The first bunch of Christmas singles has arrived, and most others that I know of have been ordered, so it's time to start writing a blog entry about the 2015 Christmas singles. As many of you music lovers will know, especially those of you who are into vinyl, the rise in the demand for vinyl records has put a lot of pressure on the relatively few still existing record pressing plants. This means that the waiting times for vinyl have risen considerable, some of the bigger pressing plants taking half a year to press a record. These long production times are a big problem for many labels, especially for the smaller ones, and for bands, who can't be certain anymore that the records they need for touring will be ready in time for the tour. But it's also a problem for time-dependent release like Christmas releases. A production time of half a year means that masters should be ready to be send out to the pressing plant around April, if you want your records in shops in time for Christmas (which is the end of November at the latest). When you also know that in the last few years, although sales for vinyl in general have risen extremely, the sales of 7” singles have gone down considerably, you know that the number of Christmas singles may not be as large as it used to be a few years ago. So far, I counted 19 2015 Christmas singles, while there were 30 in 2014 and 43 in 2013. Although I still hope some more singles will be added this year, it does show that the future of the Christmas single on 7” vinyl is uncertain. But let's not be too negative... this year brought us almost 20 new Christmas singles so far, so that's still quite some records to enjoy!
4 Past Midnight: It's Christmas Time Again (Orchestrated Dystopia Records, Scotland)
4 Past Midnight is a longrunning punk band from Glasgow, Scotland. They exist since 1989, which means they are going strong already for more than 25 years. That's what I call real dedication, and what else should you expect from a punk band! The band seems to have a tradition of Christmas songs... in 2013, they released a 2-song CD, 'Nobody Should Be Lonely On Christmas Day', with all proceeds going to Childline, a telephone service that gives children advise about a wide range of subjects. So the heart of these lads is in the right place! Anyway, in January 2015, so a little bit too late for Christmas, they released a 2-song digital single through Bandcamp, and this single is now but out on a white 7” by Orchestrated Dystopia Records, a small DIY label from the Midlands. It comes in great looking cartoon artwork, by Landon L. Armstrong. The A-side of the single is called 'It's Christmas Time Again'. It starts really quiet, with a nice piano/keyboard melody, and after 25 seconds, the guitars join in, later we hear some clocks, and it turns into a great Christmas punk song. The lyrics describe all the joys of Christmas and there is a great sing-a-long chorus. This is how a Christmas punk song should sound! The B-side is called '4PM Christmas Medley' and it takes parts of the lyrics of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' and Shakin' Stevens' 'Merry Christmas Everyone' over a midtempo punk/oi backing, while towards the last part of the song, the band members get their presents, like Gibson guitars, a Rickenbacker and a new drum kit from drummer Peter 'but it doesn't make him sound any better, oh dear'... hehe... and in the end, they are getting drunk and pissed... as they are Scottish punks...
All in all, a great single, that comes with a printed CD-R including both songs, and even a lyric sheet, so you get really something worth for your money.
Order the record here:
Listen to the complete single here:
And check out the video for 'It's Christmas Time Again' here:
Mariah Carey: All I Want For Christmas Is You 2000 (SME Records / Bootleg, Germany?)
Of course, one could question if I should include 'unofficial' records here, especially if it are lathe cut ones, so are also probably only around in a very small run. Still, I choose to do so, as I like how the record was done, and besides, it's the first time these two mixes of Mariah Carey's all time Christmas classic 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' are available on the 7” format. Everybody probably knows that the original version of this song was the biggest Christmas hit of 1994, and is now considered as one of the most popular Christmas songs, maybe even the most popular Christmas songs of the 20th Century. Personally, I don't think this song beats the classics that were recorded in the 1940s,1950s and 1960s, what probably are the glory days of Christmas music, songs like 'White Christmas' (as recorded by Bing Crosby), 'The Christmas Song' (as recorded by Nat King Cole) or 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' (as recorded by Andy Williams) were written. But no one can deny it's nevertheless a great catchy Christmas song that definitely is for the late 20th century what the classics just mentioned were for the mid 20st century.
