Chanukah the Sixth (usually just socks)

Now don’t forget all the party fun you can have with Chanukah!
You know, spinning pointy little clay dice! You get to kiss a girl after that right?
I hope you all already know the South Park anti-semitic bit o’ fun “Dreidel Song.” Good, then we don’t have to address that silliness.
The trad version has been (over)done thousands of time, from bluegrass to swing to hip hop. Not interested.
Incubus busts a rhyme in their “Dreidel Song” and lays down a fine hora beat. They seem to be getting into the spirit of it.
Chocolate Coins” from Smooth-E (Eric Schwartz) raps even harder and brings that famed Jewish sense of humor (a bit too hard?).
BLUE ALERT Rucka Rucka ALi has a totally inappropriate dreidel song using stupid rhymes to make social commentary and poop jokes. I laughed. Then felt bad. then i laughed again. Racism? AND Star Wars?
But for the whole family, The Itchy Kazoo Show uses puppets to show us how fun (and significant) dreidel play is with “The Hannukah Dreidel Song.”

State Fifty: Hawaii

The Aloha State is technically Americans who are foreigners. (Aren’t we all?) They have their own Christmas song–in their own foreign language. I am not gonna bother with “Mele Kalikimaka” in any version (not even Don Ho) nor even any ‘funny’ version (not even the appropriately polka version by Reel Big Fish on the 1997 KROQ Christmas album). But i might mention an illuminating Tom Scott linguistic breakdown of the exact translation of that phrase. Moving on…
Christmas in the Rainbow State” by Stasia Estep is exactly what we’d hope for. It’s vaguely authentic and mentions all the highlights of holiday-ing in Hawaii. But it veers into pop-country and got used on the modern Hawaii Five-O TV show. Too bourgeoisie allasudden.
Sam Sims has also been included in that TV soundtrack with his “Hawaiian Christmas.” It’s a bit too much uke, slack key, and mele kalikimaka. I’ve got way too many Island versions of the trads to get excited here.
Red Peters’s “Have a Wonderful Hawaiian Christmas” gets so ethnically racist i’m not sure the ‘kamon ai wanna lei ya’ nonsense is nostalgic for horrible strip comics from the ‘Fifties, or just intolerantly insensitive. Naw, it’s hate.
OFFICIAL BLUE ALERT While we’re down and dirty, consider The Jackofficers (a side project of a couple of the Butthole Surfers) techno-sampling for “An Hawaiian Christmas.” Nothing naughty, but nothing fun. Ahh, the ’90s!
Just as messed up is Dan Barletta Jr. and his “Hawaiian Christmas Song” which adds feedback to reverb to electric guitar versions of surf music versions of carols (and Hawaii Five-O‘s intro).
Joey Mackee gets all cheesy lounge nightclub with his “Christmas in Hawaii.” That’s one way to do it.
Strange electronic bleating sets the beat for Motogawa Music’s “Christmas in the Islands.” There’s a pretty song in there somewhere, but it seems put together by commitee.
Patrick Landza goes gently comic with “Hula Girl for Christmas.” It’s all harmonious innocence and regional ha-cha-cha. Cute wish list, kid.
These Polyneisan pagans are converts though. And you can hear the angelic church messages in Roddy Lopez’s “Hawaiian Christmas.” It is a medley (gah!) but it’s too pretty not to consider.
Too many 12 Days for here, but “Numbah One Day of Christmas” (by every sweet-voice singer out HI way) seems more authentic than travesty.
Dana Spencer’s “Mahalo Santa Claus” gets us down to the children’s level and makes us sit in a circle with percussive sticks and sing along. Sweet and sincere (and from that great set Christmas Across America).
Hawaiian kids are the best singers, guys! “My Hawaiian Christmas” from some odd compilation decades ago (Hawaii’s Favorite Christmas Songs) tugs at the heartstrings (although that graceless pianer plinking is offputting).
The Merriest Hawaiian Christmas” as sung by Honolulu Boy Choir, is more cherubim Christmas, marred by orchestration. (They also have a “Christmas in Hawaii.” It’s soporific!) (Don’t forget “Makahiki, the Christmas Mehune” a more arcanely culturally transposed version of white Santa. I love those.)
A couple ol’ gals in their dining room wail on their ukuleles and sing “Taro Patch Christmas.” Lei’ohu and Maydeen cast a spell on the season with their chuckling and hard harmonies. You can hear it better on Lei’ohu’s album, but i likes the comraderie of the home-made version here. Mahalo, women.
The sad white version of hey–it’s just us singing is done by The Chestnuts (Geri Grayson and Greg Blunt), “Hawaiian Christmas Song” sounds like old Canadian mounties competitively singing falsettos to their lady loves.
My favorite parody is a homespun Canadian group The Yule Be Sorrys singing “Away in Hawaii” (taking off of ‘Away in a Manger’)
revealing why we have so many ho hum Hawaiian Christmas songs: us cold boring mainlander Americans go there then and they gots to entertain us with some provincial localism.
Time for sunny fun! Odd Polynesian gods laugh down on scared natives in Na Leo’s “Santa Island.” It’s condescending pidgin AND funny. Laughing with… i guess. Oh probably just racist, like Jar Jar Binks.
Now if Santa can be mamboing he can certainly be hulaing. Californians Punama and Graden Island Blend put together “The Santa Hula Song” for gifts and giggles.
Uncle Benny Kai hit us with “Hawaiian Santa,” another so so offering, fun to dance to and reminiscent of Islanders, but come on… that da-dooda da-dooda is just musical warming up.
Patrick Canning has a haunting holiday hymn, “Hawaiian Christmas.” It’s barely holding on harmony and dreamlike alt-World music edge transports me like i’m drifting on the tide… the yuletide, natch! This Newfoundlandian folk singer writes a Christmas song every year and makes his own horrible video to accompany it. They skirt taste deliciously. Check him out.

