Ah, yes. Traditions. We love 'em. And few traditions are better than those that involve free Christmas music--especially free Christmas music that is outstanding. The fine folks at XO Publicity are still in the game, now presenting "XO For The Holidays, Volume IX". I don't know that I ever thought much about the overall pacing of the XO collections before this year, but that may be because the pacing of Volume IX is spot on. New contributors to discover and some old favorites back for another go--Magnuson, Blue Skies For Black Hearts, Piney Gir. What would Christmas be without Piney Gir? Hopefully, we'll never have to find out. Piney Gir, to me, is this generation's Bing Crosby (Or perhaps I should say Perry Como since "Love Is A Christmas Rose" was one of his). You can have your Buble; I gotta have my Piney Gir. Speaking of...supposedly no Buble Christmas special this year. Maybe my Piney Gir could slide in there. I'll get to the rest of the XO set in a sec. But I'm gonna jump right to dessert, just below this vid, if that's OK by you (and even if its not).
It remains a sad truth of my life in recent years that, if you don't stick a Christmas song under my nose, I probably don't know you exist. Even then, if it isn't great, I might forget you by the next Christmas. Well we have an early contender for best new Christmas song of the year and I won't ever forget Andrew Joslyn & The Local Strangers. I mean I lit up like a happy little Christmas tree as soon as "Under Mistletoe"started and, by the time the song was done, I had goosebumps and every hair on the back of my neck was at full attention (my body's "it's a hit" detector). The Local Strangers are a Seattle Alt Folk group whose specialty is ecstasy inducing harmonies. Andrew Joslyn is the man who supplies the strings. Yes, strings. "Under Mistletoe" is what happens when you combine all of the elements of a rich 50s Christmas standard with elements of early 60s soulful Pop and modern Indie sensibilities. And the lyrics are brilliant--they flow easy as though they were conceived through divine intervention. "Whiskey Lemon Honey Cloves/Darlin', please take off your clothes/And I'll kiss you slow/Under mistletoe." All together, the song is at once nostalgic and new, thoroughly 21st century yet timeless. Goosebumps. Goosebumps I tellz ya. I wish I had a clip to play for you, but its actually good that I don't. Because now you have no choice but to head over to XO Publicity immediately and grab the free download. Goosebumps! I hope this is the forerunner of an entire Christmas album from The Local Strangers and Andrew. Damn, it gets better every time I listen to it.
OK, so what else we got here? "XO For The Holidays, Vol. IX" kicks off with San Francisco's EagleWolfSnake, an Indie Pop Rock band. This band sure knows a good hook when they right one. "Make It Glow" hits that sweet tooth of mine just right. I swear, the sound is reminding me of a sixties or seventies band and its right on the tip of my tongue...but I can't....I just can't...nope, I can't get it. Oops. I keep trying to get there but, every time I do, my brain goes straight to Donovan's "Atlantis" for some reason. And that ain't it. Ah, well. The group also lists Modest Mouse as one of their influences. So there's that. Which is cool.
Next up, Electronic Dream Rockers Texture & Light provide an interesting cover of Aimee Mann's "I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas". Nestled between "Make It Glow" and "Under Mistletoe", it surprisingly fits right in like the creamy center of an Oreo cookie.
LA funnyman and sometime jingle writer Bill Berry offers up a bawdy, juvenile even, but hilarious folksy Christmas Blues, "Twas The Night After Christmas". Contains Adult Themes, sexual situations, and strong language. Although, to be honest, after listening to some of that Rudy Ray Moore album a couple of days ago, pretty much everything is tame in comparison. Now, me, I tend to shy away from "funny" on my holiday mixes. But I know some of you are definitely going to want to include "Twas The Night After Christmas" on yours.
New York is apparently the home to Occurence, an experimental post-apocalyptic Electronic Dance Pop outfit. And I'm the wrong guy to ask about this one. Not my thing, really. But very cutting edge and avant garde. I think. Their selection is "This Is How You Know (It's The Holidays)". I got a million jokes I could play with, here (and, hey, they're New Yorkers; they don't give a crap what I think anyway, right?), but I'll pass and let you make up your own mind.
"Silent Night", when done by the Progy Rock group Magnuson, has a more ominous vibe than you usually get from that carol. But it rocks. It's a little bit 70s Hard Rock meets up with Metallica and then goes out to the deli with Black Sabbath and Emerson Lake and Palmer kinda thing. Does that cover it?
We already covered Piney Gir covering Como. And the set closes with a fairly faithful rendition of "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" from Blue Skies For Black Hearts. This version, honestly, sounds a bit more sincere and genuine than the Bowie-Bing take--probably because they didn't bury the thing in strings and such. Nice way to end this year's collection.