maandag 31 december 2018

Some late 2018 Christmas 7"'s... and one 2017 5" that I missed

As could be expected, only a few hours after a posted the previous blog entry with, what I thought, a complete overview of all 2018 Christmas singles, I discovered a Christmas single I had missed. And since then, another six have been popping up. All of these are getting short reviews here. So we now have a total of 61 Christmas vinyl singles this year - so far. This is the largest number in many many years. In fact, since 1991, that is 27 years ago! The Christmas vinyl single seems really to back! I also discovered a 2017 single I missed out on (thanks Marko!), so I have included that one at the end of this post.

The Beths: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
(Carpark Records, CAK134, US, 45 rpm, small hole, red or green vinyl)

Last year, the New Zealand indie band The Beths recorded a live cover of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' of over 6 minutes, and shared it on their Bandcamp for a 'pay what you want'-price, with all benefits going to the Auckland City Mission. Things have sky rocketed for the band in 2018, with their debut album 'Future Me Hates Me' released in the US by Washington, DC’s Carpark Records and by Dew Process in Australia, to much critical acclaim. The Beths now recorded a studio version of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', that is a little bit shorter than the live version but still over 5 minutes, and this time they did not only release it digitally, but also on a limited edition 7". Very limited, that is, with only 40 copies on red and 40 copies on green vinyl (if I am correct). The fact that the single was sold out in a few hours is another proof how popular the band has become in 2018. On the song, the band were joined by Charmian Keay and Katie Cheyne on viola and violins, but don't expect the song to be all mellow, because it also has some heavy guitar soloing. Lead vocals are by vocalist and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes, while the vocal harmonies are done by her fellow band members, guitarist Johathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Ivan Luketina-Johnston (who left the band at the end of 2018 to focus on his solo career as Sal Valentine). This time all profits go to Girls Rock Camp Foundation.

Some fans made a cute video for the song, while the band was busy touring (and much more touring ahead for them in 2019), that you can watch on Youtube.

Jurassic Boys: Way / Christmas Cherry Coke
(Kilikilivilla, KKV067VL, Japan, 45 rpm, small hole, black vinyl)

Jurassic Boys is an indie rock band from Tokyo, Japan, and 'Christmas Cherry Coke' was their first digital single, now also released as a 7", with 'Way', the band's second single, on the flipside. Jurassic Boys consist of Ryusho Onaka on vocals and guitar, Danny Boy on bass and Yutaka Yanagisawa on drums. The band's sound is inspired by 1990s indie rock and grunge, and that also goes for 'Christmas Cherry Coke'. The song seems to be about a former lover who was different than she appeared to be. The only mention of Christmas is in the chorus, which is also the only aspect of the song that connects it with Christmas. 'Christmas Cherry Coke' was written by Ryusho, and, unusual for Japanese bands, the lyrics are in English.

You can watch the video for the song on Youtube.

The Old Spice Bearded Quartet: The Old Spice Guys’ Grooming Guidance For Guys With Beards & Other Holiday Songs
(Old Spice Records, US, EP, 45 rpm, small hole, red vinyl, promotional record)
We've already seen some strange Christmas records this year, and here is another one. It's a 4-song Christmas-themed EP all about beards. To be more specific, about using Old Spice to keep your beard in shape. Guess which company is behind this record? Recorded by the so-called Old Spice Bearded Quartet - which, in fact, is the Signature Quartet, a barbershop quartet from Florida, consisting of tenor Paul Saca, lead Daniel Cochran, baritone Will Rodriguez and bass Dan Walz. And yes, they all have beards. This was not the first promotional job the Signature Quartet did for Old Spice, as in September they answered questions about Old Spice send in through Twitter, singing the answers in vocal harmony. On the EP, the quartet make beard-inspired songs out of 'Jingle Bells', 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas', 'Silent Night' and 'Up On The Housetop' - the last song is supposedly recorded in 1946, and indeed, does have a less polished sound than the other three songs. You can't say they don't stretch the joke until the end. The EP is not for sale, but supposedly Old Spice is going to send you a copy if you ask them on Instagram.

You can listen to the complete EP on Soundcloud.

Les Penning & Robert Reed: In Dulci Jubilo
(Tigermoth Records, TMRV 1218, UK, ?? rpm, ?? hole, white vinyl)

Welsh musician and composer Robert Reed, formerly of progressive rock band Cyan and currently still active in Magetna, takes his inspiration from ‘Tubular Bells’-era Mike Oldfield for his solo work. In 2014, he released an instrumental album, ‘Sanctuary’, which he followed up with a part II and III in respectively 2016 and 2018. Reed went so far in trying to re-create Oldfield’s sound that he asked 'Tubular Bells'-producer Tom Newman as (executive) producer for the albums and to play bodhrán, and Les Penning, who played, among others, on Oldfield's ‘Ommadawn’ album, on recorder and as narrator. Newman and Penning were also involved in Reed's version of the Doctor Who theme, released earlier this year. Now, together with Welsh singer Angharad Brinn, the two men appear on Reed's version of Mike Oldfield's 1975 Christmas hit 'In Dulci Jubilo'. 'In Dulci Jubilo' is a Christmas carol dating from the Middle Ages. Oldfield's version was based on the arrangement English 19th century composer Robert Lucas de Pearsall made of the carol.

Not wanting to reproduce Oldfield’s classic adaption, Reed choose to stay closer to the original 14th Century piece. Les Penning had an important role in the recording of Oldfield’s version, playing two recorders and kortholt, but always stayed in the shadow of Oldfield (quite literally in the video, as you only see his hands, and as he was asked to wear the same colour shirt as Oldfield, it gives the impression Oldfield himself is playing the recorder), so Reed decided to give his much deserved recognition. Not only did Lee Penning supply sopranino and trebel recorder, crumhorn, zither and served as narrator, but he also starred in the video. This new version of ‘In Dulce Jubilo’ is slower than Oldfield’s version, and adds an intro that sounds like a radio broadcast and some vocals The 7”, pressed on snow white vinyl, is accompanied by a Christmas card signed by Les and Rob and has two versions of the song, the A-side mixed by Tom Newman, the B-side by Robert Reed. The record (also available as a digital download and a CDEP) is a benefit for the Crisis Charity. The single entered the official British vinyl singles charts one week after it was released on number 9.

You can still buy a copy of the 7" through Burning Shed here.

Watch the video on Youtube.

The Pop Hypothesis: Stay For Christmas
(3:30 MusiC, 333MusiC, Austria, 45 rpm, ?? hole, black vinyl)

Some bands take a long time to get their music out to the world. The Pop Hypothesis, a duo from Vienna, Austria, is really overdoing it. The duo started making music together in 1981, inspired by the music of the day - new wave, synthpop and postpunk - and had their first official release last year, a cover of a Paul Roland song (Stranger Than Strange) on a download only Paul Roland tribute. That is 36 years after they started out! This year, the band is trying hard to make up for all these years without any music released. They started the year with the 7" single 'Madelaine' (also a Paul Roland-cover), followed it up with another 7" single, 'Life According To A Pop Star', and to finish 2018 off, the band released a third single, 'Stay For Christmas'. The duo's sound is still very much influenced by the music of the 1980s, and that also goes for their Christmas single.