well, gang, that’s fifty… so far. Okay fiddy-tree since i threw in D.C., Virgin Islands, and Lakota Nation. After the actual holidays which are nearing i’ll get back to PR, Samoa, Guam, N. Mariana (but probably not the little islands nor atolls: Wake, Midway, Palmyra, Johnston).


State Forty-Six: California

Take a mistletoe scented breath…
Mary Mary, a gospel duo, has “California Christmas” to tell you with fingersnapping auto tune what you already know about family and love. Danceable.
Lori ‘Stand Up Lori’ Hernandez sings “The California Christmas Song” with her dad parodizing Disney tunes. They should win at least third prize at her school talent contest.
California Christmas” by Brooke Fox is a valentine to her family. It does that pop music thing of starting out folk and intimate then surging into orchestrated orgasm to show you the heights of feeling. My ears are ringing.
Megan Coffey finally stops complaining about the warmish weather in CA and does something about it: the wish story “A White Christmas in California.” Adorably done.
Snow in California” by Ariana Grande ups the professional quality while dropping most of the content. Not feeling the fruitcake.
California Christmas” by Back in the Day purports to be a tribute to the ’70s. Apart from from poor recording quality, the only nostalgia i get here is bad poetry. The mismatched mumbled harmony, the wandering uncertain chords, the boy band emo–that’s so last decade.
Actual ’70s overly important musical madness comes from Brian Battles with his “Christmas in California.” Flocked with folk rock, decorated with proto-disco, this tune tinsels my tree.
Wayback yourself to the ‘Eighties and relive the overorchestrated Captain and Tennille with “Christmas in California” for a formally made-for-teevee oldies romp.
The Dan Band also has fun with their own beach rock (comedy) version “Christmas Time in California.” They fancy themselves the bad boy version of ‘Eighties cover bands i guess. Naughty list, Mr. C.
California Xmas” by Marcella Detroit pairs pop with tuba and tubular bells in a way that makes me smile. the overexposed silhouettes and casual complaints about it being sunny task me, but more of this holiday hooting needs a uke beside it.
Tyler Weinrich warbles through the begging love tune “Christmas in California.” It’s high pitched, pretty, and too much. Give her some space, bitch.
California Christmas” by Leah Felder has got a nice island twang. From the guitar, that is. Her ootsy-wootsy boopsie vocals are a bit creepsy.
Scott Strauss’s “California Christmas” bounces country against show tune wailing to underline how inappropriate the weather and culture is in CA. We get it.
California Christmas” by Oh, Hush! candy-canes the overly electronic pop sounds of modern times. But the music video itself is a delightful smashup of cartoons, holiday specials, other music videos, and postcards. These boys are playing fast and loose with copyrights, baby jesus love ’em.
California Christmas Sweater” by the Original Farquad Boys slam some alt-garage-style-rock to snark up the whole uncomfortable to be home for The Folks’ Holidays. Finally, Golden State irony.
John Peter Lewis sings “California Christmas” like he’s a Beach Boy in a retrospective. He can play the guitar, though. This is solid music.
Softer guitar folky-altrock somes from The Culprit Media Group with their “California Christmas.” That uke won’t quit.
C. Myles Young sings “Christmas in California” as a smokey lounge closer. His blase travelogue puts the blues on the Golden State.
Gram Rabbit’s “California Christmas” goes SouWest pop, but their Christian message is undercut by the undertones of sexual depravity.
The Living Sisters lay down a real California style: surreal folk, blowsy breathy harmony, woo woo backups… i love  their “Christmas in California.”
