zondag 19 november 2017

The last bunch of 2016 Christmas singles

Before turning to the new Christmas (vinyl) singles that 2017 will bring us - and there are some very exciting singles already out or on their way - I should first finish the overview of 2016 Christmas singles properly. Since the last post about singles released in 2016 several other singles have come to my attention - and been added to my collection.

I had set out to collect all the 2016 Christmas singles, and it took me to May 2017, but I think I have succeeded, give and take a few lathe cut singles (that don't count as it is no vinyl) and one single by a band that doesn't deserve a mention because of their shady politics. The photo above gives a nice overview, and shows that many artists really did their best to make the artwork of most of the singles look festive.

Hoshino Michiru: Suteki-Ni-X'Mas Night / Hoshi-Ni Merry Christmas (High Contrast Recordings / Vivid Sound Corporation, HCCD9581, Japan, 45 rpm)
The Japanese love the classic Christmas sound of Phil Spector. The Leaners' 2016 Christmas single was clearly inspired by Spector's wall of sound, and so is another 2016 Christmas single from the land of the rising sun. The Leaners chose to record two covers, but Hoshino Michiru has recorded two original Christmas songs. She sings both songs in Japanese, so I don't have a clue what they are about, but they do sound very festive, especially the song on the A-side, 'Suteki-Ni-X'Mas Night'. B-side 'Hoshi-Ni Merry Christmas', which, according to Google Translate, translates to 'Merry Christmas To The Stars' feels a little bit like a Summer holiday song, instead of a Christmas holiday song, with its reggae rhythm. But I do hear Hoshino sing 'Christmas' somewhere in the song, so it really is a Christmas song. Hoshino is no newcomer to music, she already released her first solo single in 2007, when she was 18 years old. Before starting her solo career, Hoshino was a member of Akihabara48 (AKB48), a Japanese idol group, that has their own theater in Tokyo. Hoshino was part of team A until her graduation in 2007. AKB48 seems to have dozens of teams, that all put out records. All teams seem to have their own team colour, and that of team A is pink. I don't know much about the Japanese pop music culture, apart from the fact that there seem to be hundreds of (mostly female) singers who all look very cute and make very sweet sounding (sweet as in candy) pop music. Hoshino is no expection. Over the years, she recorded several albums and released more than 10 singles. The front cover of her Christmas single has a drawing of a group of children singing in front of a house, with the family watching them on the doorstep, and also has a publicity photo of Hoshino lying on a black blanket, looking more seductive than festive. As with most Japanese 7"'s, a CD is included, so you can choose if you want to play the CD or the 7". The CD also has instrumental versions of both songs.

You can listen to short parts of both songs on Soundcloud:

Miss Chain & The Broken Heels / Shantih Shantih: Flow / Christmas Day (Wild Honey, WH-031, Italy, 45 rpm)
Italian label Wild Honey Records focuses itself on the poppy side of garage rock and on power pop, and has released albums by the likes of Deniz Tek, The Peawees, The Midwest Beat and The Rubinoos - yes, that powerpop band that was responsible for the original of 'I Think We're Alone Now'! Besides albums, the label also releases 45s, most of those being stuck in a company sleeve, that resembles a honeycomb, with fitting labels. For Christmas 2016, Wild Honey Records released a special Christmas 45, that was included as a gift in orders around Christmas time. A very nice gesture! This 45 came in the same Wild Honey company sleeve, but the labels had a special Christmas design. The single was a split between Italian band Miss Chain & The Broken Heels and the Atlanta, Georgia-based Shantih Shantih, with Italian born Anna Barattin on vocals. Of the two songs, only the Shantih Shantih song 'Christmas Day' is really a Christmas song, but also Miss Chain & The Broken Heels 'Flow' is well worth hearing. Both songs are clearly influenced by the psychedelic side of the 1960s, with organs, somewhat dreamy female vocals and jangling guitars. I don't know if the single is still available, but it is well worth tracking down!

