Nothing says holiday cheer like a severed, snarling deer head, which is why The New Pornographers chose such an image to grace the cover of their new Christmas EP, The Spirit of Giving, available now on iTunes.

The three-song EP kicks off with the Dan Bejar-helmed Challengers track, "The Spirit of Giving." In typical Bejar fashion, the lyrics are cryptic and only hint at any Christmasyness. And besides the title, the only overtly seasonal line is "Overcome with the holiday spirit/ Mark says the herald angels won't hear it."

Next up is the unreleased "Joseph, Who Understood," which opens with the great line, "Rumors are flyin' all over Galilee these days/ And Mary I'm tryin' to be cool." An A.C. Newman and Neko Case duet, the second song tells the story of the Immaculate Conception from Joseph's point of view. As the story goes, Joseph does turn out to be cool about the whole thing, but The New Pornographers have him telling his mysteriously pregnant bride, "You're asking me to believe too many things."

The final track is actually two cover songs, "Arms of Mary" by Iain Sutherland of The Sutherland Brothers and "Looking At A Baby" by The Collectors. As "Arms of Mary" gives way to "Looking At A Baby," the Pornos crank it up into one of their soaring closings à la "The Bleeding Heart Show." But without Case echoing A.C.'s lines during the climax, it's not nearly as powerful.

All in all, The Spirit of Giving is far from a Christmas miracle, but it's better than a lump of coal.

And there you go, readers. A review embedded in a news story.

When Satan Calls, You Answer; Underworld Reschedule Dates

I like to picture Lucifer as a hybrid of Charles Nelson Reilly and Ann Coulter ruling over a sticky, wet-hot Floridian summer, constantly holding a frothy chocolate milkshake just beyond arm's length. The soundtrack is Saliva's 2001 album, Every Six Seconds. Vocally, the Devil is likely stuck between the cadence and intonation of Gilbert Gottfried and Fran Drescher, so when the Dark Lord called out to his soldiers in the brooding electro-pop twosome Underworld, they wisely obeyed. Initially, we were told that the group would be postponing their European tour in support of this year's Oblivion With Bells (TMT Review) due to "severe illness" within the band, just months after band member Rick Smith was injured by 30 anarchists armed with baseball bats and tear gas during a festival set by The Beastie Boys. I say, Satan's minions come in all forms.

As a result, the band's tourdates spanning Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium throughout October and November were canceled to allow time to "heal." Sure, dudes. But can you really blame them? If anyone wields enough power to get a tour canceled, it's the Big Bad Guy. But being the loyal servants they are, Underworld completed whatever dark tasks they were assigned and are back to treating their own faithful across the Atlantic. Don't forget to sacrifice that virgin blood or they might not show.

Tourdates:

I Know Literally Nothing About Exploding Star Orchestra But: They Are Touring And The Two Songs On Their MySpace Are Excellent

Sorry about this one guys. I really got nothing here. I’ve never heard of this band. I picked the news item from a list because I like their name. I’m not trying to be cute about my own laziness to write a story like how Joe B. or Scout Leader Kyle would, I genuinely can’t find much about them on the internet (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page!). Now it might seem like I’m stooping to insulting my fellow writers out of desperation, but the truth is that cranking out stories is fine for them. Joe lives in Boston, where nothing fun ever happens. And as for Kyle, I also wrote a lot of silly stories before I got pubes. Keep that imagination going, kid.

If you are a person who’s into any kind of thing, you should check out the two songs, “Stingray Part 2” and “Cosmic Tomes Part 2,” that are up on Exploding Star Orchestra’s MySpace. Apparently, they’re from an album these guys released in January called We Are All from Somewhere Else. The album consists of three parts that form a story, and the liner notes feature an impressive cast from the Chicago post-rock scene. Early next year, Thrill Jockey will be releasing Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra, an album featuring, uh... Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra.

Hey look! I do know something about them. I guess my headline contains a gross misuse of the word “literally.” Sorry, David Cross. Sorry, English.

Exploding Star Orchestra tourdates:

[Editor's note: Exploding Star Orchestra is an ensemble created by jazz musician Rob Mazurek (Tigersmilk, Isotope 217, Chicago Underground, Mandarin Movie). Bill Dixon is a trumpeter who co-founded the Jazz Composers Guild. Thanks for trying, Nat.]

