"Black Santa Claus" is my absolute favorite new Christmas song of the year. Performed by Inner Circle and featuring Mikey Spice, "Black Santa Claus" has everything. It's got an easy going Reggae beat, a sweet and soulful delivery, and a perfect message. "Take your bag, fill it full of hope, and give it to the poor and the needy. Take your bag, fill it with love, and give it to the youth in the streets" You have to listen to it. Then I think you'll love it like I do. I've had it on repeat all night. The song'll pretty much speak for itself (and win your heart, I'm sure), so I'll let it do so. Official release date for "Black Santa Claus" is November 25 (this Tuesday). You can get it from Amazon.
The John Lindberg Trio has been making great Roots Rock for years, including the too often overlooked Christmas album "Rock This Christmas" (2012). They've got a new Christmas single, this year, and it's pretty awesome. Sounds like Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly got together with Jay & The Americans and an early 70s rock band (haven't been able to pinpoint exactly who). A song like "Merry Christmas (I've Been Waiting So Long)" would make a rousing open or close to your holiday mix. Stream it on Spotify (I don't do Spotify, but I did for this one) and get it at Amazon.
Osaka Popstar was the brain child of several Punk superstars. The members represent some of the finest bands of the genre--The Misfits, The Ramones, Black Flag and The Voidoids. One day, they decided to create a band devoted, primarily, to singing about characters from Japanese anime. Like Astro Boy and Sailor Moon. I'm not sure what they were smoking when they conceived Osaka Popstar, but I sure would like some. [Note: Kids, don't do drugs. Why do you think they call it dope?]
For Christmas 2014, Osaka Popstar has released their vision of "O Holy Night", giving the classic tender carol the kind of a makeover The Dickies gave "Silent Night". It's pretty good, too, though I'd still go with the version from The New Royalty if I was looking for a rockin' version. It's at Amazon and everyplace else, but only as a digital single (although the band will happily sell you an ornament to go with your download). I do dig the cover art.
If you're looking for something with a little more wonder and awe, Canadian Folk Pop singer Anna Vandas has got an absolutely beautiful tune out (complete with haunting cello, violin and some really well done synth). "Wonderous Wild" is perfect for that quiet, snowy December night. Truly gorgeous. I guess you'd call it Folk Pop, but I think this one has enough going for it, it would fit pretty much any playlist. Amazon's got this one.
Dallon Weekes is the bass player (and backing vocalist) for Panic! At The Disco. He also has his own group, the Brobecks. But he's issued "Sickly Sweet Christmas" under his own name. As the title might imply, this is not a "Go Christmas! Its your birthday!" kind of anthem. If anything, its openly mocking the jollier songs of the season. But, when you're taking on something so ingrained in human consciousness as happy Christmas songs, the blade stings all the more when you use their own devices. In this case the self-described "who gives a crap indie" track is upbeat and bouncy and appropriately Spector-esque that it'll delight everyone who gets it and go straight over the heads of those who don't (and they'll delight because its so bright and bouncy). Right down to the little "Jingle Bells" riff at the end. "Sickly Sweet Christmas" is available on Bandcamp, but you'll get it cheaper from Amazon. Just sayin'.
Mary did not stop recording--not completely--but she'd had her fill of "the business" and spent most of her time and energy raising a family. A few years back, she started her own label, releasing some previously unreleased recordings as well as some newly recorded material. Among the material Mary has released under her own imprint are a trio of Christmas songs--all previously released, but they sure got by me. Two traditional folk songs--"Cherry Tree Carol" and "Mary Had A Baby" were released post-Apple in 1972. "Snowed Under" was recorded and released as a download in 2006. The Christmas songs were released on a CD in 2008, but you can download the mp3s at Amazon.
Now 64, Mary Hopkin went back to the recording studio this year and cut a Christmas single which releases December 1. Talk about returning to your roots, "Iesu Faban" is an old Welsh folk carol, beautifully done and featuring her children as the angelic choir.
With a new album expected in the coming months, Lisa has just released a Christmas single. "It's Christmastime" is a piano-centric Folk Pop tune that would be at home on most traditional holiday mixes as well. Its available at Amazon and on iTunes.
Jill Taylor is one such artist. She and her husband were doing pretty well with assorted bands in the eighties and nineties. But just when they thought they'd found the right chemistry with a pair of brothers, the brothers spit for bigger things and, bandless, Jill and her husband John settled down to live their lives, Jill teaching school and directing the church choir.
In 2008, Jill began writing songs, again. They just kept coming. And, of course, once you've written a whole bunch of songs, you've got to sing 'em, right? 2013 saw the release of "Song Of My Heart" and, this year, Jill's got a Christmas single. "Christmas Blues" is now available from CD Baby and will hit Amazon and other outlets by the end of the week. Head to Jill's website and get four songs free just for signing on to her mailing list. And you gotta know...if it's Christmas Blues and there's a video, I'm showing it.
I don't think I've ever heard an Alt Rock version of "Walking In The Air". Ragsy, aka Gary Ryland, was a contestant on the UK's version of The Voice last year. He didn't win, but he surely gained a following. Ragsy's voice sounds as though it would fit right in a classic rock band like Kansas. I do kind of wish Ragsy and the band would have gone heavy halfway through the song. But you have to consider that Brits revere the song. Still, pretty good take on what is most often presented as quasi-classical or AC vocal. Amazon's got it.
"It's Christmas Time! (Oh Yeah, NaNaNa)" has a Phil Spector meets the Ramones feel, so I don't think anyone is going to be too upset, but then again some fans are bound to see it as selling out. The song's about a broken relationship and Steve says it took him three years to get the sound he wanted. "It's Christmas Time! (Oh Yeah, NaNaNa)" is available as a CD-Single in the UK. In the states, we're going to have to settle for digital.
If you like your Punkish music to have an attitude that's a bit more aggressive, the ladies of Jackknife Stiletto have just the thing. "Dear Santa" reminds me of those mid-late 80s Indie Punk Rock songs that you'd stumble across if you were lucky. In fact, I think it might be a cover of just such a record, but its 4 in the morning and my records are in the other house, so... "I still didn't get that bicycle I wanted. I wrote you 500 letters and you still haven't answered me." Worth grabbing in any case. Get it at Amazon or CD Baby. "PS--I took an elf".
Sabrina Carpenter plays Maya on "Girl Meets World", the best friend of Cory and Topanga's offspring Riley. Sabrina's clearly very talented (and only 15!) and here she shows off her singing. "Silver Nights" doesn't even have that full on Radio Disney vibe (which I actually kind of like, by the way--"bubblegum child" and all that--though I know a lot of people can't stand it). If anything, it leans a little bit Country. Disney Pop Country, sure. "Silver Nights" is available through Amazon and iTunes.