosa is singing in "Regalo", but it sounds a tiny bit like "Donde Esta Santa Claus?", doncha think? Setti's great "Renne Va Plus" is said to be abot reindeer. Flyin Zebra's Garage Psych pounds the "Tranquilizer". I haven't mentioned the cover tunes, but they're another reason the Polaroid collections are so great. When you get a Christmas song cover on a Polaroid collection, it's no common cover. It sounds absolutely unique and unlike any cover ever done. Particular kudos, here, to Orson's wonderful take on the Eels' "Christmas Is Going To The Dogs".
In point of fact, there are no bad selections on "A Polaroid For Christmas 2016". There never are. Head to Polaroid and download the collection. You can listen to the tunes or the mix, and all of the artists are linked up for you to learn more. May the Polaroid Christmas collections live forever.
I don't usually run commercials here, but.... Let's talk about it after these words (from not our sponsor).
OK, so I'm checking the upcoming digital Christmas releases at Amazon. This late in the season, there's a lot of House and Chill and EDM comps on the schedule. Not my bag. They usually have nothing to do with Christmas anyway. A few Indie singles (if a "name" artist drops a single this close to Christmas, it usually just drops without advance notice). Then I see "A Band In Seattle Christmas". As Steve Martin once said, "What the hell is that?" I gotz ta know.
"A Band In Seattle" is a local television program (in Seattle, duh). It runs all year, apparently, on the CW outlet up there, KSTW. They film area bands playing in the local clubs--a small set, whatever. The show runs for a half hour, weekly. There may or may not be competition aspects. Don't know, don't really care. The bands are diverse--Country, Jazz, Soul, Rock. And you'll get brand new bands that are trying to get their name out there, area veterans that are popular locally but virtually unknown elsewhere, and some who are truly legendary (even if that's small "L" legendary). In the latter caregory, some of the names who have been on the show are Brent Amaker & The Rodeo, Clinton Fearon, and Hounds Of The Wild Hunt.
I mean, this is the kind of show that should be on all over the country. Not necessarily "A Band In Seattle", but why not "A Band In New York", "A Band In LA (Patterson, New Jersey)", "A Band In The Carolinas". I don't know the cost of producing such programming. Could it really be more than what local channels paid for re-runs of "Roseanne" or "The Cosby Show"? And the truth is that shows like this USED TO exist all over back when cable was younger. We had local video shows and concert shows in New Jersey in the 80s. I remember them well. They had Christmas specials you'd hope to catch (because they weren't in the local listings and you knew, if you missed them, you'd probably never see them again).
Heck, for what it's worth, I remember video music programs from nearly a decade before MTV (and I'm not talking about hosted shows like "Something Else" which, come to think of it, was like a decade before the shows I'm talking about). I've been telling people about the music video show I watched in the 70s for years. And everybody's all like, "Yeah, yeah, sure, right." Well, I can now put a name to the program I'm remembering, since they're restoring the videos. It was "The Now Explosion" and New York ran 5 hours of it on Saturdays and Sundays (or when they otherwise needed to fill time). I may not have been the only one watching, but I seem to be the only one who remembers. It was MTV a decade before MTV. The video that always stuck with me, for some reason, was "Little Green Bag". And you can go back even farther. From the 40s to the 60s, artists made videos known as Scopitones (not for TV, but for video jukeboxes, which were more popular in Europe than here). MTV didn't invent anything.
I do get sidetracked, don't I? Well, anyway, while there aren't these shows all over the country as their should be, there is "A Band In Seattle". Their Christmas special is airing this Saturday and next. And you shouldn't have to be in Seattle to see it as "A Band In Seattle" is pretty good about posting videos of their shows to their website. Keep your eyes on "A Band In Seattle" website and Facebook page to see when the video drops. And then, once you've seen and heard some of their Christmas songs, check out the "A Band In Seattle Christmas" album (which officially releases tomorrow) to see which songs you might want to download (or, with any luck, you'll want the whole thing).
And, hey, check it. "A Band In Seattle" has dropped one of the Christmas vids early, so here's a taste from the Staxx Brothers. "Slow Jam For Christmas". Hell, I want a DVD of this thing. Somebody call Seattle!