Anway, in 2000 a remix of the song was released on CD, in Japan. The remix, the so-called So So Def Remix, was done by Jermaine Dupri (the remix was named after his record label), and it featured rapper Lil Bow Wow, who had been working before with Jermaine Dupri. The remixed version starts with Lil Bow Wow refusing to go to bed, while Jermaine tells him to go to sleep as Santa Claus is coming, but it doesn't impress Lil Bow Wow, as he doesn't believe in Santa Claus. After the introduction, a stripped down version of Mariah's song starts, with an electro sounding beat, and apart from that, mainly Mariah's soulful vocals, and Jermaine commenting on the song (mostly saying things like 'com'n' and 'yeah'). The single came with a cartoon video, that is definitley worth watching, with a sexy Mariah assisting Santa Claus, to proof to Lil Bow Wow that Santa Claus really exists...
The B-side of this single has the new version of 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' that Mariah recorded for their second Christmas LP, 2010s 'Merry Christmas II You' – the so-called 'extra festive' version. The SoSo Def Remix sounded like a version for a hiphop party, the 'extra festive' version sounds very well suited for a Walt Disney movie, with more orchestration and an even stronger Phil Spector influence than the original.
It's unclear for me how many copies of this lathe version were pressed, or where it is from. As most sellers offering it on Ebay were from Germany, I expect it was made in Germany. There were two versions, with two different covers, based on the two different covers of the 2000 Japanese maxi-CD's. The record (that is totally transperant, and has labels that match the cover artwork) comes with an inlay, that has the artwork of the 2010 digital single version.
Check the video of the SoSo Def Remix here:
And a lyric video of the 20 extra festive version here:
Eazy-E: Merry Mutha****** Xmas (Priority Records, US)
Another re-release, but this time an official one, is Eazy-E's 'Merry Mutha****** Xmas'. The track originally appeared on Eazy-E's 1992 12” EP “5150 Home 4 Tha Sick”, as the last of five tracks, and was as controversial as Eazy-E himself was. Raised in Compton, California, dropping out of school at 10, selling drugs as a teenager and becoming part of the notorious N.W.A. (Niggers With An Attitude), Eazy-E is sometimes labelled as the godfather of gangsta rap. Not really a title to be proud of, if you ask me, but I am sure there will definitely be people that disagree with me here. But well, I was raised in a small village in The Netherlands, and not in a dangerous neighborhood in one of the biggest cities in the US, so what do I know about gangsters anyway...
The song starts out with a kid asking Eazy-E to read a story, and he wants to start a story about himself (not many hiphoppers have a lack of ego), but then a woman comes in between, and is going to tell the kids a story about Santa Claus instead – although this Santa Claus is from muthfukkin Compton... and what then follows is a medley that mixes some wellknown Christmas melodies and quite cool sounding hiphop parts and with an orgy of four letter words, drugs praise, promiscuity and a lot of humor. We hear Jingle Bells, Deck The Halls, All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, Twelve Days Of Christmas, O Tannebaum and We Wish You A Merry Christmas... not a song for daytime radio, I guess... still, musically, I think it's quite a good song… and it ends with 'and they all went to prison, and lived fucked-up lives ever after.'...
Listen to it here, but but sure your kids are not near when you do! :)
Hvitmalt Gjerde: Dine Lepper Smaker Jul (Nordpolen Musikklubb, Norway)
Last year, NordpolenMusikklubb put out their first Christmas single, a great song by 1960s Norwegian female singer Sonja. Nordpolen Musikklubb was started to release one Christmas 7” every year, and I was very glad to see there is indeed a new 7” out! This time, they choose for a more contemporary artist, the band Hvitmalt Gjerde, which translates to 'White Painted Fence'. Rather original name for a band, I think.
