Sounds A Little Bit Like Christmastime! (Holiday Music Mix 2022!)

December 20, 2022 at 7:19 am (Uncategorized) ()

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Blessed Kwanzaa! Or just best wishes on the end of the year, happy solstice, etc. etc. Regardless of how or why you celebrate, it’s that time of year when a young man’s attentions turn to cheer, joy, friends and family nearby and far away.

I really planned to have this done last week. Two weeks ago, even. But every time I’d listen to the mix of songs I thought I’d use, I’d realize that the mix was either really slow and sad-feeling (which, yeah, I’m not here to be the Feelings Police by any means, but I’m also not making music mixes for Christmas to have everyone crying in their seasonal Christmas ales either.) I tried moving songs around. Nope. So I started subbing stuff in, and tearing stuff out.

Thus and so, suddenly it’s Sunday and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll even have a holiday music fiesta to share this year. After having a lovely dinner out with a couple of friends, I got home that evening and decided to do a little bit of prep for work on Monday — meaning fiddling with some spreadsheets. Excitement. I also figured I’d take another stab at things with the holiday music mix, and rearranged a few more songs, added two, took out three. Started playing it while I worked, not really paying attention to the tunes.

And so that’s when it happened. Somewhere around minute six or seven or eight into the mix, I realized that I’ve had kind of been bopping and bouncing in my desk chair to the music, absently playing drums on my desk with a pen. And all that warm and fuzzy George Baileyish, Bob Cratchity holiday spirit is roaring in my veins.

Which is to say, we have a mix of holiday tunes for 2022! What do we have this year?

The whole thing kicks off with the inimitable JD McPherson. JD’s Christmas album, Socks, is a must-have. And wahey, a new Chris Isaak holiday music album? Yeah, sign me up. And though I’m no fan of certain singers trying to proclaim themselves the Queen of Christmas or whatever, I am a huge fan of Charly Bliss taking that singer’s song and absolutely rocking it; I’ll take helium-voiced Charly Bliss lead vocalist Eva Hendricks over the original any day.

There’s lots of fun stuff packed in here. Irish band Pugwash do a ripping good job with XTC’s “Thanks for Christmas”, and God bless Pugwash frontman Thomas Walsh for singing it in his own Dublin accent (essentially making this song “T’anks for Christmas”). I love Remi Wolf’s soulful take on “Winter Wonderland”. I’d also been thinking about using Sparks’s amazing “Thank God it’s Not Christmas” in a mix for more than a decade, but always wondered, “Are people ready for Sparks?” It’s 2022. Any of y’all who are still uninitiated and unaware of their enduring brilliance are finally ready for Sparks.

One of the few repeat tracks on this year’s mix is “Just Like Christmas” by Low. Sadly, Low singer and drummer Mimi Parker passed away a few weeks ago, and I’ve had that track going through my mind ever since…so it’s here again. I love the Swansea Sound song here as well; that’s the collaboration of Hue Williams and Amelia Fletcher (Heavenly, Marine Girls, etc) and company. (Should any young’uns out there ever be told that playing rock and roll is the way to a dissolute future, steer them to Ms. Fletcher’s hilariously unique wikipedia page which begins by identifying her as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and economist before noting that she’s a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.) And finally, if “Groovy Xmas” by the Linda Lindas doesn’t get your blood pumping, you may not be ready for the oncoming holiday.

As is tradition, this is one long MP3 — everything’s sequenced the way I’d like, with the volume across the tracks normalized so you won’t get too blasted out by the rockers here. You should be able to right-click and download, or just click to stream.

And as always, I hope this music finds you in fine fettle. Have a happy and joyous and safe holiday season!

Sounds A Little Bit Like Christmastime! (Holiday Music Mix, 2022)

Oh, and howzabout a track list:

  1. JD McPherson “What’s That Sound?”
  2. Chris Isaak “Almost Christmas”
  3. Charly Bliss “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
  4. The Linda Lindas “Groovy Xmas”
  5. Swansea Sound “Happy Christmas To Me”
  6. Sparks “Thank God It’s Not Christmas”
  7. Remi Wolf “Winter Wonderland”
  8. Low “Just Like Christmas”
  9. Andy Bell “Listen, The Snow is Falling”
  10. Huey Piano Smith & The Clowns “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”
  11. The Walkmen “In the New Year”
  12. Otis Redding “White Christmas”
  13. The Bell Rays “Rocket Ship Santa”
  14. The Killers “Great Big Sled”
  15. Pugwash “Thanks For Christmas”
  16. Cheap Trick “I Want You For Christmas”
  17. Punchline “Together”
  18. Boston Spaceships “Christmas Girl”
  19. Tracey Thorn “Joy”
  20. The Pogues and the NYPD Choir and such

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There Are Three Truly Great Christmas Albums. You’ve Only Heard Two Of Them.

December 24, 2014 at 7:05 pm (Uncategorized) ()

With apologies to George Winston and John Fahey and Booker T. & The MGs, there are really three truly great pop, rock, or soul albums ever released in the modern era. One is the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack album for the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special. Another is the “A Christmas Gift For You” album from Phil Spector’s stable of stars. You’ve heard both of those records and all the songs off of them dozens of times.

There’s a third record that belongs in that pantheon. Sadly, this record was refused by the label it was recorded for and was available only for a few years on cassette in Japan. That same record got a limited re-release in 2002 on a label that went under shortly after the only CD pressing sold out. Copies of that CD in the shrinkwrap go for $300 on Ebay. (There’s a happy ending Christmas Miracle about its availability coming up, I promise.)