1. All I Want for Christmas Is You to Stop Being a Psycho by Bread & Butter
2. I Saw Three Ships by Jupe Jupe
3. Around Christmas Time by Whitney Monge
4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Blake Lewis
5. Long Nights (Yule Log) by Charlie and the Rays
6. Silent Night by Star Anna
7. Don't Touch the Christmas Tree by The Crying Shame
8. Dear Santa Won't You Bring Me a Ring? by Sundae + Mr Geossl
9. Santa's Got Bad Intentions by SweetKiss Momma
10. Spice the Eggnog by Vaudeville Etiquette
11. Oh Holy Night by Whitney Lyman
12. Wassail, Wassail by The Bend
13. Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel by Jake Hemming & the Bereaved
14. Kimchi for Christmas by Champagne Honeybee
15. Good King Wenceslas by Good Company
16. Yule Tied by Furniture Girls
17. Yuletide in My Doublewide by Jessica Lynne & the Cousins
18. I Remember That December by The Malady of Sevendials
19. Slow Jam for Christmas by The Staxx Brothers
This is entertainment. Watch the video, listen to the song, and then we'll talk.
As a rule, we only feature new releases at Stubby's. It isn't fun to tell Indie artists that the song we missed two years ago won't be written about, but there's so much new music these days, you've gotta have guidelines and whatnot. Well, here is the inevitable exception that proves the rule.
It's worth noting that the video is brand new (officially debuted upon an unsuspecting world yesterday, I'm told). But I'm not jumping through that loophole, brilliant (and risque) as it may be.
No, I'm confessing that I missed the initial release of this song, but it is sooo bloody brilliant that I can not ignore it once I've heard it. This is music that must be heard, must be shared, must be known by all.
The Senti-Mentals are a British band, led by Paul Eccentric, a singer/songwriter, playwright, and poet (technically The Antipoet), who earned the name by refusing to tell a journalist his surname. So the journalist dubbed him Paul Eccentric and it stuck. Musically, Paul is remembered for his work with the 80s band The Odd Eccentric who scored a number one hit in Denmark with the two sided single "Two Heads"/"The Sorry People".
The Senti-Mentals began as a Doo-Wop group in 1998, and have a couple of albums to their credit. The label describes "You Show Me Yours At Xmas" as "Punk Poet meets 50s doo-wop". That's OK, as far as it goes. What I hear, though, is the best voice of its kind since Gene Pitney fronting a Punk Ska outfit like the Specials with an appropriate dash of the Neo Swing of The Royal Crown Revue, and the big big production typical of classic British Christmas singles like those from Roy Wood's Wizzard and Slade (only the British would hear Phil Spector and respond, "No, bigger! Much much bigger!"....and we're all happy about that, btw).
The Gene Pitney vocals are what grabbed me right away. Maybe you're not as old as I am, but Gene Pitney had one of the best voices in Rock n Roll. It was strong, clear, and cut through everything like a Mike Tyson uppercut. The only thing about Pitney was the material. He mostly sang nice, safe, Pop songs. They were nice. Pleasant, even. He had a lot of hits and a nice career. Oh, but, man, that voice would've soared in Rock n Roll. When I think of Gene Pitney, I don't think of "Liberty Valance". Please. I think of "She's A Heartbreaker".
On the other end is the Ska. Ever notice how most Ska vocalists sound roughly the same? There seems to be a basic vocal range among Ska vocalists, and most like to play it goofy. That's part of the whole Ska thing--not taking themselves too seriously. One of the reasons (just one) I'm so taken by Si Cranstoun (who started in Ska) is that he's got a great, clear, soulful and unique voice. Well Ska and Gene Vincent would have made some great records.
And then there's the song itself. Something a little different than your "White Christmas", "Little Drummer Boy" playlist. There have been songs about the hapless would-be ladies man on the make before, I'm sure. But, offhand, I can't think of any other than maybe "Baby It's Cold Outside", and I'm pretty sure we're all tired of that one. Now "You Show Me Yours At Xmas"? I'm never forgetting this song. The lyrics are brilliant. The music practically demads that you dance, party, and have the good time the poor sod in the video (appropriately named Dick) will never have. And, yes, there is that video. Did you catch all of the little touches. Like the Trump poster? Did you catch that? Evil Bread 2? I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition...in my pants? Go back and watch it again.
But I keep coming back to the vocals. I know its not a pure Ska rhythm. It is every bit as much that early hybrid of Rock and R&B. But those vocals. That cat (and I assume it's Paul) can truly sing.
I don't care what year it was originally released. "You Show Me Yours At Xmas" by the Senti-Mentals is on Santa Stubby's Top Ten Christmas list this year...and possibly every year going forward. You can get the 2-track digital download at Amazon and iTunes (and most major digital retailers). There is a CD-single available at the Senti-Mentals web site but, for now, it's a print out the form and mail in the check purchase (reasonably priced, though). Now go back and watch that video again.
I love Christmas, music, and cats. What more do you need to know?