Over popped (to Disney and beyond!) comes “Christmas in California” by the Cheetah Girls. I think i had an epileptic seizure.
Every English major’s first girlfriend, Brooke White, sings “California Christmas” like a sexy muppet cross-legged on unfortunate furniture. She wails her heart out through the poor recording and makes your spirit rise (a little).
‘Rice Boy’ Liu wants to keep it real with his West Coast Eastern Civ rap “California Christmas.” He’s playful and “corny as shit” but shines like a first grade hand made tree ornament.
White rapper Manafest also sings “California Christmas” with more anger and more melody.
More dangerously Andrew Angus batters a tiny piano with too much electric feedback and chants his mantra ‘California Christmas‘ until you wonder what else is on.
Sarah LaForge and Micky Lopez tinkle out a homegrown amateur hopeful “California Christmas” with the best posture i’ve ever seen. It’s sweet and hard to hear.
Who let the four-year-old out? “Jessica’s California Christmas Song” giggles and hollers and makes warm fun of ‘Jingle Bells.’ Looks like you can buy the album on itunes and support her bluesy musical fam.
Brad Peterson lalas his way through a soulful howling bluesrock version of “California Christmas.” Talented, yet i was left a little cold.
Let’s try piano! TJR’s “Christmas in California” is more upbeat and chipper. So kids’ song, right?
California Winters” by Jonny Craig raise the maturity of blues rock to the depression of the season.
Bonnie McKee’s “California Winter” is so much more pop and perky I am depressed in a completely new way.
Overpopped and Barbied is Melissa Lyons singing “A California Christmas” as Barbie in the movie ‘A Barbie Christmas Carol.’ Your expectations will be met.
Pat Boone got all weird and ironic in 2011 and made an album full of comic riffs on Christmas (‘spretty good), which includes “A California Christmas Card.”
It’s mostly earnest and grandpapperly. You may have already heard his “Is It Really Christmas in L.A.?” If not, count your presents–you got lucky.
More regionally, “Christmas by the Bay” pits gravelly throated Tim Hockenberry against sax and ivories. He wins, and the mellow jazz seems to lead you gently by the hand to a made-for-TV-movie.
For a humorous “Christmas by the Bay” check out the stand up with a guitar, Corey Largent. Folk fun, if not funny.
Jamie Davis of The Count Basie Orchestra lays an ultra mellow deep bass salsa “Christmas Eve in San Francisco.” Is that the tryptophan or his voice….
Barry De Vorzon croons “Christmas Once Again in San Francisco,” an aw shucks homey country jingle. He also sings “Chistmas Once Again in Santa Barbara” (the original), and “Christmas Once Again in San Diego.” Yes, they are all the same (he’s also got “Christmas Once Again in Honolulu” because he’s a one-trick pony… i’m sorry but there it is).
Vic Damon  owns “Christmas in San Francisco” though. His warbling warmth sells this Christmas corn. The younger verzh is by Russ Lorenzo.
For a little comic relief: “Christmas Sucks in San Francisco” by the Downer Party addresses the unfortunate hipsters who don’t know how happy merry joyous they are allowed to be.
Tom Lehrer’s “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” is so popularly hilarious it has many covers: The Gay Mens’ Chorus of Los Angeles, The San Francisco Gay Mens’ Chorus, Quire Cleveland, Rent-a-Yenta, Claremont High School, New Jersey Cantors’ Assembly, Brandeis University’s Jewish Fella A Acappella, 29 Seconds (a barbershop quartet), and dozens of others. A San Diego TV station KUSI even perpetrated a youth choir J*Company to sing “Hannukah in San Diego.” If you’re not laughing yet, you’re not Jewish.
