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Feature Crush: C.D. on Songs – The 23 Songs of Christmas

December 23, 2009

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. That’s right, it’s time for the special Holiday Edition of C.D. on Songs. We’ve survived the advent of song submission after song submission and we’ve got them all here for you, ready to read about and hear (in one way or another).
Remember, Christmas comes but once a year, but this column runs all year, so feel free to send in your songs to cdonsongs [at] gmail [dot] com.
NOTE WELL: Bands, we tried to be good and stream the songs that were supposed to be streaming and only include the download songs in the download pack, but if we missed anything, please let us know and we’ll rectify the situation ASAP. For those of you not in the bands – HURRY UP AND DL THIS, EH.
Now without further ado, I give you the 23 Songs of Christmas…

Other Girls – “I’m Not Getting Anything for Christmas”
[download it!]

Christmas is apparently the time when we all come together (musically) and create our own personal carols and yuletide melodies. You probably won’t see Andrea Gillis, Linda Shore, Michelle Paulhus, Melissa Gibbs and Amy Griffin (each of them parts of a dizzying amount of bands) outside your door caroling, mostly because there are laws that govern the amount of racket one can create outside without being a nuisance.
This is not to say that the Other Girls are a nuisance, but they’re definitely not going to stand all in a row with their hands clasped to sing “I’m Not Getting Anything for Christmas.” If anything, they could line up along the bar, stomping on the foo-foo drinks and kicking the beers over.
“I’m Not Getting Anything for Christmas” is a driving rocker that careens around with little regard for the breakables, hitting hard and often. Gillis’s strongly forceful vocals champion this song, even rising above and leading the fully functioning rock ensemble that is the Other Girls.

Oldjack – “X Mas”

[download it!]

There’s an awful lot of rushing about during Christmas. Getting to the mall. Buying dinner. Ordering dinner. Getting to your parents’ house. Getting to her parents’ house. It’s nice to have someone kick it back easy and remind us that this isn’t really an all-that-terrible time of the year.
Oldjack comes in this season with an optimistic look at the year and the future, looking through the clouds to see the sunlight. Maybe they really mean it, maybe it’s a case of “fake it ’til you make it,” but Oldjack provides a solidly positive performance in “X Mas”, with only a scant bit of prescriptive advice – “We’ve got to get along.”
With all the Christmas belly-achin’ that usually comes along with modern, non-traditional Christmas music, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear someone with a message that says it’s not so bad. Oldjack sounds upbeat without being overly perky or obnoxious. Maybe things are looking up after all.

Yoni Gordon & the Goods (Feat. Franz Nicolay and Emilyn Brodsky) – “Fairytale of New York”
It took me a few Christmasses to fully get the hang of the original version of this song, but it eventually grew on me to the point where I looked forward to hearing this cover the second it landed in the old electronic mailbox. It’s not exactly a classic, but it’s still something you don’t want to mess up.
Yoni Gordon and friends’ new take on the classic Pogues song brings the urban celtic splendor of “Fairytale of New York” to modern form with the traditional arrangement augmented by some rock-ier electric guitar parts standing in for some of the pipes of the original. They even score extra MusicPoints for realism by not changing the key of the song.
Gordon also sounds fully sober and articulate for a man spending his Christmas in the drunk tank. Emilyn Brodsky fulfills her half of the bargain with the sweetly nasty lines of the female antagonist berating Gordon’s not-so-drunk sounding antagonist.
This iteration of the pseudo-classic will please those who are fans of the original – the boys of the NYPD choir still sing “Galway Bay” and the bells still ring out on Christmas day. This is an honest cover that can also win over new listeners on its own, as music fans discover this 1987 gem through Yoni Gordon’s 2009 performance.
Burnt Fur – “String Of Lights 120V 0.2A 60Hz”
Anyone who’s anyone loves Christmas lights. The sight of a long strand of colored (none of those boring white lights, thank you very much) winding around the porches and trees of the neighbhorhood has its own special brand of soul-felt electricity that comes plugged in and glowing warmly in Burnt Fur’s “String Of Lights 120V 0.2A 60Hz,” the sound of Harrison’s own memories of night-bound rides in the back seat of his grandparents’ car, watching the lights whiz by outside the frosty car windows.
The cadence of this song has a travelling quality to it. The rhythm evokes images of back-seat car rides, happening over manhole covers and the constant whirr of the street sound under the tires. The lights flash by in the form of brighter sounds, both near and distant. The vocals have a murmuring quality to them, like voices coming over the car stereo speakers or from a distant front seat. Harrison and Burnt Fur have done a good job of taking one of those brand new LED light sets that burn so brightly and then arranging them in old familiar patterns on the porch.