The band is from Minde, which is part the Årstad borough in the city of Bergen, the second biggest city of Norway, known because of its university and it's very active music scene. Hvitmalt Gjerde started out as a 4 piece, but lost a member over the years, as they are now only a 3 piece. According to their own description, they play surf rock inspired by 60s pop, psychedelica and garage rock. As you probably would have guessed from the name of the band and the title of the single, the band sings their own native language. On photos, the band members look quite young, which they probably are, as the band was started in 2007 in high school. But they are definitely no school band anymore!
Their Christmas single is called 'Dine Lepper Smaker Jul', which translates to 'Your Lips Taste Like Christmas'. It won't come as a surprise that it's a love song: 'Snow is falling outside the window... but all I want is you'. Just for the record - the lyrics are not as cheezy as this one line may indicate. Not that I speak Norwegian, but Google Translate is a great help. And even if the lyrics were cheezy, no one outside of Norway would notice it, anyway. It's a great song, and I definitely hear a big surf influence in the guitar work. It has a nice melody, that sticks in your head.
I really liked the artwork of last year's Nordpolen Musikklubb single, and I think this year, the artwork is again great. All in all, a highyl recommended single (that comes on white vinyl). But I guess, if you want a copy, you have to hurry, as I understand it is going fast. I got my copy by just contacting the label throught their Facebook page, so if you are interested, I suggest you do the same...
In the meantime, check out the song on Youtube – they (or whoever made the video) have used parts of the Peanuts Christmas movie, so it's not only fun to listen to, but also fun to watch:
André Hazes: Eenzame Kerst / Met Kerst Ben Ik Alleen (Music On Vinyl, The Netherlands)
Well, for understanding the lyrics of this 7”, I don't have to use Google Translate, as they are in Dutch – and I happen to live in The Netherlands! It's another Black Friday release, and another re-release... it's one of the complaints people usually have about Record Store Day releases (besides them being overpriced): more and more it are repackaged re-releases of old songs, instead of new limited music of current artists. But still, we buy, so I guess the record labels will scontinu putting out re-releases. This little transculent green vinyl record compiles the two biggest Christmas hits of Dutch singer André Hazes: 'Eenzame Kerst' (Lonely Christmas) and 'Met Kerst Ben Ik Alleen' (I Am Alone At Christmas). No, it are no jolly Christmas songs that we have here. I don't know if there has ever been an election of the best Dutch language Christmas song, but if there was, I guess André Hazes' 'Eenzame Kerst' would be the number 1. And although I am not really that much into this Dutch folkloristic music style, that people name 'smartlappen' (difficult to translate in English, but if you know that 'smart' is the Dutch word for 'grief' or 'sorrow', you get an idea...), I cannot deny the quality of this particular song. André Hazes wrote the song himself, recorded a demo, and send it to Willly Alberti, then one of the most famous singers from Amsterdam, to ask if he was interested to record the song. Willy Alberti liked the version Andre recorded so much, that he suggested that André would sing the song himself. So he did, and the song was released in 1976, as a split 7' with a non-Christmas song sung by Willy Alberti. 'Eenzame Kerst' became a hit (number 5 in the Dutch Top 40), and was the start of a career that made André Hazes the most popular Dutch singer of the 20th Century. Six years later André, who was a big star by then, released another Christmas single, 'Met Kerst Ben Ik Alleen', for which he used the melody of Abba's 'The Day Before You Came'. That was another Christmas hit for him but, personally I think it can't really stand in the shadow of 'Eenzame Kerst'. That song tells the story of a man in prison, who is there because he stole to be able to give his children bread, and he feels very sad as there is another man celebrating Christmas with his wife and kids. All his fellow prison mates got presents from their children, but he got nothing... so, yes, a real 'smartlap'... he is even using the word 'smart' in the lyrics, and he sings it with so much grief... you might say he is overdoing it, but I say: he was just living it. That was probably what made him so popular – people believed what he sang. Do you want to know how popular André Hazes was in Holland? His funeral ceremony (he died because of heart failure in 2004) was attended by 48.000 people, and the live TV broadcast was watched by 6 million people (including 1 million from Belgium) – that is one third of the complete Dutch population....