Bosen & Suede deliver on a homemade no-room-at-the-inn lament “San Diego Christmas Song.” A coupla dudes migrate from the Midwest to SoCal and–guess what?–they’re sad at Xmas. Earnest.
While there give an elfy ear to “Christmas Eve in San Diego” by Neal Svalstad. The song owes an awful lot to ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ in melody as well as humor. Nice landmark/celebrity catalog.
Now, since we’re near the border, we should allow for non-English songs–so swing and sway to “Christmas in San Diego” by Janusz Supernak. Don’t worry, the lyrics are included (in the original Polish).
Back to The Big Orange: “LA Xmas (The Los Angeles Airport Christmas Song)” by Brad Stubbs stumbles through harmonica and tambourine folk protest about the very real problem of LA not being home. Dude, wish something off Santa’s lap and cheer the holly up.
BLUE ALERT: Hollywood Undead amuse themselves with suburban rap (more naughty obscenity than anger) in “Christmas in Hollywood.” This is a big internet hit, yo. (Nightcore do an auto tune chipmunk alternative.)
Rachel Reenstra plays with white privilege using more wit and talent in “Hollywood Christmas Song.” If you can wade through the self-congratulatory amateurism (Outtakes!), it’s a good song.
Jay Nash (with one of my faves, Sara Bareilles) moans out the usual shattered dreams/shattered ornaments noel with “Christmas in Los Angeles.” It’s unplugged and strong, but old hat.
Slightly more hopeful are Shane and Happy singing “Christmas in Los Angeles.” Folk lite.
Brian Irwin is a Canuck singing country in “Christmas in LA.” North Fish outta water plays well with his pretty vocals and clever rhymes.
I hate to reward the overworked 12 Days, but we are going for it… “12 Days of Christmas in L.A./The 405” by Kimberley Arland and Deborah Arnott is a bit funny (has outtakes), and uses shorthand, so ok.
BEFORE YOU BURN OUT WATCH THIS: Dawes pairs with The Killers for “Christmas in L.A.” an alt rock self examination (part and parcel of citizenship therein). The Owen Wilson (Harry Dean Stanton cameo) video (half cartoon) rocks. And the average sized and shaped poetry of the music is elevated by this Youtube vision. Liked it.
Since i’ve got a sweet soft spot for the ’70s, i must also recommend Vulfpeck’s “Christmas in L.A.” which pays homage to disco, moog, and other elctropop so blithely i’m in a good mood (for once). Can i just suggest Michael Jackson meets Frank Zappa and see what you think?
White boy snark tries to pass for hip hop with Notable Gentleman’s “Christmas in L.A.” They can bust a move, though.
Torching up the joint Olivia Rox swans through “Christmas in L.A.” vamping up the sand and sun. Girl’s got some range, but she’s just another talented cute blonde in the City of Fallen Angels.
Dead Sara earthenifies the blonde with “Snow in Los Angeles.” She, too, has the range of a Christmas tree, but uses it to sell the raw, slightly singed emotions. I like the Aimee Mann thing here.
BLUE ALERT: Goofing on the boy band modulated music mix, Ethan Newberry sings “I Hate Christmas in L.A.” Ha ha, now i hate myself, ha.
To cure my overinflated sense of cynical irony, i need a dose of Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra sashaying through “Christmas in Los Angeles.” Whew. makes me feel all dressed up and important.
I tried to keep it under 50 California Christmas songs, guys, i really did. I barely looked around. And i know there’s so many more. But i gotta settle on the song you should hear. No hesitation here. My sister takes me to see The Bobs every Christmas. They are a West Coast a cappella group what vocalizes all the instruments in their wacky interps of hit pop tunes and underserved oddities. Their “Christmas in L.A.” is not only hauntingly peaceful, but also childishly satirical of La-La Land. Merry

