"I bet you shave your balls like a lady!" came a bellow into the (very packed) store. It was a few days before Christmas, probably 2012 or '13. I was managing an indie record store. The voice belonged to Jack, our mailman and possibly one of the grumpiest human beings I’ve ever met, especially during the holidays. He would announce his arrival like Santa Claus every time he walked in during the festive time of year, if Santa smelled slightly of vodka and heavily of hand-rolled cigarettes, and would become more and more aggressive with his entrances the more records we would have for him to pick up until finally he would break down and offer me a cigarette or two if I helped him out to his truck. The last two weeks before Christmas were always the busiest, especially with desperate people spending a surprisingly fucked up amount of money to have a Bing Crosby record (always Merry Christmas, none of the others) overnighted December 23rd. This would mean we'd be shipping out around 100 records a day, a never ending cycle of hunting which copy sold, packing it and moving on to the next like Santa's elves, only if they had to touch two dozen copies of Rumours a day.

Jack used to run cocaine in the '80s, but somehow never got caught and ended up in the postal service for a few decades. For as vulgar as he could be, and trust me he was (he once described finding his girlfriend's dildos in very great detail while there were children in the store) Jack had a heart of gold, and if he heard someone say something racist or homophobic he'd tell them to fuck off, in uniform, while on duty. He was like an old cop movie, where he was just waiting to retire so he could go fuck off somewhere tropical. Jack died a few weeks after he finally retired, I think in 2015. His death hit me pretty hard and I always tend to think about him during the holidays, especially this close to Christmas.

I used to kick off the holidays at the store around midnight Black Friday with the festive one-two punch of The Andy Williams Christmas Album and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, a tradition that started when the latter was reissued for the Black Friday Record Store Day and it seemed like a good thing to play around 1:00 AM in a shopping mall loaded with people trampling each other for some bullshit deal. I was fired from said store seven years ago, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a relief, but I do miss it this time every year. Rose tinted glasses, probably.

Since then I've worked at various other retail jobs because nobody's picked up on the fact that I'm a delight and they should just give me money for breathing. Because of that, I don't get to choose the holiday music that gets piped through the system from some corporate server located somewhere deep in hell, probably next to Rush Limbaugh's cell so he can feel good that his side hasn't lost the war on Christmas, yet. This amounts to whatever the service deemed affordable that year so you're stuck with covers of covers of innocuous holiday drek with the occasional A-lister like Taylor Swift dropping the vanilla pudding she calls music in between in-store ads for loyalty programs. You tend to just ignore it because it's so bland and you forget that it's the holidays, probably why I've started picking up Christmas vinyl the last few years. My biggest score this year was a beautiful copy of Merry Christmas with the Smurfs, the last big piece of my childhood holiday listening I was missing. I'm 43 years old.

Merry Christmas with the Smurfs is basically a novelty record, like the Alvin & The Chipmunks Christmas record, just with less characterization. It has zero to do with the actual Smurfs Christmas special (again, I’m 43 and about to dedicate 100 more words to this subject) and is basically just a bunch of Christmas songs with the word "Smurf" substituting others ("We Smurf you a merry Christmas"... you get the idea) with the singing sped up to simulate a choir of nondescript Smurfs.

I'm very conflicted on the capitalization of "Smurf."

The last thing that really strikes me about this is how fucking religious it is. I know that Christmas is/was a religious holiday and that no one plays the hymnal shit in stores or on the radio because an atheist somewhere might cum in his pants as he prepares an e-mail about it, but the idea that fictional children's cartoon characters are singing with familiarity about Jesus fucking Christ on a record I annoyed my parents with all year round when I was five strikes me as about as preposterous as seeing a dick in the background of a Disney movie.

Anyway the record was nicer than described and I’m super stoked to have it in my collection again.

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Merry Christmas with the Smurfs
Fuck around and find out.
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Now we're at the end of the year and you’ve already seen a bunch of "Best of 2021" lists across the board, including at least one of mine, and hopefully you're exploring a bunch of shit you never gave a chance to this year instead of bitching that some website or magazine had this record but not that record like a playground full of shitted-in diapers. One record I didn’t add to my list was the surprise drop of Funeral Mist's Deiform, that you've probably seen on your newsfeed a few dozen times before this piece goes up. I wasn't really too into Funeral Mist during the Devilry and days, though I thought Arioch was an incredible vocalist on the Triumphator material. That changed once I heard Maranatha, a record that still gives me chills at certain moments over a decade later. Deiform is closer to that record than 2018's Hekatomb, which I enjoyed but didn't get as much out of. This new record truly feels like a movement that you need to sit with during the entirety of in order to get the big picture and not a collection of songs. To spring a new record onto the public the week before Christmas, which is traditionally a dead month in terms of new releases, with no real marketing etc. shows a confidence that most people fucking around with their gym clubs only project as a façade. I'm sure you'll be reading a lot of people’s take on this record, as well you should. This is less an album and more of an event, and a very welcome way to end 2021.

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I'll see you all in January with some more of my bullshit about records, experiences, and a few people will hopefully chime in about their own records as we work on figuring out our next 12 months.

--Neill Jameson