Listen to 'Eenzame Kerst' here:
And watch the (not so good quality) video of 'Met Kerst Ben Ik Alleen' here:
IKON: Gruss Vom Krampus / Little Drummer Boy (Snowflakes Christms Singles Club, The Netherlands)
Melbourne postpunk band IKON was started at the end of the 1980s as Death In The Dark by school friends Chris McCarter and Dino Molinaro, influenced by bands like Joy Division and New Order. The band changed its name to IKON in 1991. Since then, IKON released seven albums, the last 'Everyone Everything Everywhere Ends' in 2014. The band, that still features the two original members alongside David Burns and Clifford Ennis, has done several tours through the years, and has become one of the mainstays of the worldwide darkwave/gothic/postpunk scene. IKON's sound has developed through the years, incorporating acoustic and electronic elements in their dark, postpunk-inspired rock sound. Despite Christmas in Australia usually being sunny and hot, IKON is going to make Christmas 2015 a very dark, cold and even scary one. The A-side tells the story of Krampus, the Christmas devil, the helper of Saint Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) according to the folklore of the Alp countries, who punishes children that have misbehaved. The B-side turns the Christmas classic 'Little Drummer Boy' in a scary sounding darkwave song. On special request of the band, the single comes in two versions: 200 copies on snow white vinyl and 200 copies on blood red vinyl.
You can listen to the A-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/snowflake-8-side-a-ikon-gruss-vom-krampus-7-inch-edit
And to the B-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/snowflake-8-side-b-ikon-little-drummer-boy-7-inch-edit
The video of 'Gruss Vom Krampus' was recorded in Amsterdam:
And order the single here: http://snowflakes.bigcartel.com/product/ikon-gruss-vom-krampus-b-w-little-drummer-boy
Expect a video for 'Gruss Vom IKON' in about one week (filming starts this week!).
Juniore: De Saison / Pour Noel, Cette Année (Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, The Netherlands)
Snowflake 9, the third single of the 2015 edition of the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club (or the third snowflake of 2015, as the label of the A-side says), features two songs by Juniore, from Paris, France. Juniore is the brainchild of Anna Jean, a singer who lent her voice to songs of Parisian electro acts like Jackson, Jérôme ''Tacteel" Echenoz and Bot'Ox. Juniore, in which Anna Jean is joined by four other female musicians, is something competely different: surf, psychedelica, french female sixties pop and space age music are all blended together by producer Samy Osta (Rover, La Femme, Louis Chedid), while Anna Jean sings stories about being sleep deprived, restless or falling out of love. Anna's mysterious voice is reminiscent of 60s muses, think Nico meets Françoise Hardy. Juniore released three singles so far, and their Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club single is the fourth. For this single, they have composed a reverb drenched dreamy original about the Christmas season ('De Saison'). On the B-side, the band gave one of the biggest Christmas hits ever, Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' a total makeover– it now sounds like a psychedelic pop song from the sixties, sung Françoise Hardy in the small wee hours of the night. The single comes on snow white vinyl and is limited to 350 copies.