Merry Black Friday

Black Friday, the special discount day for retailers right after Thanksgiving, is arguably the first day of Christmas, certainly the first day of Xcess. Not everyone wants to celebrate it.
Without music, SGT Report exposes the depressing truth behind our greedy grab economy. Truth Stream Media poetically transposes retro ads with horrifying stampedes of lower middle classers killing each other, in case you weren’t sure that Black Friday was bad.
Asalieri2’s screed against the special day “Happy Black Friday!” runs against the music of ‘Have a Merry Little Christmas’ while ‘tubing disturbing footage of shoving and punching and grabbing. Okay, i will stay home.
Monique Nagel (i think) has recorded “Black Friday Shopping Song” to the tune of ‘We Three Kings.’ I did not see this one coming. It’s mournful and clever.
The Resident has a cute ‘Jingle Bells’ riff with her “The Black Friday Song.” She’s adorably ironic if not outright funny punching us in our capitalist faces (look out, she swears!).
The Holderness Family also abuses ‘Jingle Bells’ for “Better Than Black Friday” which addresses the all-important Amazon Prime Day. FrGdsakes.
The popular  trick here is to make fun of Rebecca Black’s song ‘Friday.’ Alex Kimball gets acoustic piano and parodic with his “Black Friday Song” as well. This is a rehearsal surely. “Black Friday Night Song” by ‘Two Pretty Girls’ looks like a dare, but plays like a shoulda woulda girl band that never happened. Sing to that laptop girls! Jessica Frech tilts into professionalism with her “Black Friday Night Song.” Great production values; good song skills. Ally Hills pulls sweet with her “Black Friday” and triggers my paradeus button. Loves me some note-for-note parody of pop songs bending the Merry way. (Insanely, Kohls stores has a commerical spot with this same idea.)
Original songs get slightly more fun. Paul Howard recites his “Black Friday” (guess you’d call that a capella) telling the heroic story of his shopping prowess, but keeps going and going and going….
Libby Allen does her “Black Friday” as a kids’ song. Its limited musical range and emphatic repetitiveness should make it funnier than it is. But no, not a insta-classic.
Barry Finnerty and Clarita Zarate’s “Black Friday: The Song” sings the blues about consumerism and crowding (footage of the Huns storming!). but their snark undercuts all our Christmas dreams.
Eric Folkerth gets serious for just a moment with “The Martyr of Black Friday” honoring the memory of Jdmytai Damour, the man trampled to death at a New York Walmart in 2008 on Black Friday. Holy crap, he really wants to remind us of God’s message AND sermonize over this.
All emo alt-pop comes Jim Berhle of Skibunnynot singing “Black Friday Theme Song.” He wins me over with his computer progammed melody and punchy vocals.
Brett Newski tries out hard folk rock (“better to burn out than fade away” Brett?) with “Black Friday Totally Sucks.” Judgment during the holiday times just seems so screamingly snide from this dude.
The real deal here is the banjo-tastic folksie “Black Friday No More” recorded at the dining room table by Elizabeth Loring and Larry White. The satire of our ridiculous ways is so much more palatable with bluegrass.
Beth Crowley sings “Black Friday” as a 90 second musical theater tribute. Soulful and meaningful.
Shop? Protest? Cuddly teddy bear Kevin Gisi finally takes the subject seriously! His “The Black Friday Carol” wants you to go out and buy and he does it in such a christmassy style it makes me cry just a little. Like Michael Crawford in ‘Phantom.’
It’s a Christmas miracle bra sale!