According to legend, this song was already recorded in 1984, and should have been released that year, not only in Austria, but also in the UK, to finally give Britain another Christmas song on the number one spot (Boney M’s ‘Mary’s Boy Child / Oh My Lord’ having been the last one in 1978). Unfortunately, the single was never released, as Band Aid and Wham! got in the way. The complete story is told in a documentary that features all involved in the production of the Christmas-hit-that-never-was, a documentary now used as the video for the single - that, finally, after 34 years of waiting, is released! We now know that not only Shakin' Stevens decided to postpone his Merry Christmas Everyone because of Band Aid and Wham!, but also The Pop Hypothesis did with their ’Stay For Christmas’. Contrary to Shakin' Stevens, who postponed the release of his Christmas single with one year, and hit the UK number 1 spot in 1985, The Pop Hypothesis waited for too long, so, unfortunately, not their song became the UK Christmas number 1 of 2018, but Ladbay (who?) with 'We Built This City On Sausage Rolls', a novelty charity song (okay, at least the money went to something worthwhile, food banks, so let’s forget about the musical quality of this song, that, indeed, is based on Starship’s ’We Built This City’).

'Stay For Christmas' sounds like the Christmas song the German 1980s band Trio ('Da Da Da I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me') never made. The lyrics have same dry sense of humour as those of Trio ('I beg you to stay for another day / For the gin, for the fun, for our love / Take your coat if you go, it is going to snow / But inside it is cosy and warm'). In a way, it is the, now controversial, Christmas classic ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’, turned from a creepy duet (according to some) into an innocent sounding solo song. Also the music, minimal synthpop, resembles Trio's music. But this is no 1982 and no Trio, but 2018 and The Pop Hypothesis! You can buy a copy of the single through mailing the band – all information needed can be found on the website of The Pop Hypothesis here.

Watch the video on Youtube.

Sleep Party People / No Joy: Silent Night / There’s Always Tomorrow
(Joyful Noise Recordings, JNR260-11, US, 33 rpm, small hole, square flexi)

Joyful Noise Recordings not only released 10 Snowflathes (see my previous post), but also a Christmas flexi, square, with white snowflakes in kind of different shapes printed on a black background. The flexi was send out for free to all the Joyful Noise Recordings VIPs and has two songs: a version of 'Silent Night' by Sleep Party People (the song was already recorded in 2016) and 'There's Always Tomorrow' by No Joy. Sleep Party People is Brian Batz, based in Denmark, who does a dreamy version of 'Silent Night', that sounds a bit like a historical recording from the late 19th century transfered to 2018. Canada’s shoegazers No Joy cover a song from the classic 1964 stop motion animated television special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, that also brought us Burl Ives Christmas classic ’Holly Jolly Christmas’.

Listen to ‘Silent Night’ on Youtube (the No Joy song is unfortunately not to be found on the internet – yet).

Thee Mightees / Five Leaf Nettles: Delicious Christmas Vol. 3 - Return Of The Christmas
(Delicious Clam Records, UK, 8”, lathe cut, limited to 10 copies and 3 test cuts)

Delicious Clam is a label collective and recording studio based in Sheffield, UK that has been releasing music since 2014, with their first release being the first edition of ’Delicious Christmas’, a digital EP, featuring Best Friends, Pjaro, Radical Boy, Pet Rock and Avida Dollars. All the bands were from Sheffield. The second volume 2 of ’Delicious Christmas’ was a bit more ambitious, featuring 21 bands/songs. After a few years without a Christmas release, 2018 sees The Return Of The Christmas to Delicious Scam, which is used as subtitle for ‘Delicious Christmas, Volume 3’. This time, the compilation has only two songs, but, for the first time, also has a physical release - although one in very small quantities, unfortunately. The split Christmas single of Thee Mightees and Five Leaf Nettles is released digitally and as a lathe cut 8" - of which only 10 copies have been made, apart from 3 test cuts. So a total of 13 exist. Which is a pity, as both songs are really really good, in my humble opinion. But I read on Thee Mightees Facebook page that they might do a second run if enough people ask, so let’s start asking!

Thee Mightees is a jangling indie rock band from Sheffield, and their song is titled 'Christmas Song' but should have be titled 'Anti-Christmas' song. I already liked their side of 2018's split single with All Ashore! (who did a 'Perfect Pop Song', while Thee Mightees did 'Record Story Day') a lot, and this is another winner. A very catchy indie pop song with a great guitar lick that sums up what they hate about Christmas – basically everything, but most of all, all those Christmas hits all other people love to hear all day long at Christmas ('Shakin' Stevens, run him out of town' – there is Shaky again). Funny thing that this song was released only two days after it was recorded. So finally a Christmas song that has been recorded close to Christmas instead of in the middle of the Summer. That’s the good thing about these lathe cuts – they only need a very short production time (that is, if you only cut very few copies).

Five Leaf Nettles is also based in Sheffield. It originally was a four man band, but after vocalist/guitarist Jack Collister moved to the Lake District in 2014, continued as a solo project of Jack. Five Leaf Nettles’ song is called ’Moonwalk In The Snow’ and is a lo-fi acoustic (just a voice and guitar) nostalgic sounding Christmas song, about watching movies on TV that you have already seen, humming the same Christmas tunes by the fire ('Mull Of Kintyre'), and being teached to moonwalk in the snow ‘because if I can’t walk backwards / then I don’t want to go’. Beautiful.

You can still get the digital version of the single at the Bandcamp-site of the label here . The single is a benefit for for Sheffield organization HARC (Homeless and Rootless at Christmas).

Listen to both songs on Bandcamp.

And, to close this blog entry, a record I overlooked last year - as it was not released on a 7", but on a 5".

Anal Trump: Make America Say Merry Christmas Again!
(Self-released, USA, 5", 45 rpm, white vinyl, 500 copies; also released on a 7" snowflathe record, limited to 50 copies)

10 songs pressed on a 5" vinyl record, with a playing length of 59 seconds. This can only mean one thing: grindcore. Responsible for this record is a duo with the name Anal Trump, Travis Trump on vocals and Rob Trump doing all instruments (no live shows for these guys), from San Diego, California, who since Donald Trump became president have released several 5"'s (all sold out) with titles like 'If You Thought Six Million Jews Was A Lot Of People, You Should've Seen My Inauguration' and 'To All the Broads I've Nailed Before'. I guess you don't have to ask what the two members of Anal Trump think of the man that gave their band its name (and its reason for existence). As for the lyrics: the longest song, that clocks 13 seconds, has 5 short lines for lyrics, the others even less - some songs only have one word as lyrics, making the lyrics shorter than the song title, like the 2 second 'song' 'Santa Is Real, But Climate Change Is A Hoax', that has the lyrics: "Coal!!!". These guys definitely have a sense of humor. If you are a fan of Donald Trump, you probably better stay away from this record (I don't think Anal Trump's lyrics will make you change your mind about America's current president), if you don't like him and you feel ready for 1 minute of extreme noise, humor and obscene language, check it out. Besides 500 5" records (sold out, of course), Joyful Noise Records also made 50 copies of the EP on a white Snowflathe (a late cut record looking like a snowflake). The 5" was pay-what-you-want and the 50 people who paid the highest amount of money received a snowflathe version for free. 100% of net proceeds were donated to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization of 'scientists and engineers who develop and implement innovative, practical solutions' to combat global warming, develop sustainable ways for feeding, powering and transporting people and fight misinformation. So by making this record a benefit record, even provocative grindcore band Anal Trump stays true to the spirit of Christmas.

Listen to the complete EP, all 59 seconds of it, on Bandcamp.

zaterdag 22 december 2018

More, many more, 2018 Christmas 7”’s

In this post you’ll find an overview of all 2018 Christmas 7”’s that I know of, and that haven’t been reviewed in previous post on the Snowflakes blog. Probably, the moment I’ve posted this, another 7” will show up, but well, this is as complete as I can get for now. Special thanks to Jim of Christmas Underground and Martin of Stubby’s Christmas for bringing many of these 7”’s to my attention! Check out their great blogs about Christmas music. Okay, here we go!