Forest Fires – “Christmas”

[download it!]

It takes a special sort of person to be able to tell you to screw and still have you enjoy it. Christopher Pappas of Forest Fires (his side project from local luminaries The Everyday Visuals) has a pretty specific Christmas list full of fire and vitriol. He wants a pretty whore for some mindless fun. He doesn’t care what Mom thinks.

Pappas sounds fairly despondent in this song, but one has to look past the multitude of middle fingers to see the shockingly personal glimpse he gives of himself with every passing verse. Asking Santa for a prostitute for Christmas seems like the harsh wishes of a vulgar man, but
instead it’s the demand of a soul that’s been burned so many times that he is sick of, in his own words, the emotions and commitments, who can leave his heart unbroken.

Pappas lays himself bare but does it in such an energetic, near-inspiring musical fashion that is empowering and catchy all the time. He doesn’t sound mad until you listen to the words. Then you think about the words and realize he’s not some cantankerous Gran Torino style hard-ass that wants the world to leave him alone. There’s something real going on in “Christmas” that makes us care about the rest of Forest Fires’ year. Here’s hoping he checks in (and doesn’t tell us to f*** off.)

Slack Wand – “The First Noel”

[download it!]

Why, you may ask, is this super-hot picture of Kerri-Ann Richard from Apple Betty attached to this review of some band called “Slack Wand?” It’s not just because we feel like it. Slack Wand is the super-hot Ms. Richard.

Whatever the identity case may be, Richard/Slack Wand’s instrumental take on the beloved “The First Noel” is something to behold. The Slack Wand orchestra stumbles around like a parade of misfit toys that occasionally wind down and need to be wound back up to complete the next lap around the block.
A tipsy guitar-twirling majorette leads the parade, plucking out the melody on a fuzzed-out electric guitar, always in the neighborhood of the note but with a slight wavering that only adds to the charm of this recording. Richard’s toy parade may be clunky, but it’s a joyous one – as endearing as a Charlie in the Box or a Bird Fish. This track is full of character – you find yourself rooting for the instruments as they continue their loping trek to wherever-it-is. And you may end up following them as well.
Three Day Threshold & Summer Villains – “ZooXmas”

Kier Byrnes apparently has a long Christmas list, and it’s full of perishable items. To make a long story short, he wants basically every form of animal from the pedestrian to the exotic. He even wants one animal that doesn’t exist (not a unicorn, Ashley), but we’re not going to spoil that for you.
Byrnes is usually seen whooping it up onstage amidst mechanical bulls and burlesque dancers, but he’d trade it all for a zoo. Who knew? The easy guitar and vocal delivery coupled with the requisite jingle bells make Three Day Threshold and the Summer Villains (get it?) sound not just ready for the clubs, but for the kindergartens as well.
You may find yourself singing along or making animal noises with Byrnes, even if birds sound like squirrels in his world. The vocal is just that combination of silly and earnest – Byrnes carefully enunciates the word “elephant” a split second before making his best elephant roar/trumpet. You’ll really need to sit on the floor to capture the true spirit of this song, and that’s not a bad thing, unless you’re one of Kier Byrnes’ neighbors. Or Santa.
Bret Rosenberg – “Rock and Roll Xmas”

[download it!]