You can listen to the A-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/snowflake-9-side-a-juniore-de-saison
And to the B-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/snowflake-9-side-b-juniore-pour-noel-cette-annee
Watch the video of the B-side on Youtube:
And order the single here: http://snowflakes.bigcartel.com/product/pre-order-juniore-de-saison-b-w-pour-noel-cette-annee
Tele Novella: Christmas Spirit / Purple Snowflakes (Snowflakes Christms Singles Club, The Netherlands)
Snowflake 10 features two songs by Tele Novella, from Austin, Texas. Self-described as "psych-pop, indie-pop, macabre-pop, pop-pop. The pop kind", Tele Novella is Natalie Ribbons, Jason Chronis, Matt Simon and Sarah La Puerta and was formed in 2012, some time after Natalie's previous band Agent Ribbons and Jason and Matt previous band Voxtrot broke up. Influenced by bands like Os Mutantes, Aislers Set, Velvet Underground, The Bachs and Belle and Sebastian, Tele Novella self-released their debut 7" 'Don't Be A Stranger' late 2013 - the record was met with raving reviews and sold out very quickly. Early 2014 saw their second 7", 'Trouble In Paradise', released on American Laundromat Records . That year, the band also contributed to the Wes Anderson tribute compilation on the same label, and they released a 5-song cassette EP on Lollipop Records. Early 2016, Tele Novella will release their debut album. The A-side of their Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club single, 'Christmas Spirit', is a song that is a much a Halloween as a Christmas song – it's catchy, it's a bit silly, it's a perfect song to singalong too and it's over before you know it. On the B-side, Tele Novella cover Marvin Gaye's 'Purple Snowflakes', and make it sound as an authentic 1960s recording. The single comes on snow white vinyl and is limited to 350 copies.
You can listen to the A-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/snowflake-10-side-a-tele-novella-christmas-spirit
And to the B-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/snowflakes-side-b-tele-novella-purple-snowflakes
And order the single here: http://snowflakes.bigcartel.com/product/pre-order-tele-novella-christmas-spirit-b-w-purple-snowflakes
Someone in Australia is at the moment working hard to make a video for 'Christmas Spirit', so watch for news about this soon!
Terminal Gods: Boundless / Driving Home For Christmas (Snowflakes Christms Singles Club, The Netherlands)
Snowflake 7 (yes, this is the first snowflake of 2015!) features two songs by Terminal Gods, a gothic rock band from London. Formed in 2011, the band has released three singles and a EP on their own label Heavy Leather Sex Productions, and will release their debut album in Spring 2016. The sound of Terminal Gods is heavy influenced by the early 1980s gothic rock scene, notibly The Sisters Of Mercy (due to the baritone vocals of Cowlin, the atmospheric guitar work of Maisey and the cold sounds of the drum machine), although the most recent single 'Road Of The Law' demonstrate that the band is more and more developing a sound of their own. 'Boundless', the A-side of their Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, shows a total new side of the band, and sounds almost like a ballad, but one with a punch. And figure out for yourself what the lyrics are about... or who... The B-side is a cover of one of the most popular Christmas pop songs from the 1980s, Chris Rea's 'Driving Home For Christmas'. Terminal Gods turn it into an almost industrial sounding postpunk song. The single comes on snow white vinyl and is limited to 350 copies.
You can listen to the A-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/terminal-gods-boundless
And to the B-side here: https://soundcloud.com/snowflakes-christmas-45s/driving-home-for-christmas
Watch the video of Boundless here:
And order the single here: http://snowflakes.bigcartel.com/product/terminal-gods-boundless-b-w-driving-home-for-christmas
And there are more singles – I will write more about these when I have received them, but below I'll give you an overview, and tell you were you can get the singles...