Listen to both songs on Bandcamp<:

Robb Johnson and the Corbynistas: JC4PM For Me / What Would You Like For Christmas? (Irregular, IRR2016V, UK, 45 rpm)
Even those of you who do not live in the UK know that the UK has been going through some turbulent times in the past years, with the Brexit and a change of Prime Minister. Just as the USA (and several European countries), Great Britain seems to have made a swing to the right, and just as in the USA, there was an eldery guy presenting an alternatve. In the US it was Democrat politician Bernie Sanders, who turned out to be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential elections. And in the UK it was Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Both Sanders and Corbyn have been very popular among young people, despite their old age and the fact their politics mostly seem inspired by previous century Social Democracy. Robb Johnson, as much a political activist as a singer/songwriter, decided it would be a good idea to team up with some other supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, to record a Christmas song, and try to make it the UK Christmas number one, in the process raising money for the Trussell Trust, an organization fighting hunger and poverty in the UK. At the same time, the record could be used to raise the morale of Labour Party supporters, and to support the leadership of Corbyn, as he had received a lot of criticism for not taking a clear enough stand against Brexit. The song, 'JC4PM For Me' was also released on a 7" single, limited to 300 copies. The single was released under the name Robb Johnson and The Corbynistas. The Corbynistas featured English actress Maxime Peake, legendary punk poet Attila The Stockbroker, jazz singer Fae Simon and the dog Basil, among others. The bunch shot a Christmas video. Despite the support of the Stand Up For Labour-campaign, it turned out there was no Christmas number one for the Corbynistas. If Johnson and his friends really wanted to be a serious contender for the Christmas number one, they should have recorded a more modern sounding song, as this sing-a-long Christmas song, with lyrics that were mainly about Corbyn's political ideals, and only used Christmas as a reference here-and-there, sounded a bit as if it had been buried for a long time under many layers of dust. It missed the energy and fighting spirit that is needed to fight the establishment... be it the X-Factor winners who the song had to complete with for the Christmas number one, or the Toriess, that Corbyn was not able to kick out of Downing Street 10 in the (unexpected) 2017 General Election. We also know Johnson can write better Christmas songs than this one, as is proven by his great 2014 Christmas single 'Make Believe / When My Grandfather Played Football'. Anyway, if you are in for some political motivated Christmas nostalgia, the video of 'JC4PM' will give you just what you need.

Watch the video on Youtube:

The K.B.'s / Karate Boogaloo: These Are The J.B.'s/The Joy Of Giving (The Drummer Some) (Northside, NR014S, Australia, 45 rpm)
As far as spirit and energy go, that is something the two songs on Australia's instrumental funk group's Karate Boogaloo single are definitely not lacking. The single was released to commemorate the tenth anniversary of te passing of the Godfather of Soul James Brown's, on Christmas Day 2006. The first 150 copies of the single came with a special festive looking sleeve, using artwork of Brown's 1968 Christmas album 'A Soulful Christmas'. On side A, Karate Boogaloo's, renamed for the occassion to The K.B.'s, cover The J.B.'s 'These Are The J.B.'s'. The song was recorded live in Collingwood with a studio audience, in that way perfectly capturing the spirit of James Brown funky soul. On side B, Karate Boogaloo, using their own name, recorded a James Brown inspired original, 'The Joy Of Giving (The Drummer Some)'. Both tracks are instrumentals. In fact, it is only the limited edition cover that makes the connection to Christmas, as both tracks are not really sounding like Christmas songs.

Get funky with Karate Boogaloo on Bandcamp:

The Wych Elm: The Wych Elm Presents A Wych Elm Christmas Carol EP. Tracks: The Blackest Friday - Santa's Watching You - Dragon's First Christmas - Coal / Claus (Unreleased, USA, 33 rpm)
It sounded like such a great idea. Des Moines, Iowa indierock/punk/noise/psychedelic/lofi/whatever-other-alternative-rock-music-style-you-can-think-of band The Wych Elm would release their 5-song 2016 Christmas 7" EP on candy cane-coloured vinyl, to make the record look even more festive. But when the vinyl arrived from the pressing plant, and the band put the record on the turntable to give it a listen, it turned out to have been a very bad idea. The combination of putting a lot of music on the record, and the coloured vinyl caused the records to sound quite bad. So bad that the band decided to scrap the idea of the Christmas EP. A pity, as the songs itself deserved better. Of course, being the completist I am, I started to bother the band to send me a copy of the EP. They were so nice to include a copy with their 'Crashberry Waltzes' 7" EP, that I ordered from them. The EP did not sound as bad as I had expected, but I totally understand why the band decided not to release it. The five songs show the many sides of The Wych Elm. 'Santa's Watching You' sounds like a hardcore punk song. 'The Blackest Friday' and 'Dragon's First Christmas' are psychedelic and punky lofi songs and my favorite 'Coal', the only song featuring female vocals, is a psychedelic and nostalgic sounding (murder) ballad. Fifth song 'Claus' takes up the complete B-side of the record, and sounds like a surrealistic noisy LSD-inspired trip. Not only does this record not really exist, the songs can also not been found online, so this is the big secret Christmas 7'of 2016!