Brett Rosenberg has long since brought his funny faces and talkin’ guitar down south to the promised land of Nashville, but he’s like the Nomar Garciaparra of the local music scene – he’s over with the local crowd no matter what jersey he wears.
Luckily for those of us who had to shovel out our lives this past weekend, Mr. Rosenberg has sent a little holiday card to the folks at home (that’s us, by the way) in the form of “Rock and Roll Xmas.”

This little Christmas card comes in the form of an easy-going song that lopes happily along, powered largely by a jaunty acoustic guitar, peppered with some of that sweet, articulate electric guitar work that we have come to expect and appreciate from good ole B.R. as jingle bells count off the quarter note “and’s” in the rhythm.

Clocking in at a trim 2:01, “Rock and Roll Xmas” is a pleasant little sleighride with a widely-grinning Rosenberg at the reins. He doesn’t want an iPod or fake hamster or Lexus with a big red bow around it. He’s not going to buy any of those things for you either – it’s a rock and roll Christmas or nothing at all. All-star Rosenberg makes a strong case for the rock and roll – but did you need any convincing?

Star Matters – “Just Like Christmas”

[download it!]

This song starts out like “Ballroom Blitz” with a persistent lap-steel leading the way, yet somehow morphs itself into a cinnamon-smelling Christmas song without batting an eyelash.

This song is helmed by photographer-turned-singer Kelly Davidson and an all-star list of local Boston artists that you have seen and/or heard of (including, among others, Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls and Monique Ortiz of Bourbon Princess). As the legend goes, it came together in less than 12 hours at JamSpot.
This is good for a 12-hour song. Heck, it’s pretty great for a 12-week song. The gentle coast of the swing swells up and down with the vocal, punctuated by a nice heavy-toned guitar solo and a rapping bridge. Yes, a bridge made of rap. That fits over the same beat and scrubby-strummed guitars from the beginning of the song.
“Just Like Christmas” is a winner that sounds neatly polished and well-realized by everyone involved. Davidson is quite hard on herself in all published reports of this song, but we’re listening and don’t hear anything all that awful in the pleasantly layered female vocals.
The Stools – “Santa Copped a Tude”

[download it!]

Hey kids! Lance Norris and the Stools are back! And they sound no more sober than they did when we covered them a few weeks ago.

The Stools must have been hitting the spiked eggnog hard for this rip-roaring, dirty-around-the-frayed edges sleigh ride with an attitudinal Kris Kringle who is doing Christmas his way this year.
This is not your pudgy, jolly “Ho-Ho-Ho!” Santa, this is more of a
greasy-fingered movie Santa in the spirit of Artie Lange’s beef-and-cheese portrayal or perhaps the red-nosed, dead-eyed Santa who sends Ralphie skittering down the slide after forcing him to agree to a football. Football? Who wants a football?
Santa’s tude is echoed in the gnarly sound of “Santa Copped a Tude,” as the Stools again show that they excel at setting the scene and the mood of the hour with their hard-hitting (yet almost surprisingly never messy) performances. They manage to create the air of sloppiness without any actual sloppiness, and that’s got to count for something.
Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents – “Santa Claus is Comin'”
[download it!]

As of late we have started to recognize Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents as a bona fide party on stage and on record. We just didn’t know their holiday parties were just as great. Jenny Dee sings loud and proud and the band swings mercilessly on “Santa Claus is Comin’.”

Jenny Dee and friends rock this one around the clock with a solid bebop rhythm that provides its own renewable energy source in the form of solid jive. Some vocalists have “sweet spots” or notes in their vocal register that they can sing the heck out of. It sounds like Jenny Dee’s vocal sweet spot is “Yes.” Her voice sparkles and shines as brightly as big old ceramic Christmas lights reflecting off recently polished silver-bells.
Dee and company sound ready to give the entire cast of the Phil Spector Christmas album a run for their money even though you know that Phil will probably be packing heat. Could this put an end to the Deelinquents reverie? We’re guessing not and already can’t wait to dust this one off for the 2010 edition of this very post.