Happy Christmas, Veterans

It’s a National Holiday Today, based on what happened today’s date nearly a century ago.
BLUE ALERT–a few of these ditties are angry or at least unconcerned about the occasional profanity.
Traditionally we sing “Happy Christmas (War is Over),” but who needs that repetitive blather by some pacifist?

Most Christmas songs about soldiers are miserable miss-you affairs like “I’ll Be Brave This Christmas” (Big Daddy Weave) or “Waiting for Christmas” (Melodie Chrittenden Kirkpatrick). Or even angry send-my-baby-home country screaming like Melissa Ethridge’s “Christmas in America.”

More upbeat stuff is performed by military bands, like The United States Air Force Concert Band And Singing Sergeants (i like their “Mr. Santa“).
Sometimes we get messages from the GIs in the shit, like “Christmas in Vietnam” (Johnny and Jon) and “Christmas in Afghanistan” (Rucka Rucka Ali). Pretty non-Jesus stuff.
Except i do like one boots on the ground parody from Zack Applewhite taking off “Up On the Rooftop” (no one does that one). From John Yossarian to Gomer Pyle to Quintan McHale, we find a sense of humor ameliorates the madness of wartimes. And that’s what Christmas is sometimes about.

State One: Maine

Okay, here’s my latest project:
While riffin’ through my yule tunes i paused on some totally local Oregon (my neck o’ the woods) Christmas cataloging: Christina Eastman’s “Merry Christmas from Oregon.” I have loco-centric celebrations from Baltimore (David Deboy) and Louisiana (Benny Grunch) and i treasure the in-jokes, the in-the-know references. These are not easy to find for far away places, even on line. So I had to wonder… does every state in the good ol’ USA stand up and say (along the lines of) “Nebraskan Christmases are the best!” and “Don’t you wish you were spending 12/25 in Florida?”?
So, i began ‘tubin’ to find 50 songs that named the state, celebrated the winter holidays, and perhaps showed a little local flavor. Couldn’t do it. I been wrasslin’ with this for weeks now and the best i got is: cool/odd/funny song; title has a state/city; it’s Christmas-themed, or Chanukah-ish, or Kwanzaa-able, or at least Winter; and it might serve the Chamber of Commerce for tourist trade or maybe run under nightly news show credits right around the Solstice.
Now I have to admit something: this is not a new idea and some people have been making $$ by recycling music with DIFFERENT NAMES subbed in. This crass cashmercialization will not serve my purposes, even when there’s little else of state pride to pick from. For those curious to see how low such sunken depths of grinchy depravity fall i will at times ID these corrupt copycat carolers. For now, let me ask you to please NOT look up Personalisongs. Or Say It Messages. The same song for every state, major city, foreign nation, and niece and nephew…. erraghouy! On the other hand Dan Schafer and a stable of talented country singers have cobbled together Christmas Across America in four volumes. While bluegrass for Oregon is odd, and most of the songs work Christmas in circuitously, I will be relying on a few of these great works when homegrown don’t help.
I call my collection
(which is a sad tortured play on words that i won’t further elaborate on)
Now I do include D.C. And I’m looking for Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands, and maybe the Navajo Nation. Those will be postscripts. So, more than fifty….
I’m not going to map you out a road trip, but we’ll start upper right and end up upper left (me), swooping N-S-N-etc.
So, State One: Maine.
New England Winters are in a class of their own, but Maine is not a strong contender in our Best of — competition here. Nobody’s holly jolly-ing lobsters and Stephen King. There is a Chamber of Commerce pick that creates a saccharine crust in mine ears: “The Maine Christmas Song.” But I can’t tell who perpetrated this.
My eventual pick for weirdest Maine Holiday Song is a beat poem hip hop harmonica stand up routine by Bob Marley. No, Not THAT Bob Marley. (He claims his dad did not know there was a famous person with that name.) He’s a local comic made good, been on Letterman, Conan, etc. And he holds the world’s record for longest standup. (I thought that was called filibustering.) (It was 40 hours.) His comic occupation has been going strong 20 years and he’s dropped more than a couple dozen albums. This holiday homage to home does what many natives do: complain, with love in the heart about their darned old home.

BLUE ALERT -slight profanity