We close this overview of 2016 singles with three lathe cut singles. I am not really a fan of lathe cut singles, as most of the time, the sound quality is so bad that it makes the aforementioned Wych Elm EP sound as stereophonic hifi. And as they are hand cut, they also can be expensive. And they are around in very limited numbers, so before you have learned about the record, it is already sold out. That can be very frustrating. There were two 2016 lathe cuts records that I liked so much that I still bought a copy, and one that I only learned about when it was sold out - otherwise I would definitely have bought a copy.

Sacha Mullin: Night Of Silence EP. Tracks: St. Lucia-Night Of Silence / Kissing The Christmas Killer - Gloria (Alumni Clash, XXAC-01EP, USA, 45 rpm, lathe cut)
In December 2015, Chicago Illinois singer/songwriter/pianist Sacha Mullin recorded a Christmas EP, featuring covers of Christmas or Christmas-related songs. Sacha was inspired to do the EP after spending a very inspiring St. Lucia Day with two relatives. He consciously choose to stay away from the all-too-well-known Christmas standards, and instead, selected some beautiful, but mostly obscure songs. The EP opens with Sacha's version of the carol of St. Lucia, which is combined with 'Night Of Silence', a counter melody of 'Silent Night' - featuring subtile piano playing. Next is 'Kissing The Christmas Killer', that was originally performed by Japanese singer Maaya Sakamoto for NHK's radio drama adaption of Sidney Sheldon's novel 'The Other Side Of Midnight'. Last song is the Pablo Sosa's 'Gloria', that is sung by Sacha without any musical accompaniment. In 2016, 25 transparant square lathes were cut of the EP - it is still avavaible.

You can listen to the complete EP on Sacha Mullin's Bandcamp:

Yawn Mower: Ruins Christmas EP. Tracks: Frosty The Snowman - Joy To The World - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town / Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer / Silent Night (Inthecloud, ITC-X03, US, Lathe cut, 33 rpm)
The duo Yawn Mower, based in Asbury Park in New Jersey, choose for a completely different approach on their 'Ruins Christmas' EP. The two went over to Hanger 1 - don't know if that really is a studio - and recorded five loud versions of some of the most well-known Christmas standards. It's just vocals, a very distorted sounding guitar, drums, and a few sound effects, but it works. The five songs were released on a black lathe cut 7" by Intheclouds. And for a lathe cut record, it sounds quite okay. Their steamroller approach of 'Silent Night' is something that should be heard! The record, of which 30-ish copies were cut, unfortunately seems to be sold out.

If you like your Christmas raw and punky, check out the EP on Bandcamp.

Evil Blizzard: (I Hope You Get) Nothing For Christmas / We Three Kings (Louder Than War, UK, Lathe Cut)
In 2014, Evil Blizzard released a CD single, 'Nothing For Christmas', that featured two carols ('O Come All Ye Faitful' and 'We Three Kings') and the title track, that was not a cover of the-naughty-kid song, made famous by Barry Gordon and Stan Freberg, but an original, the full title being '(I Hope You Get) Nothing For Christmas'. Evil Blizzard is from Preston, England, and are, well, a bit weird. To quote the band's website: "Preston's Evil Blizzard are truly an enigma. Four bass players, a singing drummer. An array of rubber masks that will give both children and adults sleepless nights for days on end - they are the most in~genious and charismatic live experience on the music scene today!". The band looks a bit like Slipknot, but they seem to take themselves a little less serious - after all, they are English. Anyway, their 2014 Christmas single was re-released in 2016 - that is, 38 lathe cut copies were made. According to Discogs, the single came on clear vinyl in a PVC sleeve with a printed title page insert. Half were given away as promos, the rest were made available to fan club members, with a couple being auctioned for charity. So after all, they are not that evil! I missed out this one, and only hope they will one day release it as a proper vinyl single. Definitely not something for everybody, but I like it.

Watch the video of the song on Youtube:

That's all! In total, 42 vinyl 7"'s have been released in 2016, even more than in 2015! And now it's waiting what 2017 will bring us, as far as 7" Christmas vinyl goes! I hope to post my first 2017 vinyl entry - apart from that about the Snowflakes singles - soon!

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