If you are the type that answers, "It's never too soon," you are in luck. The Holidays Rule compilation album came out earlier this season and it's jampacked with an impressive array of contributors, including lots of local musicians. This is due to one of the compilation's producers, Chris Funk of the Decemberists and Black Prairie, who roused the local troops for some Yuletide cheer. Along with nobodies like Paul McCartney and Irma Thomas, Holiday Rules has tracks by the Shins, Y La Bamba, Black Prairie with Sallie Ford, AgesandAges, and Fruit Bats (Portlanders all).
After the jump, I'll post complete streams of a couple songs—the Shins' take on McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" and Fruit Bats' "It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas"—plus a giant embed that has 30-second previews of all the other tracks on the record. More info here.
If it is too soon for Christmas music, you can wait to open this package until closer to December 25.
This is the great, great Clarence Carter's excellent Christmas tune, which also probably has the best title for a Christmas song of all time: "Back Door Santa." I could never figure out why Carter isn't regularly mentioned in the same breath as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, as his deep-fried Southern soul—sorry to use such a clichéd phrase, but it applies here—is certainly their equal. "Slip Away"? "Patches"? And this: "Back Door Santa," which also features the single greatest "Ho ho ho" ever committed to record.
And if that horn break in "Back Door Santa" sounds familiar, it's because Run-DMC sampled it for their (also classic) "Christmas in Hollis." (And fun fact! Run sports a Portland Trail Blazers jacket in the video.)
This is the best rock 'n' roll Christmas song out there. That's Kinks drummer Mick Avory in the Santa suit.
But what is up with the clock falling off the wall? Is that a German curse or something? A joke at the expense of the Swiss?
Ich bin konfüsed.
Every holiday season, Parenthetical Girls get into the spirit by offering up some sort of seasonal fare. This year they cut it pretty close, but it's never too late to save Christmas. Over at their Bandcamp page, the group is giving out the download to the band's all new EP, Parenthetical Girls Save Christmas, for a pay-what-you-want price. If the spirit of giving has infected you this year, feel free to pay something, but for the rest of us Scrooges it's basically free. And, of course, it's lovely. Swooning and festive, the group puts together all new classics about the Christmas lore of yesterday and promises of tomorrow. Check out opening track, "Christmas Past," below and get the whole EP here right now.
Parenthetical Girls - "Christmas Past"
As a kid, my Christmas wish lists were pretty standard; a football, maybe some comic books, a video game if I was feeling particularly good that year. Now, I've heard of kids getting puppies and I'm sure one little girl out there still asks for a pony every year, but Portland songwriter Anya Marina outdoes them all by requesting a hippo. Which is crazy if you ask me. I mean, do you know how hungry those things get??
Actually, Marina's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" is a version of an old novelty song, written back in the '50s and originally sung by a 10-year-old girl. Fun fact: That girl was actually given a hippo on Christmas by a local fundraising campaign, and donated the animal to the zoo! I'm betting Marina doesn't actually want a hippo, but her adorable take on the song is pretty convincing. Check it out below and look out for Marina's upcoming album, Felony Flats, coming out next year.
Anya Marina - "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"
This year, we asked Hometapes' family and friends to make a song for the holidays — whatever that meant to them. This is our third year doing this, and, undoubtedly, the most remarkable one yet. Over the past couple weeks, Adam and I have opened over twenty gifts: songs that push what it means to feel, and to feel Right Now. Not just those December vibes, but the experience of where we all are right this second: a world that's somehow more infinite than it's ever been. Maybe this has to do with our age (we're getting older) or the nebulous nature of our geographic borders (thanks to the machine you are reading this on). Adjacent to the tools that enable us is the perspective we carry — and our lens is polished, daily, by these artists. And it has been for a decade. Before that, it was the music on the radio, the LPs in our parents' record bin, the shows in that belvedere by the river that changed our lives, the views out the tour van window. After this, as we swim through that dark pool between December 31 and January 1 (yeah, I see a dark pool), we'll dry off, take a deep breath, and keep running.
Happy holidays. We hope you get exactly what you want. This can be your soundtrack.