Lucius: Christmas Time Is Here / Keep Me Hanging On
(Mom + Pop, MP387, US, 45 rpm, small hole, black vinyl)
Christmastime inspires many bands to release their Christmas songs as a means to raise money or awareness for causes they feel strongly about. Los Angeles’ band Lucius’ 2018 Christmas single is a prime example of that. In April 2017, the band was in Oregon’s National Freedom studio of former The Shins member Richard Swift and recorded, among others, a version of Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas classic ‘Christmas Time Is Here’, one of the (many) standout songs of the soundtrack of the ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ special, still one of the most loved Christmas-themed animated specials. Not only did Richard record, produce and mix the song, he also did background vocals. One year and three months later, Richard Swift sadly died, it turned out, after a long struggle with alcohol addiction, an addiction that had so much damaged his body, that in the end, it took his life. He left a wife and three young kids behind. Lucius was one of the many bands with whom Swift worked, and that were inspired by his creativity and personality. This made Lucius decide to start a benefit project, the FugYep Soundation, a 7” record series created “in loving memory of Richard and with the goal, through releasing music, to raise awareness for addiction and bring community to those suffering from addiction”. FugYep directly supports Richard’s family and two organizations who will help facilitate this mission: MusiCares and Music Support UK. Both organizations provide help to musicians in need of medical, personal and financial assistance. The motto of FugYep is: You Are Not Alone. Lucius version of ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ was the first release of FugYep, backed up with another song recorded with Richard, a cover of ‘Keep Me Hanging On’, the Holland-Dozier-Holland composition, that was a hit for The Supremes, and was later also record by The Vanilla Fudge.

Coincidentally, also Texas psychedelic band Khruangbin released a version of ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ on a 45, but the Lucius version was already recorded last year (but not released, also not digitally), so, although the Lucius 45 was released a few weeks later than the Khruangbin 45, their version is actually older. Lucius turn ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ into a laidback dreamy pop song, a fairytale of the christmas season. The voices of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig are a perfect match to the subtile and jazzy instrumentation. The band really made the song their own, and do it in such a way, that it is as good as the original. And given the classic status of ‘Christmas Time Is Here’, that does say something. It is very sad that the man partly responsible for such a beautiful song (as producer, engineer, mixer and inspiration) ended his life in such a premature and tragic way. The single comes packed in a sleeve with artwork by Richard, who also worked as a visual artist. The single was for sale through the Lucius shop, but is sold out – which in this case, because it is a benefit release, can also be seen as a good thing. And the mp3 is still available from the webshop, as are Fug Yep-t-shirts here

Lucius is now based in Los Angeles, but originated in Brooklyn, New York, and located to Los Angeles in 2015. Lucius was started by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who had learn to know eachother when attending Berklee College Of Music in Boston, MA. The two moved to Brooklyn in 2007 to start a musical career. They shared an old Victorian mansion that had a 60-year-old recording studio and vintage pianos inside with eight other musicians. In that masion is where Lucius was born, first as the project of Jess and Holly, but they were soon joined by other musicians who lived in the mansion, of which two, producer Dan Molad and guitarist Peter Lalish, are still members of Lucius. Lucius debuted in 2012 with a self-titled EP in 2012, and released their first full lenght, ’Wildewoman’ one-and-a-half year later, to much critical acclaim. Lucius seems to have a thing going on with the Peanuts comics, as their second album was called ‘Good Grief’, one of the most well-known exclamations of Charlie Brown. This album was less 1960 inspired by baroque pop/folk and more by moody 1980s synthizer pop. Jess and Holly have also worked as (background) vocalists for many others, including The Rentals, ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Water, John Legend and Jeff Tweedy.

You can listen to ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ on Youtube

Abby Jeanne & The Hi-Fi Misfits: Isle Of Misfit Toys
(Hi-Fi Records, 369, US, 45 rpm, big hole, tricolour (green/red/white) vinyl, limited to 250 copies)
‘Rock ‘n’ roll for the dreamer’s soul’ is how Abby Jeanne describes her music. She has a way with words: ‘a product of a haunted jukebox and the golden hearts degenerates’ and ‘a spirit made from the fire of rebellion, and the desire to spread it wild’, set out with love and music to ‘heal and translate the traumas of our lives’. And so the Milwaukee, Wisconscin songwriter, singer and producer finds herself on the ‘Isle Of Misfit Toys’ – after first having travelled the US and Europe for several years, before returning to Milwaukee to start her band and record music. And on the ‘Isle Of Misfit Toys’ she meets another misfit, and love blooms up – kisses are shared under the misletoe while snow is falling down. Yes, this is indeed a Christmas, or at least, a seasonal song – and again yes, it has sleigh bells. But it has, above anything else, the voice of Abby, and that is her biggest weapon – both Amy Winehouse and Adele came to mind when I first heard the record, but with an extra rawness that fits a misfit. Abby claims that the song is “a nice song for the naughty kids”. Well, in that case, I’ll be naughty for once (hope you forgive me, Santa)! On the B-side, Abby does the song in French, ‘L’Isle Des Jouets Cassos’ – maybe inspired by her travelling through Europe, where she, without any doubt, also must have been to France. The songs are pressed onto most fesive vinyl you could imagine: tri-colour red, green and white. It is released on Hi-Fi Records, the first release on the label (I wouldn’t be surprised if Abby is running this label herself, also given the name of the band that helped her out on the single: the Hi-Fi Misfits). Only 250 copies are pressed, and are available at Milwaukee’s Exclusive Company, Rush Mor Records, Luv Unlimited, Bullseye Records and Acme Records. I bought my copy through Discogs, there are still copies for sale there.

Listen to the song on Bandcamp

ABBA: Happy New Year
(Polar, 602577121586, Europe, 45 rpm, small hole, white vinyl, 3000 copies)
Do I really read this correctly: "To make it even more of an attractive item for ABBA collectors, a limited edition of the single is to be pressed to mark each new year on different coloured vinyl." So this means that every year from now on, a new version of this 7" will be released, on a different colour of vinyl? 'Happy New Year' is a classic, but one can overdo it. It seems ABBA-collectors are as fanatical as collectors of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Still, it is not as bad as that version of ‘Happy New Year’ that came out in 2011 (but with a different B-side), on silver glitter vinyl - one seller is trying to sell that one for 2000 euro on Discogs at the moment. And one buyer already paid 650 euro for a copy. I think I can live without owing a copy of that particular single. Instead, I'll satisfied with owning the original, that came out in 1980 - but only in Portugal as far as Europe goes. This 2018 reissue on white vinyl is already sold out, but if you search well on the internet, you will probably be able to find it somehwere for an ordinary price. Or just go to Discogs or E-bay as there are plenty copies, but starting at at least twice the price it was originally sold for when it came out, December 7 – that is less than two weeks ago.

Watch the clip of ‘Happy New Year’ on Youtube

DJ Frane: Christmas At The Iceberg
(Self-released, 45 rpm, small hole, lathe cut, 50 copies)
DJ Frane is a California producer who mixes funk, hiphop and electro into something that sounds as coming straight from the early 80s. In 2017, DJ Frane released a Christmas song through Bandcamp, 'Christmas At The Iceberg'. Why? ‘Because I always wanted to make a Christmas song'. Definitely, the best reason to do so. DJ Frane seems to like to smoke all kind of mind altering stuff, but in this song there is another reason why he is feeling high: he is celebrating Christmas at the iceberg. And it is a fun party, with cool funky electro music, polar bears who eat those who want the spoil the party and a 9 year-old Berkeley MC, Jazz Wolf, who lays down a verse. A great song, that deserved a physical release. So for Christmas 2018 DJ Frane ordered 50 lathe cut copies so that his fans could also play rhe song on their vinyl only parties. The 50 copies were gone before I even knew that the record existed. So all that you can read about DJ Frane on his Bandcamp ('the future of funk', 'lp of the year', 'best instrumental hip hop albums ever') seems to be really true, judging from the eagerness of people who wanted to buy this record. There is still one copy offered on Discogs. For about 200 US dollar…

But you can also go over to Youtube (or DJ Frane’s Bandcamp) and listen to the song there.

