Mitchell Hillman listens to more local music than just about anyone in the Valley. He presents his picks for best new music in his column, Right Hear, Right Now.
The Love Me Nots - "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me"
I could think of no better way of kicking off this special edition of Right Hear, Right Now than with my favorite local garage rockers The Love Me Nots and their wild cover of Elvis Presley's "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me." Sure it might only be a minute and a half long, but dig the fuzz guitar, the farfisa, and of course the wonderful vocals of Nicole Laurenne. I think I could handle an entire Christmas album if it was by The Love Me Nots. I can't say that about too many artists, but I think they'd make it a hell of a fun ride. I do wish this track was longer, but I'm okay with playing it five or six times in a row until I'm satisfied.
Cori Rios - "Jingle Bells"
You will best know Cori Rios as the lead singer and charismatic frontman of The Hourglass Cats. Rios has given us an acoustic guitar rendition of "Jingle Bells" this year. It's a dreamy version with a bit of a reggae lilt and it's just waiting for a fireplace and whatever form of Holiday cheer you choose to consume to make your season brighter. It's a cozy little intimate number. I hope next year Rios invites the rest of The Hourglass Cats for a full band holiday classic for fans and seasonal enthusiasts alike.
Jenny Jarnigan - "The Christmas Blues"
I grew up with the Dean Martin version of "The Christmas Blues," and I have to say that Jenny Jarnigan has taken this classic tune and made it a whole different beast. First of all she's taken a somewhat loungey, jazzy song and made it into a rockin', revved-up tune that I never would have imagined possible. With the rock arrangement, the boogie woogie piano, and of course Jarnigan's sultry vocals, we have a winning combination. I must say, though, she does almost seem to make it desirable to have the Christmas Blues with that combination.
Field Tripp - "Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer"
Oddly enough, with the exception of an exclusive CD only limited EP, this emotional version of "Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer" is the only new song Field Tripp has put online this year. I'm going to assume that has to do with having put out three amazing EPs in 2014. That aside, this is the most melancholy version of "Rudolph" that I or anyone else has heard, I'm certain. On the other hand, it really gets to the crux of Rudolph's sadness throughout much his time previous to his acceptance as one of Santa's best. Probably the most unusual treatment of this song in its long history.
Snailmate - "Christmas Intent: $h!**y"
Snailmate definitely gets the award for having the weirdest Christmas tune, hands down. It's a complete original and it's wonderfully bizarre. Snailmate is Kalen Lander (TKLB?) and Ariel Monet (Sister Lip), and together they've cooked up something truly wild here. I could totally see a metal band covering this someday. It's also a hilarious song lyrically speaking and sounds like it may be a touch autobiographical ("It's a white Christmas, but I just want to black out!"). I'm not sure it will become a Christmas classic, but it's a realistic tune about the trials of the season.
Analog Outlaws - "Christmas Is Finally Here"
Analog Outlaws are a four-piece rock band all in their teens that recently won the Alice Cooper Proof is in the Pudding contest. It's a pretty great rock ’n’ roll seasonal number to be sure. It's got a great hook to it as well, which means that after repeated listens it will be stuck in your head. It's one of the most impressive songs on this list for two reasons, the first is that it's completely original and that it's written and performed by a band that hasn't even hit their 20s. This definitely deserves radio airplay.
Steff Koeppen- "White Christmas"
Steff Koeppen seems to be dreaming of an electro pop Christmas on this holiday single. It's an interesting take on the ever familiar Christmas classic with a spare arrangement of keys, drum machine and seemingly endless layers of Koeppen's vocals as she harmonizes with herself here. She even gets to incorporate a bit of "Jingle Bells" in this number. The result is somewhat hypnotic and slightly intoxicating. The killer bit here is trying to keep track of Koeppens's various vocal parts as they very nearly tickle your brain. It's beautiful constructed and maintains the underlying yearning of the original at the same time.
The Hill in Mind - "CHiM"
The Hill in Mind outdid themselves by putting out an entire EP of Christmas music this year. The Christmas Hill In Mind EP if a five track EP with some obscure and of course eclectic classics as well as some originals. "CHiM" is an original that kicks the whole thing off and it's essentially a surf guitar instrumental which only makes a barely passing reference to the season musically speaking. It's all made clear by the chant "Christmas, Hill in Mind" to ensure that yes, this is a Christmas song after all. The EP is free to download and you get the fifth bonus surprise track for the complete experience.
RPM Orchestra - "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"
Almost nothing could make me happier than the fact that RPM Orchestra put out their take on Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." It sound pretty great considering that it's actually a live recording from Trunk Space! They of course have their shortwave radio in tow, some crazy keys and maddening interplay between the drums and bass. I would honestly like them to put out an entire EP or album of their take on Christmas classics, because this is definitely my kind of weird and wonderful. Be sure to download it for free while you can through Christmas day. Enjoy the brilliant musical madness while you can.
Dave Vitagliano/The Volunteers - "Arizona Christmas"
Carol Pacey & The Honeyshakers turned me on to this song, which is a brilliant original about nearly every unique detail of what it's like to celebrate Christmas in the state we call home. I mean he absolutely nails it here, pretty much ever weird tradition, every unusual thing about about the holidays in AZ. Red pepper wreaths, tamales steaming in the pot, Saguaro's with Christmas lights, and nearly anything else you can think of that happens around here at this time of year. It's a pretty touching number and it makes you appreciate what we have here at the holidays when you might be missing somewhere else.