Yo La Tengo han sido magnifico siempre y continuarán a ser en el futuro, no importa que ellos ponen en circulacion. En preparando para este cuento, yo escuchaba a sus octavo disco I can hear the heart beating as one lo cual he olvidado es tan bueno.
Se recomendo que lo escuchen si no lo eschuchan ya. Pero no van hacerlo, ¿no? Porque en general, Americanos no se hablan el Español, entonces, ustedes no comprenden ninguno de esto. Bueno, de todas maneras, Yo La Tengo van a ser en gira pronto.
Debajo son los fechas:

"Lo siento, no hablo español." Ahhhhh.

For the purely monolingual, here's something you can understand: Yo La Tengo have consistently been one of the most amazing husband-and-wife-based indie-rock bands since 1984, and yes, I say that keeping Viva Voce (which is Italian, not Spanish) well in mind. Fact is, the very name Yo La Tengo was inspired by baseball, and baseball embodies all that is the honest essence of America: junk food, drunk fat guys, and sports. Right?

So for those of you who missed the annual Yo La Tengo Hanukkah revelry, you best be prepared for another Freewheeling Yo La Tengo Tour.

"A little bit ‘Storytellers,’ a little bit ‘Unplugged’... it will feature the band playing an almost-acoustic set of songs from their entire catalog, with stories about their life as a band, and an encouraged back-and-forth with the audience," or so a good source says.

It all begins January 9 in a city near or, in my case, far from you. All dates with Kurt Wagner:

The Mars Volta Tour; Call For Tickets in the Next Five Minutes And We’ll Double The Length of Your Solos!

I get songs stuck in my head all the time. Most of the time I don't even know the words, and I just end up mumbling along, probably sounding somewhat like Helen Keller in the middle of a giant tsunami. I concede that this is, in some respects, bad. But a major advantage of never truly knowing the words to a song is that I can mumble my way through just about any song, regardless of language.

Dungen - "Panda":

Vie yun batyn looooooon

langyun botyn heemmmm

shaneeen mi et om meeee

fo ault et cheen mae siiiiiner

P-Model - "ArtMania":

Oomp a da ya gutcha

atakya baka toyya

yomo kama tooma

The Mars Volta - "L'Via L'Viaquez":

L'via! Y commin my en da!

Twa peyido si cambo!

L'via! Si noco mi ensqure dar!

Una histerea di sime madre!

Sorry, I got carried away there. What was I getting at? Oh, yeah, The Mars Volta are touring next month to support their upcoming release The Bedroom of Goliath, which they promise will be "a thematically linked hole into which no self-indulgence will escape."

The album is actually called The Bedlam in Goliath, they didn't say that, and here are the dates:

Columbia Records Lays Off MORE People; Columbia to TMT: “Don’t Worry, Everything’s Fine. I Wouldn’t Even Even Waste Time Writing About This if I Were You”

This just in, planet Earth: the record industry is not doing too well these days.

Case in point: Columbia has undergone another round of layoffs, according to inside sources. (And I'm sure that those "inside sources" were then promptly laid off.)

On the chopping block this week? Several poor, formerly rich suckers in the publicity, promotion, and marketing departments, including Vice President of Marketing Stephanie Gayle and Head of Video Promotion Gary Fisher. And while it seems kind of embarrassing to have their names put in print like this, at least they're making headlines, right?

But don't worry. They won't be the only unemployable bastards hopelessly posting their doomed resumes on Monster.com come Monday. joining good ol' Gary and Steph in the "oh why oh why did I go to that Junior College for Music Business?!?" camp are publicists Maggie Wang and Tom Muzquiz, who have also been let go, according to those same, pesky inside sources. I know, I know: we all KNEW that Maggie Wang had it coming, but I can't believe my boy T-bone Muzquiz got the ax, can you? But don't worry, Columbia's "online department" emerged unscathed. Because, after all, someone's got to maintain the Slayer and WWE RAW's Greatest Hits links on their website.

Oh boy. Anyway, the recent round of cuts follows last week's departures by piddly little title-holders like "Senior VP of Urban and Rhythmic Promotion" (sounds made up to me too) CeCe McClendon and "Executive VP and Chief Business and Legal Affairs Officer of Sony BMG Music Entertainment" Ron Wilcox. Wait a minute! WilCOX? WANG?? I see what's going on here! Very funny, Columbia; you almost had us going here for a minute!

Oh, and incidentally, if you work for Columbia and you happen to be reading this right now, they told me to tell you that you're fired...

Seriously.