Fats Domino / Samuel Hui: Fest Rock
(MA Fonográfica, MAFT-001, Brazil, 45 rpm, small hole, black vinyl)
One of the two songs on this single that seems to be more about partying than about Christmas, is a Christmas classic and comes from a Christmas album, so we consider this a Christmas single. 'Frosty The Snowman’ is a track from Fats Domino’s 1993 Christmas album. Especially at the start of the song, Fats almost sounds like he is drunk, or very sleepy, but when the song speeds up, so does Fats, although his perfomance is still far from his heydays. The song itself does swing, and is perfectly suited for dance classes or for your Brazilian dance Fest, which seems to be occasion that this record is released for. 'Frosty The Snowman’ was earlier released as a jukebox 7”, in 1997 to be precisely, with The Five Keys’Every Heart Is Home At Christmas’ on the other side. Some Brazilian shops have this ’Fest Rock’ single, and most of these seems to only ship to Brazil, so it will take some effort if you want to get a copy of this 7” in your collection. Maybe it’s better to hunt down the 1997 release.

You can listen to the Fats Domino song song on Youtube

Galeffi: Mai Natale / Uffa: Mai Natale
(Maciste Dischi, Italy, 45 rpm, small hole, black vinyl)
Rome-based singer/songwriter Galeffi released his debut album Scudetto late 2017, to much critical acclaim in his homecountry. For his first vinyl release, Gallefi joined one of the singles of the album, the summer-tune 'Uffa', with a new song, 'Mai Natale', which translates as 'Never Christmas'. Much in the same pop rock vein as his album, with emotional sounding vocals, the song comes accompanied with beautiful artwork, showing a girl flying in a starry sky above what looks like an Italian mountain village. Only for the sleeve I would buy it. Of course, I alway listen to my own advise, so I have bought it, and the sleeve is now hanging on my wall. I know that art can be worth a lot of money, but to sell this single for 75 or 80 euro like some people do at Discogs is a bit over the top, I think. Especially because you can still buy a copy for the regular price of 9,99 euro at

I know that most Christmas songs are recorded in the Summer, and so is the video of this video. But despite that, it does include Santa Claus!

Gotta Groove Staff: Winter Waterfowl
(Gotta Groove Records, 2018, USA, ?? rpm, small hole, random coloured vinyl, 500 copies)
Every year, the Gotta Groove pressing plant, located in Cleveland, Ohio, sends out a Christmas-themed 7” to their customers. And, lucky for us Christmas music collectors, sell some leftover copies through the special Gotta Groove Christmas Bandcamp here. This year, they did something really special: they did not record one or more songs, but they recorded a story. A Christmas detective story, Winter Waterfowl. It is spread over the two sides of a coloured 7”. I am not going to do any spoilers, just listen to it for yourself – and if you like it, buy it on a coloured 7”. The voice actors in this story are Gotta Groove employes – they do have a creative bunch of employes in that pressing plant, also judging from the 7”’s that have been released over the years, as containing songs by bands that had one or more Gotta Groove employes involved. And, as every year, Tim Thornton, is the main man behind the scenes of this annual tradition – and also the one selling the 7”’s.

Listen to the story on Bandcamp

Hi, How Are You?: Merry Xmas
(Rose Records, ROSE 232, Japan)
This is a 7” I can’t say much yet, as I don’t have a copy of it, and only one song is to be found on the internet. The 7” will have 4 songs, all in Japanese. I used Google Translate, but the titles don’t seem to be very Christmas-related: although the sleeve, as you can see, is. The funny named Hi, How Are You? are a Japanese indie boy/girl duo who have released a few records (2 CD’s, one cassette single and a split7”EP/CDEP with a band called Videotapemusic. There is one song of the single already on Youtube. Google translates it as ’Batari In A Dream’, which doesn’t make much sense to me. There is an island called Batari and there is a relation with some computer game, but I don’t know if either of these two meanings have something to do with the song. Or mabye Batari is just a new helper of Santa Claus? In that case, there is a clear Christmas connection! Anyway, the single is for sale at the online shop of the label, Rose Records here, but I am not sure if they also ship outside Japan. I've ordered it at CDJapan, they ship worldwide.

Watch the video here. It’s a sweet song.

Joshua Hedley: White Christmas
(Third Man Records, TMR-595, USA, 45 rpm, small hole, green flexi)
If there is one label that releases 7" after 7", than it's Third Man Records, Jack White's label. Still, Third Man hasn't released many Christmas-related 7" - apart from the re-release of The White Stripes 'Candy Cane Children and a Christmas song on the B-side of last year's Joyce Manor live single, 'Christmas Card'. This year sees a genuine Third Man related Christmas release, but it's still no regular 7". It's green flexi disc, given away to donors at the annual 2018 Blood Drive at Third Man Records storefronts on December, 12 in Detroit and December, 14 in Nashville. That's nice of Jack, to give these away - and it can mean some extra cash for these donor's, as some of them are already try to sell the free flexi's for quite large amounts of money. I don't think that was the idea behind these flexi's, but well, you can't really do anything about it. The flexi has one song, a cover of 'White Christmas by Joshua Hedley. Joshua is orginally from Florida, and travelled to Nashville when he was nineteen, to play fiddle supporting several different country artists. This year, he debuted with his 'Mr. Jukebox' album, released on Third Man Records, with a sound very much inspired by the classic country of the 1960s.

Someone ripped the flexi and put it on Youtube, so we can now also enjoy ’White Christmas’.

Joshua Homme: Silent Night
(Rekord Rekords, USA, ?? rpm, ??? hole, limited 500 copies)
And here is another single that sold out in no time. As could be expected the single is already offered on Ebay for at least double the price by those lucky enough to pre-order the single before all copies were gone, and who seem to care more about the money than the music. Why isn’t it possible to do something similar to what Banksy recently did with one of his art pieces, that if you list a record for sale on Ebay within a year of its release on for more than what you bought it for, the record automatically self destructs. That would save the real music lovers a lot of money or frustrations. Back to Joshua Homme’s record, as that is what we are talking about here, because, it’s the music what it is about. Of course, we all know Joshua from stoner rock legens Kyuss and his highly succesful Queens Of The Stone Age. It made him one of the most popular current rock stars, which also explains the popularity of his Christmas single. Joshua choose to record two very traditional Christmas songs. On the A-side, he teams up with Australian born guitar (and dobro) player C.W. Stoneking, to sing ‘Silent Night’. The song starts very low profile and even sounds a bit lofi, with the two men harmonizing with only the slighest of guitar playing in the background, but 1 minute 10 into the song, the two men suddenly find the blues, and turn the song into a bluesy gospel song. For the B-side, the reading of the poem ‘Twas The Night Before Chrristmas’, Joshua brought his family along, and with his wife Brody Dalle (former singer of The Distillers, who also happens to come originally from Australia) and ‘their three little Elves’, they read the poem. It really sounds as if pa and ma Homme-Dalle are reading a bedtime story for their kids, sitting besides their bed. But as the single was recorded in an Australian studio, the recording process was probably not as cosy as the final recording sounds. Worth tracking down if you can find a copy, and are willing to pay 25 dollars or more.