The Big Big Bucks – “Duck Dinner”
[hear it!]
We’re going to start off with a negative – the Big Big Bucks should have really changed their band name to “The Big Big Ducks” for this recording, but we’re going to let it slide.
This song has a solid one-two sway to it, the beat is always in Position One or Position Two. This song slides across the icy streets of your ears like an overzealous plow driver who gathers snow and sparks as he races down your street at 6AM, calling in the vocals with his CB radio.
There is a definite unruly squawk to this song, which is actually a Christmas song despite the absence of jingle bells or Santa. Jingle bells wouldn’t fit in here unless they were amped and sent through the fuzzbox a few times. While this song sounds more like a good old-fashioned beating, it retains One needs merely to listen in to the song and pick up the little subtleties that are present in between slams.
Rich Horror – “Blue Christmas”
[download it!]

Do you love the classic Elvis Presley song “Blue Christmas?” Does it warm your heart and not remind you of being berated by a large, angry man from New Bedford? Yes? Then we’re very sorry.

This is – as the song states – the fuckin’ Rich Horror show. The Rich Horror show is not for the weak of heart. Horror is threatening, disgusting and hilarious all at once. You get the sense that he might, at any time, hand you $1000 or break your arm for sport. The audience is a bunch of whores. He yells at you. He yells at his family. He yells at his skinny prick of a drummer. The guys in the control room, And oh yeah, Christmas. It brings out the best in all of us.

Plainly stated, you need to hear this song (and ostensibly, Mr. Horror’s entire holiday album, if this is any hint). Horror basically rants for a little over two minutes as a solidly cheesy “Blue Christmas” backling track plays under his description of jerking off to “In Living Color” in his grandmother’s living room. Yes. Now you get it. This really is the fuckin’ Rich Horror show, and you better enjoy it or else, kid.

Left Hand Does – “Last Christmas”
It seems that the new wave of Christmas classics has come from the 1980’s. One of the more beloved original Christmas songs from the 80’s makes a return under the guiding hands and voices of Left Hand Does, and we have to say that Left Hand Does does a fine job of creating a modernized yet wholly faithful rendition of the Wham classic from 1984.
Left Hand Does displays a keen and complete knowledge of the original song, hitting all the little musical ornaments hung on the ends of each phrase. Fans of the original will not feel slighted in the least by this 2009 update – it’s all in here.
A song must change somewhat in 25 years (yes, 25), and this new version has a overall softer sound than the shiny production of the ’84 original. While it has the verve of the original, it has a more subdued edge – despite hitting all the same notes of the original. George Michael and…uh… the other guy would be proud.
J-Krafty – “Crafty”
The definition of “Christmas song” can be applied loosely and liberally. J-Krafty’s “Crafty” does mention Christmas cards and says “Happy Holidays” at one point, but overall it’s a self-celebrating anthem from the person that makes everything from scratch. And let’s face it, everyone knows one of those.
Band website design
J-Krafty’s ode to craftiness plays like a fast trip through Michael’s or that section of the Christmas Tree Shop where they sell pipe-cleaners and glue guns and what-not. Krafty seems to have true craft-cred: he lists some pretty obscure tools of his crafting trade that we have verified are legit craft tools.
J-Krafty probably makes a mean scrapbook, and his rapid-fire listing of all-things-crafty is somewhat overwhelming, and may remind you of that really annoying Barenaked Ladies song from whenever the heck it was. Depending on how you felt about that song, you may really like this, or you may really dislike it. Either way, it will provoke a reaction.

Jason Halogen, Brendan Boogie and the Holidád All-
Stars – “This Holidád (Feed Them Holidád)”
Remember when Band Aid got together and did that whole “Feed the World” business back in the 80’s? The bad news is that the world is still hungry. But the good news is that Jason, Brendan and the Holidád All-Stars are here to say “Not on our watch!”