Three Legged Race and Caboladies – Or As I Like To Call Them, ‘Kentucky’s Best’ – Tour

Kentucky, home to most of the world’s bourbon, is also home to loads of DIY experimental musicians. And in the spirit of responsible journalism, I will relate to you the entirety of my own Kentucky experience:

1. Summer of 2003. I’m perusing garage sales in my neighborhood and come across a massive vinyl Kentucky state flag. The woman selling it tells me how she ‘used to be all into Kentucky’ but now finds the Bluegrass state repellent for an unnamed reason. (Bonus: my lawn is covered with Kentucky Bluegrass.) I buy the flag for 10 cents and leave wondering what ‘being all into Kentucky’ entails. Though the flag was absconded with after a long and fruitful stint on my front porch, now, thanks to the miracle of Wikipedia, you too can be ‘all into Kentucky.’ Click Here for Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Kentucky.
2. A Red Roof Inn in Frankfort, KY on the way to Biloxi, MS. After sneaking a car load of people into a room for two, the hotel ultimately gets the upper hand as what looked to be a night of restful sleep turns to an evening of furtive glances out the first-floor window, as menacing silhouettes transact predawn business ‘til sunrise. Also, cigarette burns in the sheets. (Bonus: I buy Elvis’ The Sun Sessions (TMT Review) in New Orleans, which features "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The 26-hour drive home flies by.)
3. Kentucky Tavern -- a fine spirit and tremendous bargain. Recommended.
4. Locale of a blog I’ve heard of but never read (My Old Kentucky Blog), and a blog I used to check up on (You Aint No Picasso).

That said, Three Legged Race and Caboladies, Mountaain labelmates, are leaving the fair state of Kentucky to play, with any luck, for you. Note, Three Legged Race is Robert Beatty of Hair Police/sometimes Burning Star Core/Eyes and Arms of Smoke fame. And while he’s on tour now, Hair Police are, according to their website, “working on booking a tour for March of 2008. More details soon.”

Tourdates:

# Clifton Keller, Wes Meek

% Wzt Hearts, Michael Johnsen, Tusk Lord

$ Pengo, Harvest City Black

^ Barkhausen, Video screening by Takeshi Murata

* Flaherty/Moore/Corsano/Nace/Hartford, Emeralds, Sam Goldberg, Krefting/Shaw Duo

( Keith Fullerton Whitman, Ernst Karel, Astronaut

& Emeralds, Sam Goldberg

) Zaimph, Mudboy

@ Wzt Hearts, DJ Dog Dick

! Spiral Joy Band

They Tried To Make Her Tour America, She Said “Yes, Yes, Yes”; Sharon “The Legit Amy Winehouse” Jones Traces U.S. Tour

If you were super bummed when Ms. Wino canceled her tour to purportedly stand by the side of her ass-kicking boyfriend Bake Fielder-Civil as he faces charges of tampering with the testimony of some bloke he pummeled, don't be. Why? Well, firstly because she would have probably sounded like a tabby cat soaked in whiskey, shot full of junk, and being beat with a broomstick. Plus, if you were just out for the train wreck, I hear Vincent Gallo is on tour playing fully improvised sets with the bassist from Hole. Ouch. But more importantly, you can save your hard-earned bucks and be privy to the real deal, as super soul singer Sharon Jones picks up the slack. And in more intimate venues!

After releasing their third LP together, 100 Days, 100 Nights (TMT Review), this year, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings rendered Winehouse all but useless (or was that her junkie escapades?) by proving that we don't quite need neo-soul when the real shit is still around. Backing band The Dap-Kings, who brassed up 100 Days, 100 Nights with flavor as well as made Winehouse's Back to Black the studio-slick treat it is, will be in tow for Jones' jaunt through the cold months. Fortunately for them, the group will likely miss most of the snow season as they travel Florida, California, and Texas, even taking a week to rock the high seas on the sixth edition of the Jam Cruise -- the floating, six-day music festival featuring 29 artists on a cruise from Florida to Cozumel, Mexico -- scheduled to begin January 4.

You can also hear Jones on the upcoming soundtrack for the spankin' new Denzel Washington vehicle Great Debaters. Don't worry though; something about "fish in a barrel" is going to stop me from discussing the film's title any further, but let's just say a synonym for "great" could've made the movie a whole lot funnier. I know, I know, here are the dates:

Sufjan Stevens Brings His State Odes To Japan and Australia For The First Time, And You and I Know That The Japanese and Australians Will Probably Relate More To The Songs Than Us Because They Know More About American History. Admit It.