Listen to ‘Silent Night’ on Youtube

Listen to ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ On Youtube

Kelly + Paul / Cousin Glendora: It’s Martini Time / A Box Of Wine For Christmas
(Velveteen Lounge Records, LH-0018, US, 45 rpm, big hole, pink vinyl)
The Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en is a vlog about 'cocktails and comedy, road trips to fabulous bars and boozy music videos', hosted by Kelly Patterson and Paul Spencer, who are based in Middletown, Connecticut. Every Monday and Tuesday, Kelly and Paul do new episodes, and every Thursday, there is a live broadcast on Facebook. The two came up with the idea to release a Velveteen Lounge Christmas 45, started a Indiegogo campaign and here is the result: a pink vinyl 7" with two songs with one common theme: drinking at Christmastime. On side A, It's Martine Time with Kelly + Paul, who explain how Martini's helps them cope with the stress that Christmas brings, so that in the end, they are able to truly enjoy Christmas. Totally in style with the Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en, the accompanying band plays a loungy tune. On the B-side Cousin Glendora, who looks like the somewhat excentric and scary twin sister of Kelly, tells us what she really wants: 'A Box Of Wine For Christmas', in a music hall style piano song, that sounds as if taken straight from a 1930s Broadway musical. A fun little record to put on your turntable while sipping your cocktail or, if you prefer to stay away from the alcohol, like yours truly, a mocktail.
You can order your own copy of this 45 at the Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en shop here for $ 14, and that is including postage (in the USA) and a digital download code.
Unfortunately, no music to be found (yet) on the internet.

Kiyoshi Matsutakeya: The Christmas Song
(Bahia Label, BAHIA-001, Japan, 45 rpm, big hole, black vinyl)
Kiyoshi Matsutakeya is a veteran of the Japanese ska and rocksteady scene, who played in the ska/rocksteady/reggae bands Good Baites and Tomatos in the 1980s and 1990s, with Good Baites recording two albums with ska legend Roland Alphonso. Kiyoshi recorded his first solo single, 'I'll Remember April' in 1996, and this Christmas single seems to be his comeback after years of silence, as far as releasing records goes. The single, that features two version of 'The Christmas Song', the B-side probably being an instrumental or maybe a dub version, is released by new label Bahia, which seems to be the label of Bar Bahia in the Japanese city of Sapporo. On the record Kiyoshi, who sings and plays guitar, is joined by keyboard player Emerson Kitamura, while the songs have been recorded by Naoyuki Uchida. You can get the record from several Japanese retailers, like HMV, Disk Union and Jet Set.

Matt Duncan / Pet Envy: This Time In December / Christmas Forever
(Soul Step Records, SSR-044, US, 45 rpm, big hole, red or green vinyl)
Soul Step Records is an Cincinatti, Ohio-based indie label started in 2011 by Melvin Dillon, with the goal to give independent artists an opportunity to get their music pressed on vinyl. The label released more than 40 records so far. In December, Soul Step Records released its first split record and its first holiday record: a split 45 by Matt Duncan and Pet Envy. Matt Duncan already has four releases on Soul Step, while Pet Envy is a relative newcomer to the label, with one single released on Soul Step so far. Matt is a classicaly trained multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, originally from Lexington, KY, but now based in New York, who was in Lexington indie band Parlour Boys and is also part of the band Englishman. Matt is not only classically trained, but also goes for a classic sound, as can be heard on his side on the single, This Time In December, a smoothly sung laidback song, that sounds as if recorded in the 1950s. A very pleasurable listen. Pet Envy is from Nashville, TN, but don't expect a country song on their side on the 45. Instead, you'll get a uptempo poppy Christmas song with soulful vocals, a certain hit if you play it on your Christmas party. The 7" comes on red and green vinyl, and can be ordered through the website of Soul Step Records here.

Listen to Matt Duncan's 'This Time In December' on Youtube

Listen to Pet Envy's 'Christmas Forever' on Youtube

Oorbeek: Oh? Denneboom ! / Stillenacht
(Blowpipe Records, Fijnlawaai11 / 131, The Netherlands, 45 rpm, small hole, yellow vinyl)
‘O Tannebaum’ and ‘Silent Night’ like you never heard before – that is what the Dutch combo Oorbeek offers up on this arty 7”. The 7” itself is silkscreened, both the label and the sleeve, and the music is very very experimental; it’s the vocals (that sound, well, weird) that do variations on the well known melodies of both songs (in Dutch) that will make you (maybe) recognize the songs. Quite some people were involved in putting this minimal music down on tape: Alice Smits, Arie Altena, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Maarten Hepp, Mark van Tongeren, Peter Cleutjens and Serge Onnen. When you order a copy through the Bandcamp here, you will get one extra copy of the 7” for free, ‘one copy for yourself and one for your dearest’, like the label, Blowpipe Records (run by Wim Dekker of legendary Dutch new wavers Minny Pops), puts it. Now, that is a nice gesture, and really in line with Christmas spirit! You can als go to Discogs and buy a copy of this ‘contemporary artwork made by contemporary artists’ for 250 euro. Signed by the artist, so that’s maybe why it’s 50 times as expensive as the copy you buy from the label? The choice is yours!

This single will not be for everyone, but one thing is for sure: ‘O Tannebaum’ and ‘Silent Night’ like you never heard before. Listen to the songs and you’ll know what I mean.

Peter Parker’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Club: Merry Christmas Everybody
(Tor Records, TOR 017, UK, 45 rpm, small hole, lathe cut, clear vinyl, 20 copies)
An unfortunately not commercially available lathe cut Christmas 7”, released by TOR Records, part of Those Old Records, a vinyl only record shop in Rugeley, Staffordshire, England. As the label explains, the record is 'a present to those good people who have helped with the TOR Records label throughout the year'. The single features two version of the same song, 'Merry Christmas Everybody', not a cover of the Shakin' Stevens hit from 1985, but an original written by Peter Parker, who also recorded the song with his Rock 'n' Roll Club, which in this case was drummer Sakura Mori (who also designed the baubles on the front cover), as Peter did the electric guitar and the vocals, and that is all that is used to bring this song to life. 'Merry Christmas Everybody' was recorded at Portabello Studios in London, in A# and in C#, and these are the versions that are found on the A and AA-side of this single. As could be expected from a band called Peter Parker's Rock 'n' Roll Club, the song is straight up rock. The single comes with an inlay, in which Peter explains how he ended up in music, after first starting already at a young age as a professional tennis player. No soundclips on the internet yet, alas!

Pre Nup / Laurice: Kingfisher Bluez Christmas Single 2018
(Kingfisher Bluez, Canada, 45 rpm, small hole)
The Pet Adoption Center is the eight instalment of the Kingfisher Bluez Christmas village, and for the format we return to the very first instalment, as, just as that one, this is a split-7". It is also a meeting again with Laurice, as he was also responsible for the Kingfisher Bluez Christmas single of 2016. For those of you who don't know Laurice: he is originally from Wales, was already working as a vocalist in the late 1960s and recorded the pre-punk underground hit 'When Christine Comes Around'/ 'I'm Gonna Smash Your Face' as Grudge. In the mid-1970s, he moved to the other side of the ocean, where he built a career as a singer of dance and smooth jazz songs and became Canada's number 1 dance vocalist for two years in a row. And now, for his second contribution to a Kingfisher Bluez Christmas single he recorded a touchy and somewhat dramatic version of one of the most beautiful religious Christmas carols ever, 'O Holy Night'. On the other side of the single, we find the Canadian tweepop/indie band Pre Nup, consisting of Josiah and Sara Hughes (yes, in line with the band name, they are indeed husband and wife) and helped out by Chris Dage and Darrel Hartsook. Pre Nup debuted in 2016 on Kingfisher Bluez with a 4-song 7" EP and released their first full length in May, 'Oh Well' on Jigsaw Records, who describe the sound of the band as 'energetic crash-pop'. That's indeed also a good description of their 'War, On Christmas' songg - it's fast, a bit messy, but has a great guitar lick and is very catchy. I like it. Another great Christmas single by Kingfisher Bluez! The single is free for the people who attend the 11th annual Kingfisher Bluez Christmas party in the Croatian Cultural Center in Vancouver, and for those for whom Vancouver is not next door, they can get a copy through Bandcamp, which is also where you can listen to both songs.