This track is a star-studded affair with appearances from “Bruce Springsteen” and “Dan Akroyd” and some other (imitations of) famous people. Some of the performances are appropriately laughable, such as the over-the-top sound of The Boss leading the All-Stars through the song, even kicking it up a notch for a key-change to show that they really, really care.
Other performance highlights include the occasional (OK, very occasional) waow-waow-waow-waaaaoh courtesy of who we suppose might pass for Boy George. Yes, this is a parody. Yes, it’s hilarious. But it’s a little catchy. And censored curse words are always funny. So don’t be such a d—.

Halston – “I’m Down With Christmas”

[download it!]

One sure-fire combination that makes Christmas music is a major key and some nice straight jingle bells. Halston even goes further with the addition of synthesized pizzicato strings and some vocal ding-dong!s to give their own jaunty and upbeat take on Christmas in Boston.

What with all of the hand-wringing and complaining, it’s nice to know that Halston enters this holiday season with high hopes, promising to seize the season and “make time for cheer” instead of simply letting it all pass them by. This song is a straight-up celebration that accepts it all and still keeps its head about itself with the coda of “It’s Christmas in Boston.”
This song has a gentle tonal sway to it which simply adds to the party feeling. There’s some slush in the walkway but they don’t care, it’s party time. Like a candy-cane in your Christmas cocoa, this track has a bit of a good zing to it that helps temper out all the stress, gloom and ire.

The Musical Theatre – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
[download it!]

With the exception of “Greensleeves,” this song may be the preeminent Christmas song in a minor key. The Musical Theatre does “…Merry Gentlemen” justice in their highly modernized rendition of the old classic.
This version of the song is not so much a cover as it is an interpolation/interpretation. All of the important bits of the classic carol are present, but the Musical Theatre adds their own sections, bridges, verses, etc. to fully make it their own.
There is just the right mix of “classic Christmas carol” and “modern music” to create the perfect balance in this version. The new and original parts retain the feel of the established melodies and lyrical themes. There are still tidings of comfort and joy, they just come wrapped up in super-shiny paper. You’ll still recognize (and appreciate) the gift, however.

Spirit Kid – “It’s Christmas Time (Feelin’ Lazy)”
[hear it!]
There’s a jolly man making the rounds this week, and he’s got a big old beard and lots of hair on top of his head. No, not the big guy in red, we’re talking Emeen Zarookian, the brains and brawn behind Spirit Kid.
And when we talk Emeen Zarookian, we talk all kinds of nice things. Things like songs that are just a series of hook after hook. Spirit Kid’s “It’s Christmas Time (Feelin’ Lazy)” is a solidly catchy yuletide special that melds the softly insistent vocals of the Beach Boys’ Christmas album with the swagger of Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” “It’s Christmas Time…” transcends both songs, with more personality than the Beach Boys (sorry, Emeen) and more dimensionality than Wizzard’s classic.
Part of the art of Spirit Kid are the clever chord progressions, walking down the major, jumping up to a minor and then dabbling in the relative chords. Zarookian dabbles in chords like Ralphie’s Old Man dabbled in profanity and “It’s Christmas Time…” is no different. This song bumps along thanks to a walking/jogging bass and swings thanks to a small horn section (that is surprisingly not performed by Zarookian). Much like the wrapped stocking stuffer (an under-used tactic), this song is a nice little surprise hung on your fireplace with care or in your stereo.
Aloud – “Happy Effing Xmas [Naughy/Nice Versions]”
[hear it!]

Some carols proclaim the everlasting goodness of peace on Earth, goodwill towards men and the joys of spending Christmas at home or in a log cabin somewhere. You will find none of this sentiment in neither Naughty nor Nice versions of “Happy Effing Xmas.”