A classic. Merry Christmas from Dave Bow, David Bowie, Bing Crosby and The Mercury. May dinner with your friends and relations be every bit as awesome as this video of "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (though a little less awkward).
For bonus cheer, you can see John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell recreate this classic meeting of voices almost note for note.
h/t to Jacob Schraer
I dedicate today's entry to those scrooges who came down on poor Macca yesterday like a ton of bricks. I would rather listen to "Wonderful Christmas Time" on loop for an hour than hear the whole Fat Les album.
Fat Les was a supergroup(???) comprised of Alex James (bassist from Blur), acclaimed actor and father to Lily Allen, Keith Allen and artist/provocateur Damien Hirst. If you were to imagine what kind of music those three men would create together would it sound like "Naughty Christmas (Goblin in the Office)"? Really, be honest. I should also note that this song features guest vocals by Lisa Moorish, a singer/songwriter most notable for giving birth to children by both Pete Doherty and Liam Gallagher while married to another man. Plus she initially blamed it on Justin Welch from Elastica! Naughty, naughty woman.
I previously asked if there was any pop songwriter as suited to Christmas music as XTC's Andy Partridge. Of course there is: Paul McCartney! Macca's shameless cheese is made for this time of year and, as a tireless McCartney defender, I feel obliged to include Wings' "Wonderful Christmas Time" in my countdown. Listen to Linda joyfully plunk that synth like it completely belongs in this song. She almost makes me go with it. Almost...
I also imagine that people who get super grouchy around Christmas begin to see everyone who is enjoying themselves much like Paul comes across at the start of this vid, poking his grinning face in everyone else's. Whatta goon!
Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate, here's the inimitable King Diamond with a lump of coal for you! Like a lot of true '80s metal, "No Presents for Christmas" manages to be extremely silly and kind of genuinely sinister. What else would you expect from the King?
PS, I love how, halfway through the making of this fan video, YouTube user flyingpigzjacob apparently ran out of pictures of Santa with skeleton arms and smoking blunts so he decided to include a jpg of Huey, Dewey and Louie excited to open a stack of gifts. Didn't you hear King Diamond, you stupid ducks? No presents for Christmas!
Home stretch, folks! Hope you're not waiting 'til the last minute to buy those Christmas gifts. As of this writing I am... but I'm not letting it stress me out cuz I'm bumping songs like XTC's "Thanks for Christmas". If ever there was a pop songwriter tailored to write catchy Christmas songs it was Andy Partridge. Thank you for the winter friendliness, Andy!
This version of "O Holy Night" made the rounds for the internet long enough for internet people to do what they do best: find out who could have butchered the song so delightfully. The answer was a man named Steve Mauldin who was so proud of his recording (or maybe just incensed that other people were taking the credit for it) that he made a YouTube video that laboriously backs up his claim that he and no one else is responsible for this.
What makes Mauldin's version of "O Holy Night" so awesome is not how tuneless it is (and my God is it that - this song makes my cat leave the room) but how passionate. Mauldin loves Jesus and this song clearly gets to him in a profound way. I really believe there's nothing quite like this.
I guess Guster has gone from being an also-ran to being a critically acclaimed also-ran in the last few years but I never really listened to them. This cover of "¿Donde Esta Santa Claus?" is pretty damn charming, though. How does it stack up to the rest of Guster's recorded output? I couldn't tell you...
How Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band's "Christmas at K-Mart" became a hit record I do not know. But it did and it is so incredibly awesome. In fact, "Christmas at K-Mart" was so strong it landed the band a cushy record deal and allowed them to put out songs like "Boogie 'til You Puke" and "I'm Not Too Old For You". Then the label dropped them. "Cough syrup sold out tonight / those locker room-users in their usual fright!" Alright...?
Is there any Christmas song as sweet and salty as "Fairytale in New York" by the Pogues and Kristy MacColl? When I briefly lived in Ireland I was delighted to find that "Fairytale" was treated with the kind of reverence usually reserved for hymns. It's classic status and memorability are undoubtedly thanks to the song's most infamous couplet: "You're a bum, you're a punk. You're an old slut on junk. / Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed / You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap, lousy faggot / Happy Christmas your arse, I pray god it's our last."
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