Raffaella Carrà: Chi L’Ha Detto / Merry Christmas Everyone
(Sony Music / RCA / Legacy, 19075882742, Italy, shaped picture disc part of the deluxe edition of )
Italian singer, dancer, television presenter and actress Raffaella Carrà has a long career in showbusiness. She debuted in 1952 in Italian movie Tormento Del Passato when she was only 9 years old. In the 1960s she became one of the stars of the peplum genre, spectacular historical movies that were very popular in Italy at the time. In 1965, she moved to the USA to continue her movie career there, starring in Von Ryan's Express, but she returned to Italy in 1966, feeling homesick. From the 1970s on, she was mainly active as a television presenter, dancer and singer, scoring international hits with 'Tanti Auguri' and 'A Far L'Amore Comincia Tu' (an English top 10 hit as 'Do It, Do It Again' in 1977, and even featured in a 2008 Doctor Who episode!). And now, in 2018, which is 66 years(!) after her debut as an actress, Rafaella releases a Christmas album, 'Ogni Volta Che È Natale' ('Everytime It's Christmas’). As is not unusual these days, there is also a special edition of the album, and that special edition includes a shaped picture disc 45, with on the A-side the lead single of the album, 'Chi L'Ha Detto' ('Who Said That') and on the B-side 'Merry Christmas Everyone', which in this case, is indeed a cover of the 1985 Shakin' Stevens hit, turned europop/disco. Although some of the songs of the album are sung in English (with a charming Italian accent), these two songs are both sung in Italian, except for the chorus of 'Merry Christmas Everyone'. 'Chi L'Ha Detto' is an original, written by Daniele Magro, that I can imagine is going to become a Christmas classic in Italy for years to come: it has the sentimentality that Christmas usually brings, sing-a-longs and a positive message (at least, I think), which is also expressed in the beautiful video. The 45 has the shape of a Christmas star, with the star of this record, Raffaela, in the middle.

Watch the video on Youtube

And listen to Raffaella's version of Shaky's hit also on Youtube

Rodney Crowell / JD McPherson: When The Fat Guy Tries The Chimney On For Size / Hey Skinny Santa
(New West Records, 52772, US, 45 rpm, small hole, red or green vinyl)
To promote the Christmas albums of Rodney Crowell and JD McPherson New West Records, the label that put out both albums, came up with the idea to make a split 7” with a song of each of the albums, that were sold for 2 euro at selected independent record shops in the USA. The single contained a fake 2 dollar bill. With this 2 dollar bill people who were going to buy one of the two New West Christmas albums could get a 2 dollar discount. So basically, if you bought the album, you got the single for free. Common theme on both songs chosen for the 7" is Santa Claus. Texas born Rodney Crowell is a veteran of the country music scene, who managed to score five country number hits in 1988, all songs from the same album, 'Diamonds & Dirt'. His song on the single 'When The Fat Guy Tries The Chimney On For Size' is a bluesy original, that even has a sax solo, that elaborates on how Santa visits your house on Christmas night, in slightly different words than that you are used to. Oklahoma-born JD McPherson is a generation younger than his collegue, but his 'Hey Skinny Santa!' sounds as if it was recorded in the birth year of Rodney Crowell (1950). It could have been a long lost Louis Jordan Christmas song, but unfortunately, Louis Jordan never recorded a Christmas song as good as this one. The most swinging Christmas 45 side of the year, without a doubt! And it adresses a serious problem: Santa has been working out for too long at the gymn, and now his belly waistline is only 32, while it's almost Christmastime. At the end of the song, after a lot of (unhealthy) food, Santa is back to his usual shape (99!), and Christmas is saved!

Listen to the Rodney Crowell song on Youtube

Watch the lyrics video for the JD McPherson song on Youtube

Roger Rivas & The Brothers Of Reggae: Joy To The World / Winter Wonderland
(Rivas Recordings / Jump Up! Records, RIV – 007 / JUMP7XMAS7, US, 45 rpm, big hole, white or red vinyl, both limited to 150 copies)
The second Roger Rivas & The Brothers Of Reggae Christmas 45 is released by Rivas’ own Rivas Recordings and Jump Up! Records, that also released the first Roger Rivas & The Brothers Of Reggae Christmas 45 in 2015, on which they did rocksteady/ska versions of ‘Deck The Halls’ and ‘Jingle Bells’. On this new 7” they do two other Christmas classics, ‘Joy To The World’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’, in the same style, with an important role for Roger Rivas’s organ. Although Roger Rivas’ band is called The Brothers Of Reggae, on these two songs they don’t really play reggae: the music is uptempo and energetic, and more in line with the music in Jamaica in the early 1960s, ska and rocksteady. Or, like the label puts it, it are ‘two instrumental hit shots of early skinhead reggae’. Roger Rivas is best known as the organ player of Los Angeles, California’s reggae/ska band The Aggrolites, and has built a name for himself in the international reggae/ska scene, having recorded and performed over the years with some of the biggest names in reggae and ska (like Alton Ellis, Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan). As for Jump Up! Records, the label of Chuck Wren, it is already the fifth year in a row that they release a Christmas 7” (in 2016, they even released two 7”’s) – and all worth checking out. ‘Joy To The World / Winter Wonderland’ was released on two colours: red and white. You can still order a copy at the Jump Up! Records website here.

Listen to ‘Joy To The World’ on Youtube

Listen to ‘Winter Wonderland’ on Youtube

Squirrel Nut Zippers: Mardi Gras For Christmas
(Southern Broadcasting, SB061969, US, 45 rpm, big hole, green or red vinyl)
Squirrel Nut Zippers was one of the major bands of the 1990s US swing revival. The band was formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by James "Jimbo" Mathus (vocals and guitar), his wife Katharine Whalen (vocals, banjo, ukulele), Tom Maxwell (vocals and guitar), Chris Phillips (drums), Don Raleigh (bass guitar), and Ken Mosher. In 1996, they had their biggest hit with the single 'Hell', while the album 'Hot went platinum that year. In 1998, the group recorded a Christmas album, 'Christmas Caravan'. In the early 2000s, the Squirrel Nut Zippers broke up, but they started playing shows again in 2007, although only for a few years. In 2016, to celebrate the 20th year anniversary of 'Hot' James Mathus revived the band with a line-up of mainly New Orleans-based musicians, started touring again and released a new record. With the new line-up, the Squirrel Nut Zippers did a Christmas tour late 2018, and on sale on that tour, was a Christmas 45, with two new songs. Reflecting the band's new base in New Orleans, the lead song of the single was 'Mardi Gras For Christmas', which is indeed totally retro New Orleans-style jazz, with a central role for the trumpet - as if a young Louis Armstrong came down from the heavens to play on the song. B-side 'Alone At Christmas' is a duet, in the style of the classic crooners of the 1950s, about Christmas not really being Christmas when you are alone.
The single can be bought at the Squirrel Nut Zippers store here.