ballboy: Kingfisher Bluez Christmas Single 2015
For the fourth year, Canadian label Kingfisher Bluez is releasing a Christmas single. This year, Scottisb one-man band Ballboy has the honor to add his song 'Merry Christmas To The Drunks, Merry Christmas To The Lovers' to the Kingfisher Bluez Christmas singles collection. Just like the previous years, this record is a benefit for 1-800-SUICIDE and Crisis Centre BC, and it comes in a beautiful cover. You can order it here: https://kingfisherbluez.bandcamp.com/album/kingfisher-bluez-christmas-single-2015
Justin & The Cosmics ft The Georgettes / Pony Boy: Father Christmas / (Please Don't Leave) On Christmas Eve
Thanks to Martin of the great Stubby's Christmas blog I found out about this Christmas split single, by two US bands. The songs have been around for some time, but they are definitely good enough to be featured on vinyl! And no, the first song is not a Kinks-cover. Get you copy here: http://www.cosmicthugrecords.com/shop-1/father-christmas-justin-the-cosmics-featuring-the-georgettes-please-dont-leave-on-christmas-eve-pony-boy-split-7-vinyl-single
Menace Beach / Cowtown: Holidays Are Heavy / Wonderful Christmas Time
Part of the Too Pure singles club. Menace Beach do an original, Cowtown cover Paul McCartney's Christmas hit from 1979. I guess this record will be available through all the wellknown UK indie shops.
Phoenix with special guest Bill Murray: All Alone On Christmas Day
Came out December 4, and I already saw it offered on Discogs for $ 27... also in the UK shops where I saw it offered, it was quite expensive – but all proceeds go to UNICEF, so that's at least a good thing. This single was released on the occasion of the Netflix Bill Murray Christmas show that will be broadcasted later this month. The 7” will be available through your local independent record shop.
Roger Rivas: Christmas Time
Last year, Roger Rivas, organ player of The Aggrolites, recorded two Christmas covers ska/rocksteady style: 'Deck The Halls' and 'Jingle Bells'. Now Chicago ska/reggae label Jump Up Records put them out on vinyl.
You can order the single here: http://www.jumpuprecords.com/rogerxmas/
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: 8 Days (Of Hanukkah)/ What Does Hanukkah Mean To You?
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings don't need an introduction, of course. They released a great album this year, and this is the single of the album. It's a song about the Jewish light fest, so technically it's not really a Christmas song, but let just put all holidays of December together. You can get this 7” from all the better indie record shops and directly from the label, here: http://shop.daptonerecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/8-days-of-hanukkah-what-does-hanukkah-mean-to-you
The Courteeners: Winter Wonderland
Britian indie rockers The Courteeners released a charity Christmas single (for Shelter), 'Winter Wonderland' (not a cover of the Christmas classic, but an original). Unfortunately, the 7” will be available in January, when Christmss 2015 is over, but you can pre-order it anyway here (and also buy the digital version if you want to have the song before Christmas): http://thecourteeners.tmstor.es/cart/product.php?id=26723
The Shades: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town / Prancer's Got Some
This single is a re-release of a sixties girl group that I never heard of, on the Numere Group label. I heard 30 second clips of the songs, and I really liked them. The single is available through all the better indie shops. I hope to have it soon, so I can give you more information about it.
Tweedees: Winter's Day
Tweedees are a J-Pop from... Japan, of course. Another song that is not to be found on internet, only a 45 second clip, and a promotional clip on Youtube that does not really seem to feature the song. The 45 seconds I heard reminded me a lot of Pizzicato Five, and I really love that band (I named the label after one of their songs), so I am really looking forward to the moment the Tweedees single with hit my mailbox... it's not easy to get the single if you are not from Japan, I managed to find a (rather expensive) copy on Ebay, but you can always give it a try and see if you can order it from one of the Japanese mailorders selling it.
U.F. Ojala / Panssarijuna: Joulusplitti
Two bands from Finland... I think the right translation of the title of the single should be Christmasplit... the record is on it way to me, so I hope to write about this single soon. If you search the songs on Youtube, you will find some funny videos. Both labels that put it out are selling it on Discogs, choose for yourself which one you choose: http://www.discogs.com/sell/release/7806129
Yoko Ono & The Flaming Lips Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
The last one is the vinyl version of the collaboration of Yoko One with notorious Christmas music lovers The Flaming Lips, a cover of one of the classic rock Christmas songs of the last century. Should be available in all the good indie stores.
This blog entry will be update when I got a 7” in and have found a time to write a longer piece about it.