Protagonist Henry Beguiristain isn’t upset with the holiday itself, instead it’s a dysfunctional cast of characters including Racist Uncle Lou, a whiskey-fueled Grandma and a dropout younger brother. Beguiristain details the various pains of dealing with the family, while bandmate Jen de la Osa provides vocal support via a series of angelic, descending ooh-oohs that provide a pleasing backdrop to the National Lampoon’s-worth cast of characters.

The tone of this song is not vicious or even complaint-ridden – it’s simple bemusement at, in the words of the chorus, “What a great big f—ing joke this Christmas is.” There isn’t too huge a difference between the Naughty and the Nice versions of this song. A conveniently placed dog arf-arf!s over the occasional obscenities. They really have nothing to worry about vis-a-vis their standing with Santa Claus, but it’s stil nice to have a version to play for Mom and Pop.

Leon Rich – “The Day the Xmas Trees Burned Down”

[download it!]

Once that old north wind starts howling and the snow starts whipping around, it’s pretty easy to get disoriented. “Disoriented” is the name of the game in “The Day the Xmas Trees Burned Down.”

There is a weirdly controlled chaos present in this track – or maybe it’s just the echoes of past chaos. One thing we know is that the day the Christmas trees burned down, all the statues melted. We know this fact beyond a reasonable doubt because it is the literal refrain of “The Day.” We hear it over and over again until the words become dizzying.

What else happened? Lots of things, but the combination of dense, lushly digital strings and the continuing vocal refrain are like a slow motion – yet still dizzying – repeated trip around a rotary full of bendy fun-house mirrors and charred husks of Christmas trees and, yes, melted statues. This unsettling track is wholly successful in that it puts you in a totally strange place if you let it, and it’s worth it at least a few go-rounds.
Boston Crusaders – “Angels We Have Heard on High”

[download it!]

Listen up, you singers, you guitarists, you bassists, you keyboardists. You may have no idea who the Boston Crusaders are. Like Toyota suggests, ask someone who knows. That someone will probably be anyone you know who either blows into a brass instrument or hits any sort of percussive item.
The Crusaders, who will soon be on national TV as the Dropkick Murphys back-up brass during the Winter Classic (to which you may still send us tickets, friends), decided that they’d just sort of record a Christmas tune in their spare time in between glassing people with Ken Casey and a rigorous practice schedule. The result is a stately performance that is both grandiose and soft-spoken all at once. The Crusaders, en masse, create a golden cloud of sound that is fully capable of scooping up the listener and carrying them to the heights of wherever the Angels are Singing on High and then letting us softly down to Earth.
There is no marching-band hup! two! three! four! to this performance – it is a calmly majestic recording that is usually associated with far-off, fancier places and not a bunch of people who are prepared to freeze their bells off (get it?) at a hockey game at Fenway Park. To which you can still send me tickets. Christmas is right around the corner. Get on it.

Want to submit your band’s song to C.D. On Songs?
To be reviewed in a C.D. On Songs column:
  • Be a Boston-based band/artist.
  • Email a single mp3/m4a/etc. (or a download link to one) to cdonsongs (at) gmail (dot) com, with the subject line “C.D. on Songs” (DO NOT send us a bunch of songs and make us pick, we will ignore you). We require a file – not a streaming link.
  • Include album cover art if you have any. If you don’t, a band photo or logo is acceptable.
  • We will assume that we have your permission to make the song downloadable on Boston Band Crush (readers will want to hear it, after all).
  • If that’s not ok with you, say so and provide us with a link to the song on an embeddable player like ReverbNation – something we can include in the post (and not just link to).


From → cd on songs, CDDiG

  1. Good call including Halston's I'm down with Christmas. A great song by a great band.

  2. Finally a Christmas list that includes Halston! Your obvious good taste has gained you another reader.

  3. I'm down with Halston!

  4. I want to add my voice to the people giving you kudos for adding Halston to your Songs of Christmas. I love the diversity of their songs and their sense of fun. They constantly keep me guessing about what they'll come out with next and I eagerly await each new song. I'm down with Christmas did not disappoint.

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