Listen to Mardi Gras For Christmas on Youtube

Watch the video for ‘Alone At Christmas’ on Youtube

Steve Hammond: Honky Tonk Record Club #2: Christmas Town
(Lorchestral Recording Company, HTRC-002, US, lathe cut, 33 rpm, small hole, white vinyl, 25 copies)
Steve Hammond is a Albuquerque, Wayne County, New Mexico songwriter and guitarist (but he also masters bass and drums), who, joined by The High Plains Grifters (Bud Melvin on pedal steel guitar and vocals and Pat Day on upright bass) play classic, traditional but sometimes also experimental honky tonk. Early 2017, Steve and his band released the album 'Time Will Kill Us All' on the Indiana based Lochestral Recording Company. In 2018, the label started a single series, the Honky Tonk Record Club and the first two record club releases are by Steve. Record #2 is a Christmas record: 'Christmas Town'. The single, limited to 25 lathe cut white vinyl 7"'s (unfortunately, not with the best sound quality - I've heard lathe cuts that sounded much better than this one), features two version of 'Christmas Town'. Side A has the 'rock' version and side B the 'honk' version. The 'rock' version is a little bit more uptempo, has sleighbells, church bells, ding-dongs, sing-a-longs and handclaps and is the most festive sounding of the two versions. The 'honk' version is pure honky tonk, with the steel guitar dominating the sound. Side A is perfectly for putting on when your Christmas party is at its height, the B-side is best suited for late in the night, when everybody is sitting’ by the fireside, enjoying a drink. Unfortunately, the vinyl is sold out, but you can still get the digital version.

Listen to both the rock and honk version of 'Christmas Town' on Bandcamp

The Decibels: A Christmas With… (Here We Come-A-Caroling!)
(Lucky Shot, LS-834, US, 33 rpm, small hole, lathe cut, black vinyl, limited to 25 copies)
Also the Sacramento, California, power pop band The Decibels did a lathe cut Christmas 7”. The band, consisting of Dean Seavers on vocals/guitar, Joe Pach on guitar/vocals, Brent Seavers on bass/vocals and Brian Machado on drums/vocals, recorded four Christmas songs, mostly well known classics (’Christmas Wish’, ‘Angels We Heard On High’, ‘Deck The Halls’ and ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’) and Little Elephant Records has cut 25 copies of the EP. The Decibels really made something special of the package. The cover is printed on silver foil and the record comes with a download card with bonus tracks (a 2004 Christmas show of the band and previous Christmas recordings from 1998), a button, a signed Christmas card and other Decibels related holiday ephemera. I haven’t heard the single yet, but I guess the description on Discogs will be right on spot: ‘Christmas tunes done in the Decibels trademark power pop/mod style’. Of course, also this record is sold out, and also not yet on internet for your listening pleasure. Hopefully, one day, it will be, because it would be a pity if only 25 people could listen to these songs!< BR>

The Go! Team: The Ice Storm
(Memphis Industries, ICE1, UK, 33 prm, small hole, postcard flexi)
We've had lathe cuts, we've had a Christmas star, so why not a Christmas postcard to put on your turn table. Enter The Go! Team, the Brighton brainchild of Ian Parton, the six-piece that combines all kind of musical influences in their highly original, highly energetic and danceable music. The Go! Team reworked their 2000 track, or ‘festive classic’, as the band puts it themselves, ‘The Ice Storm’ and put it on a postcard shaped flexi. ‘The Ice Storm’ is an instrumental song, that in parts even reminds me of Philip Glass’ work, because of the way repetition is used. It has sleigh bells, but also a cold wind that blows througout the song. The card pictures coloured snowflakes against a black background (snowflakes falling in the winter night) and is signed by the band. To be honest, the sound is pretty terrible with a lot of background noise and on my turntable, the record skipped several times, but it definitely looks cool when it plays on your record player. And you’ll receive a digital version with your order, so you can listen to the digital version, while playing the postcard on your record player and if you turn the volume of your record player off and of your computer up, it is just as if you are listening to the postcard, and it has perfect sound quality! You can get a copy from the Bandcamp of The Go! Team here.

You can also listen to the song there

The Lancashire Hustlers: Snow Upon Snow
(Steep Hill, SHM006, lathe cut, black vinyl, limited to 10 copies)
London's The Lancashire Hustlers offer up two seasonal songs on their Christmas single, another lathe cut in an edition of only 10 copies, that were sold out within an hour of getting on sale. Much faster than the band themselves had expected. The Lancashire Hustlers are Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes, originally from Southport, in the North-West of England, and making music together since they were teenagers. So far, the two released four albums, the last one being 2018's 'Stuck In A Daydream'. Brent and Ian are influenced by a wide array of genres, including soul, psych pop, folk rock, film soundtracks and even old musicals. The duo consider their albums 'pop operas'. Pop, of the sophisticated sort, is what comes to mind listening to their Christmas single. Brent and Ian are both multi-instrumentalists and on the Christmas single, a wide range of instruments are used: guitar, bass, piano, drum machine, casio casiotone (Brent) and sleigh bells, other percussion, glockenspiel and wind (Ian). The casiotone and the drum machine set the atmopshere for the dreamy shimmering A-side, ’Snow Upon Snow’, a poetic reflection of snow falling down and then melting away. More a winter song, than a Christmas song, but the B-side is a Christmas song for sure, as much as it is a political statement – or, it is? ’Vote For Santa Claus’ – ‘if we would join our hands behind the man in the red, there could be good times ahead’. So true, especially if you compare this jolly good natured ‘ho ho ho’-ing big elf with some of our current world ‘leaders’. Here, it is the glockenspiel that sets the atmosphere of the song.

You can listen to both songs on the Bandcamp of The Lancashire Hustlers.

The Twang-O-Matics: No Sleep ‘Til Bethlehem
(Hack Shack Records, HSR006, ?? rpm, ??? hole, Norway, coloured vinyl)
In the good tradition of The Ventures the Norwegian garage-surf punk-a-billy combo The Twang-O-Matics surf up instrumental version of four Christmas traditionals. All four songs clock below 2 minutes, so you know what you are up to. On side A the band literally races through 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas' and 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' (retitled to 'Stampede You Merry Gentlemen') – probably using the car pictures on the front cover. On side B, it first seems they slow down, Scandinavian Christmas carol 'Staffan Var En Stalledräng' ('Stephen Was A Stable Boy', a traditional about Stephen, who is thought to have been the stable boy of King Herod), starts like part of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack, but no, after 35 seconds, also this song speeds up. The band closes the EP with 'We Three Kings', that features some lines by Santa himself (or a dirty impersonator, judging from what he is suggesting at the end of the song), and some horn blowing - in fine Scandinavian tradition. The Twang-O-Matics, who debuted on vinyl in 2013, started out as a quartet, but are now a trio, consisting of Nils Tempo (guitar), Steinar Nilsen (double bass) and Olle Hov (drums). The members are no newcomers to the Norwegian music scene, and played in band like The Basement Brats, The Squareheads, Caroline & The Treats, The Nuggets and The Marsmen. The record was released on the The Twang-O-Matics’ own Hack Shack Records and can be ordered through the website of the band here.

You can listen to the complete EP on Spotify

Walkway featuring John Coghlan / Massive Wagons / CJ Wildheart, Boss Caine, Ben Marsden and Jason Hodgson with Sound Of Status and The Quo Choir: Rock Remembers Rick E.P., including Christmas Eve (Nanana)
(Barrel And Squidger Records, RIP RP 241216, UK, 33 rpm, reissue)
Last year, a 7" was released in remembrance of Rick Parfitt, who sadly passed away Christmas Eve 2016, and this year, the single is reissued on Christmas Eve 2018. The single has three tracks, including one Christmas song: 'Christmas Eve (Nanana)'. Let me just repeat what the label Barrel And Squidger Records, that released the single, has to say about the song: "A radical reworking of the 1971 Status Quo album track “Nanana”, adapted with the permission of original songwriters Francis Rossi and Bob Young. This is a reflective and celebratory Christmas Eve ode to Parfitt with new lyrics by Jason Hodgson, writer and researcher for From The Makers Of… (FTMO…), the Official International Status Quo Fan Club. Iconic Wildhearts guitarist CJ is accompanied by Hodgson, York Americana stalwart Boss Caine and in-demand guitarist Ben Marsden (The Main Grains, The Spangles, Warner E Hodges Band), before Swedish sensations Sound Of Status lead a 1000-strong crowd in an outro singalong recorded at 2017's Status Quo Fan Club convention." All profits of the 7" and download are for the children’s cancer charity The Shona Smile Foundation, so by buying the single or download, you are supporting a very worthwhile cause. Get your copy at

