Los Angeles’ lo-fi trio Adult Books snuck a Christmas song onto their Demo 2011 release, “When the Lights Go Out on Christmas Eve,” and its a grower (for me, particularly). On first listen… I wasn’t hooked. It took me three listens, spread over a few weeks to get into this track. But you know what? Those kinds of songs often last for me. I really like the production, and if the EP title is to be believed, it’s only a demo. The simple instrumentation – the fuzzy vocals – it all creates a great atmosphere. I especially like the layered vocals at the end.
Of note – Adult Books also just put out a 7″ EP on Box Bedroom Rebels. BBR is one of my favorite labels of the past year, and their releases normally sell out extremely quickly. Fortunately for you, they still have some of the Adult Books EP, and it comes with lots of fun extras. Certainly check it out if you’re curious.
Bottom Line: A fantastic lo-fi Christmas tune. 4.4/5
Buy: 7Digital MP3 (US) | Amazon UK MP3
From the album Våra barns julfavoriter – Julmusik för barn (google translated: Our children’s julfavoriter – Christmas music for children) by Swedish singer-songwriter and frontman of Edson, Pelle Carlberg, and his family. I really have very little idea what they are saying, but I like Pelle enough to make mention of this particular track. The title of this song (Google translated) is “We Get a White Christmas When,” and Pelle’s voice and instrumentation make it a lovely little song. His kids sound great on here too, and I’m not normally a fan of children singing on my Christmas music. I wish I knew a bit more about what the heck they are saying though…
Bottom Line: I wish Pelle Carlberg made Christmas music for my English-speaking child. For those interested in hearing Pelle sing a Christmas song in English, buy his last record, The Lilac Time, and read the liner notes. 3.9/5
This cassette (and download) release from 2013 somehow snuck by me. Its a small release with largely originals… exactly what I’m normally clawing through the internet to find.
“Wyoming County”, the Scott Rankie song that leads off the release is quite nice – sparse, with a solid, pained vocal. If this was an example of things to come, I would have been very pleased. However, like any Christmas compilation, this release ends up all over the board. The following track, Kevin Marlis’ “Saturday Slay” is a noisy, psych mess (though, in a good way), and I can’t quite hear the Christmas connection whatsoever. Other tracks are lo-fi indiepop (Songs by Thom’s “The Colours of Christmas”), 50’s pop-inspired profanity (“Jeffzilla’s “Christmas Song”), and what appears to be fuzzed-out karaoke (White Widow’s “When Santa Clause Gets Your Letter”), to name a few. It kept my interest, which I don’t say for a lot of Christmas comps… but I can’t say I really loved it.
Bottom Line: I found this comp to be unique, and at times, quite interesting. I have a feeling like some of you might find something else in these songs – that and the name-your-own-price on Bandcamp is encouraging. 3/5
I apologize for the language; I’m apparently quite fond of profanity in 2015.
San Francisco’s Cocktails are the perfect follow-up to that Pupppy track – they are both on the same label, Father/Daughter Records, and they both recorded drunk Christmas tunes. Shit really appears to be hitting the fan – girl is gone, transmission is busted, life has kicked them in the nuts. “I don’t hear the children singing / I don’t hear the sleigh bells ringing / Its the most wonderful time / Its the most wonderful time / for a beer.” The contrast of the shit situation with the upbeat, happy chorus makes for a great, interesting song from what could easily have been a throwaway with a good title.
Of note, Cocktails also appear on the Bay Bridged 2014 Holiday Compilation, previously talked about on the always-influential Stubby’s House of Christmas. Check it out – its another great power-pop Christmas song for your earholes.
Bottom Line: Clocking in at 2:07, shotgun this beer onto your mix if you want to pick up the pace. Maybe see them live with Wild Nothing on May 22nd too! 4.5/5
Buy: Cassette | Bandcamp
I love a grimy Christmas as much as the next guy, and Pupppy’s “Puking (Merry Christmas)” is as grimy as it gets. The smell of New York permeates this song – as Pupppy’s brand of “twister folk jangle pop” spins a tale of a drunken train ride home on Christmas eve.
“Twisting thought and bending time, / your soul weeps inside your mind / as you puke up all of that red wine / in the morning time. / But there you stand on both legs / feel the snow your head.”
It begins with an alt.country twang, then moves towards the dirtier qualities (no synths, no beats, no shimmery guitars) of indie rock as it progresses. The song would certainly help keep your Christmas mix from being too family friendly, and I consider that a good thing.
Bottom Line: I love a slightly fucked up Christmas song, and Pupppy fucks some shit up quite well. 4.5/5
This little gem has popped up last year on Stubby’s, and I really wish I had noticed the subject matter of the release earlier than I did (I’m on their e-mail list!!). The Legends of Country are the indie-pop/country hybrid brainchild of Jof Owen from The Boy Least Likely To. Jof’s voice can make any country song sound indie-pop, so no amount of twang can take the indie-pop heart out of these tunes. Both tracks feature seasonal fare: the title track “It’s a Long Way Back from a Dream” is a twangy tale that spins the story of Richie Burnett, world champion darts player, as he heads to defend his title on New Years Eve. The imagery is sad & beautiful, and when the trumpet enters the mix, the instrumentation engulfs you. It’s pretty spectacular.
While the A-side takes us on a New Years journey, the B-side brings us back home to Christmas. “From St. George to Snowflake” is another beautiful story-song that tells of a Christmas Eve car ride. The lyrics present a modest and beautiful tale of love and Christmas. Its not hard to place yourself directly inside the verses, and the warmth it exudes is palpable. Finally, there is a wonderful guitar line that shimmers throughout this song… and it gave me goosebumps. Lovely.
Bottom Line: The indie-Christmas pedigree could not be ignored, and astoundingly, the Legends of Country have exceeded my already high expectations with these two incredible tales. 5/5