Americans are narrow-minded sonsabitches. We've been proven scientifically to be the most racist and sexist humans in the history of human civilization. But you know what? We're god damn proud of it! Simply put: we're better than everybody who doesn't hang our red, white, and blue flag -- it's in our DNA. Fuck with us, we'll fuck with you. Don't fuck with us, we'll still fuck with you. We're mighty proud of being assholes and even prouder of havin' lower scores in arithmetic than pretty much the whole world. We play football, not some version where you kick the "ball" with your "foot." It's expensive -- so what? Energy conservation? I conserve gas when I hold in my flatulence so as not to ward away all the women who want my nuts. I want me a god damn Ford four-wheel drive, all-American truck to get that Christmas tree to grandma's house. I have a gas guzzler -- so what? I have the money, so why should I care? Don't bitch at me; how else am I going to get it there?

Oh. I'm supposed to be writin' a story on Sufjan. Oh alright.

Let's get to the meat of this porterhouse of a story. Sufjan is indeed playing in Australia and Japan for the first time next year. He'll be playing six nights in Australia, three of which will be at the State Theater as part of the Sydney Festival. Whoopdeedo! Supposedly it's a "cultural" festival. The only way I'm going to any festivals next year is if there are lots of beef and beer. Shit, the county fair is all the culture I need, and they usually get my uncle Benny to sing and do a magic show for the kids. I bet this Sufjan character can't do no goddamn magic, and he's making more money than my Uncle! Anyway, all three of those Australian dates are sold out, and the other Australian dates are selling fast, so get to it Aussie Sufjan fans!

Ain't much to say about Sufjan playin' in Japan. They'll probably enjoy him because they love that weird, colorful cultured stuff (Yes, all of them! Science people!). His music is a bit too damn colorful for me. Singin' about how Abraham Lincoln was an emancipator? What the hell is an emancipator? I bet it's a Japanese word for president or some shit.

After his li'l trip to Japan, he'll come back home to the states to a city that might as well be foreign: New York City! I wouldn't go there if you paid me! I swear I don't understand those people! The only New Yorker I could ever relate to was ol' Rudi Giuliani for tellin' those damn terrorists where to stick it. Of course, Sufjan will be playin' some type o' Tibet House Benefit with some character named Phillip Glass to "ensure that Tibet's Buddhist spirituality and contributions to the world's arts, sciences, beauty, and wisdom are preserved." I don't know what the hell that means; I just copied and pasted, motherfucker. So don't e-mail me about it!

Enjoy your Sufjan at these dates:

Wait. What kind of damn name is Sufjan anyway? Is he even American? I tell you what; I don't know about this country sometimes. People like this Sufjan singin' about America is exactly the kind of character who's sending this country to hell.

Oh well, you sonsabitches, enjoy your Sufjan at these dates:

Kill Rock Stars, Touch and Go, Etc. Write Open Letter to Rolling Stone RE: Camel Ad

Remember when Camel cigs and Rolling Stone jointly contributed to a recent co-optation of "indie rock" (TMT News)? Of course you do, because the whole thing was and is total bullshit. I mean, Rolling Stone's defense was to say the pullout ADVERTISEMENT was an "editorial." Shit, I guess they do have a sense of humor. Too bad no one was laughing, which is why some of our very very favorite independent labels -- Kill Rock Stars, 5RC, Touch and Go, Skin Graft, Lovepump United, Audio Dregs, Lucky Madison, Fryk Beat -- went out of their way to pen an open letter to Rolling Stone.

Here's the letter, in its entirety:

We, the undersigned independent record labels, wish to share our indignation regarding Rolling Stone’s November 15th pull out editorial, which featured the names of our artists in conjunction with an ad for Camel cigarettes. This editorial cartoon gives every impression of being part and parcel of the advertisement wrapped around it.

The use of an artist’s name to promote a brand or product should be done only with the artist’s explicit consent, something that was neither solicited nor obtained from the labels or bands.

When questioned, Rolling Stone has referred to the “Indie Rock Universe” pull out section as an “editorial”, but it hardly seems accidental that this editorial content is wrapped in a giant ad from R.J. Reynolds announcing their support for independent artists and labels. The idea that this was a coincidence in any way seems dubious at best. There are two other pull out sections in this same issue of Rolling Stone. Both are wrapped in advertising, but neither of these ads could be construed as part of the editorial content within.

Many of the bands named, and the labels that represent them, are very unhappy with the implication that they have any involvement with R.J. Reynolds and Camel cigarettes. We ask that Rolling Stone apologize for blurring the line between editorial and advertisement, and in doing so, implying that the bands named support the product being advertised.

Sincerely,

Kill Rock Stars, Touch and Go, Skin Graft, Lovepump United, Lucky Madison, 5RC, Audio Dregs, and Fryk Beat.

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