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.

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