Watch the video on Youtube

Wizo: Ich War, Ich Bin Und Ich Werde Sein / Scheiss Weihnachtszeit
(Hülk Räckorz, HULK 121, Germany, white vinyl with red swirls)
German punk band Wizo released their new single early December. The A-side has the song 'Ich War, Ich Bin Und Ich Werde Sein', a quote from the legendary early 20st century German communist revolutionary Rosa Luxembourg, the last words she put down in writing, in 1919, shortly before she was murdered by a member of a rightwing group, in the aftermath of the communist Spartacus rising in Germany. It was an expression that, despite it seemed that the revolution was precipitated, eventually it will rise again. So, this makes clear where Wizo, stands politically. Not that they are all about serious politics, as there is also a lot of humour in the band's lyrics. Three piece melodic power punk trio Wizo started in 1985 as Wieso ('How So'), was active until 2005 and reformied in 2009. They are one of the most popular and succesful German punk bands, despite the controversy that has always surrounded the band – caused by their sometimes provocative actions. In 1997, Wizo offered up a Christmas split-7”EP with Japanese punk band Hi-Standard’, 'Weihnachten stinkt!' ('Christmas Stinks!'), on which they covered ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ and now, twenty-one years later, they offer up another Christmas song as B-side of 'Ich War, Ich Bin Und Ich Werde Sein'. 'Scheiss Weihnachtszeit' ('Shitty Christmastime') is a cynical song about the difference what Christmas should be and what it really is: 'Nirgendwo Frieden, Lachen, Freude / Dafür nur Tränen, Terror und Geschrei / Und statt Geschenken und Liebe / Gibt es Streit, Stress und Hiebe / Schön ist die Weihnachtszeit': 'Nowhere peace, laughing, joy / Instead only tears, terror and howling / Instead of presents and love / There is quarrel, stress and thrashing / How nice is Christmastime'. As could be expected, there is a message behind all cynicism, as it is all about the hypocrisy of being peaceful and nice on Christmas Day, and the moment Christmas is over, continue as if nothing has happened, or, as the band puts it: ‘Und dann können wir wieder dass tun was wir am besten können’ (‘And then we can continue with what we are best at’). Despite the biting lyrics, the music sounds pretty festive, especially for a band known for playing loud punk. And the video, well, how more cute can things get? The single can be ordered directly from the Wizo-shop here.

You can watch the video on Youtube< BR>

Wonk Unit: Christmas In A Crackhouse / Me And Curtis
(Plasterer / Cadiz Music, PLASTERER023, UK, red vinyl)
Wonk Unit is the brainchild of Alex Johnson, formerly of 1990s punk band The Flying Medallions, also the only member who has been in the band from the beginning in 2006. Wonk Unit debuted with the album 'Flying The Japanese Flag' in 2009, and since then, have released a great number of albums and (split) EP's on all kind of different labels - including a split single with popular loudmouths and noise makers Slaves on Virgin EMI Records. Despite this one-off project on a major, Wonk Unit is a true DIY punk band, also proven by them organizing the annual Wonk Fest, a DIY punk festival in London, that had it's sixth edition in 2018. And now Wonk Unit has released a Christmas 45, ’Christmas In A Crackhouse’. The song itself was already released last Christmas, accompanied by a video, and now has found its way onto vinyl, backed up with a song called ‘Me And Curtis’, a punk rock version of the A-side, with loud guitars and a fast pace. This means that the A-side isn’t your usual punk rock Christmas song, and that is indeed the case – as you don’t expect keys, violins, church bells or a cello in a punk song, but it is all there, in ’Christmas In A Crackhouse’. Wonk Unit also isn’t your usual punk rock band, just check out some of their others songs/videos. The song also sounds very very British, because of the vocals of Alex, but also because the song itself is rooted in the century old musical hall tradition in England. In the lyrics Alex explains how he once spend Christmas in a crackhouse, despite wanting to be with his family, but feeling he could not leave the crackhouse nor his friend Curtis, alone at Christmas, and how, one day in the shower, this particular memory sprang up in his mind, out of the blue. The video is a perfect reflection of the lyrics. You can order the single from Wonk Unit’s webshop, and it comes number and signed by Alex.

Watch the video in Youtube
And the video from the punk rock version of the song, ‘Me And Curtis’

Joyful Noise: Holiday Party Vol. 2
(Joyful Noise Recordings, JNR260-12 thru JNR260-21, USA, 45 rpm, small hole, lathe cut snowflake shaped, white vinyl, each limited to 100 copies)
One of the most active independent vinyl labels is Joyful Noise, an Indianopolis, Indiana based record label that specializes in small run releases, vinyl, lathe cut or flexis, from a wide range of artists. The label started in 2003, and it has already around 650 releases listed on Discogs. Joyful Noise is probably the label with the most series ever. Last year, they added another series, 'Holiday Party, Vol. 1', ten different lathe cut vinyl records in the shape of a snowflake (‘Snowflathes’ they call it), all with one Christmas song, and handcut in a limited edition of 100 pieces. That must have been a hell of a job! The records were not exactly cheap ($ 20 each – but net proceedings were donated to charity, so that is cool), but nevertheloss, all ten records sold out in no time. And when there is a volume 1, of course there should be a volume 2, so this year, another ten new lathe cut snowflakes have been released. All ten songs have been recorded at Joyful Noise's second annual holiday party, in their hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. Each song was tracked in just one hour. Some songs are originals, some are covers and others are mash-ups of two songs. According to the label, ‘this is Christmas music for people who hate Christmas music’. That’s not totally correct, because I love Christmas music, and yet, I feel this project is also for me – and all those other people I know who love Christmas music.

Who is involved this time. Well, the list is long, and the cool thing is, on many songs several artists collaborated. Let’s quote the label again: ‘Danielson, Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), CJ Boyd, Ohmme, No Joy, Eerie Wanda (who came all the way from Holland!), Mike Adams, Chris Schlarb (Psychic Temple), Kishi Bashi, Kid Millions (Oneida), The Low Anthem, David Yow (the Jesus Lizard), Adam Harding (Dumb Numbers) and Thor Harris of Swans (who contributed to nearly every song!)’. That’s an impressive list. Just as last year, each release is limited to just 100 copies on hand-made snowflake-shaped lathe-cut 7" records. Extra cool is that each purchase includes a digital download of all ten tracks. 100% of the net proceeds will be donated to Second Helpings, a non-profit that rescues perishable food, to feed people in need, all while providing culinary job training for disadvantaged adults.

I’m not going to delve into all songs, just listen to all the songs yourself, and decide if there are any you like enough to get yourself one or more of those cool ‘Snowflathes’. Two of those are already sold out at the moment I’m writing this, and I am sure that one day, in the not too distant future, all will be, but now there is still plenty to chose from. My personal favorites were Eerie Wanda’s cover of Yoko Ono’s ’Listen The Snow Is Falling’ (of course, the fact she is from Amsterdam, my hometown, is an extra bonus, but also without that knowledge it would have been one of my favorites), the hectic version Ohmme did of the Andrews Sisters' 'Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling' (I wasn't familiar with this Andrews Sisters tune, and also the original is great, probably the fastest song the sisters ever recorded, another 45 to hunt down) and The Low Anthem's original 'Fairy On The Christmas Tree'. The songs are very varied, so pretty sure everybody will at least find one or two songs to his or her liking. You can order the records here.

Listen to all ten songs on Bandcamp

That’s all folks – well, at least, for the moment!

Merry Christmas!