It’s rather stunning, actually, that this record is so criminally unknown. In a just world, it should be blasting from every restaurant speaker and mall PA system from Black Friday onwards through Christmas day. The name of the record is Lost Winter’s Dream. It was originally recorded in 1990 or so by Los Angeles music scenester Lisa Mychols when she was a kid. And, of course, there’s a back story so improbable and wonderful about this record that it deserves to be told again and again. But first, give these two songs a listen if you’re in a festive mood.


Yeah. The first thing you’ll notice is the amazing production on this. You’d never in a million years guess that it was the debut recording by a bunch of folks making their first record together. There’s all that Spectorian awesomeness sprinkled on it like sugar on a spritz cookie. More than that, though, there’s a wide-eyed, heartbreakingly pure sincerity to it all. There are reasons for all that.

In an interview about ten years ago, Mychols talked a bit about the recording of Lost Winter’s Dream. Apparently a couple of things precipitated this album. For one thing, Mychols had grown up in love with the classic sounds the 1960s and the kind of production flourishes one heard from folks like Phil Spector or on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. She taught herself to play bass by plunking along on it while watching videos on the recently-launched MTV. One fall, still a teen, she’d struck up a conversation with scene-making SoCal hipster record label Bomp. By now, Mychols had also taught herself how to play guitar and to write songs. Bomp was interested in putting out a single on a 7″ if she’d record something. She was interested…

…and, by her account, was also undergoing the first heartbreak of her life, the end of her first longterm romantic relationship. She’d come up with a few songs, actually, and determined that–given the fall into winter season–she’d write songs in the vein of that classic Phil Spector Christmas album. Eventually, all the songs she was working on ended up being more or less of that theme. Maybe the “single” would be more than just one song.

The soon-to-be-record had one other thing going for it. Mychols had struck up a fast friendship with two like-minded souls, a couple of guys named Darian Sahanaja and Nick Waluska. They loved the same records and sounds she did. They could fill in gaps on instruments she couldn’t. They also had some studio experience themselves. The single that Mychols had promised to Bomp took on a life of its own, at some point becoming a full album.  Mychols–the principal songwriter–poured out her broken heart into every song, filling them not just with heartbreak and longing, but also with hope, nostalgia, joy and desire. Her songs were the kind of things you can’t fake. Real emotions, real young adult first relationship angst.

I’ve kvetched before about bad Christmas songs. It’s so damn easy to just toss off a couple of seasonal words in near non-sequiturs, add some sleigh bells, and call it Christmas music. Too many artists who ought to know better make music aimed at opening holiday wallets without ever seeming to care one whit about what they’re doing, and the end result sounds fake and crass and commercial. There is nothing–not one tiny word–that Lisa Mychols writes or sings on Lost Winter’s Dream that doesn’t feel as if she isn’t singing from the depths of her soul. Lost Winter’s Dream doesn’t sound like a record that someone wanted to make. It sounds like a record Lisa Mychols HAD to make–like some volcanic eruption of emotions and nostalgia and wistfulness that had to come bursting out of her…all tied up in a bow.

Amazingly, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Waluska matched the gorgeous and pure and beautiful songs that Mychols wrote with production chops that belied their limited experience and means. They, too, poured it all out. That they were working under a tight deadline with the holiday season pretty much already arriving only added to how remarkable the end results were. Nothing about what the three ended up with sounds rushed or half-baked.

There was a punchline though. After somehow managing to get everything finished, the weekend that Bomp had set as a deadline for the finished results was a weekend that Mychols found herself grounded. There was no way for her to deliver the master recordings or artwork. Bomp told her maybe next year. Deadlines are deadlines. Talk about teen angst. The next year, Bomp had changed its focus to be strictly aimed at garage rock of the loud and noisy variety. They were no longer interested in Lost Winter’s Dream. Since no one else knew or much cared who Lisa Mychols, Darian Sahanaja, or Nick Waluska were in 1991, Lost Winter’s Dream found no suitors. Finally, a Japanese label picked it up and put it out on cassette in Asia.

Mychols went on to front a string of well-respected Los Angeles guitar pop bands of which The Masticators were probably the most well-known. She still makes great music on her own as the Lisa Mychols 3, or as a member of bands like Nushu.  Sahanaja and Waluska formed a group called the Wondermints. They ended up as Brian Wilson’s (yes, that Brian Wilson) backing band starting in 1999 and have been there ever since as his touring band and studio musicians. It was some amazing happy accident, then, that all three of these incredibly talented folks ended up recording an album together at the start of their respective careers.

Based on the relative prominence of the various members in the intervening years, Lost Winter’s Dream got a proper US release on boutique label Rev-Ola in 2002. Unfortunately, Rev-Ola’s parent group, Cherry Red Records, discontinued the label and put Lost Winter’s Dream out of print after a single pressing.

Now, though, time for that happy ending for music lovers. The pop music goldminers at Futureman records acquired digital distribution rights to Lost Winter’s Dream in 2012. For a measly $7, you can finally own the best Christmas record you’ve never heard. Even better, you can listen to the entire album for free before you buy it. Seriously, that’s an awesome deal. The version that the Futureman folks have up is the “expanded edition”, too. Apparently the original Japanese release appended the seasonal tunes with four cover versions: “To Sir With Love”, “Sign Of The Times”, “The End Of The World”, and “Sixteen Reasons”. They also added some demo versions and a few other oddities from the same period.

Go here. Listen to it. Buy it. Thank me later, and Merry Christmas!


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