Memoryhouse – Digital Fire, Digital Burn: Holiday Songs 2010​-​2015 (2015)

Memory House Digital Fire Digital Burn

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Memoryhouse has finally done it! They have compiled all the loose Christmas songs from over the years, packaged them together with a new, original tune (!), all for a low-low price that benefits rabbit shelters! I’ve previously many of the older Memoryhouse Christmas songs, so I’ll focus mainly on “Merry Christmas Babe.” The sweet electro-pop frames the scene of a snowy Christmas scene, wasting the day as it snows outside. However, nothing is as idyllic as it seems. There are some complicated feelings toward Christmas floating above these synthesizers.

You always hated christmas both, why do you have to be that way?
Made you wear your mittens and we skated all night on the lake.
There’s no other time of year we try so hard to be OK,
But since the roads are so bad, why don’t we stay in and waste the day?

Bottom Line: Memoryhouse have a great touch when it comes to Christmas songs, and this complicated, beautiful song only solidifies them as one of best out there.

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The Strange Echo “Just Like Christmas” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Wait a tic! This isn’t a new Computer Perfection song! Let me introduce you to The Strange Echo. It appears that this is a CP side-project, or a new project, or something of the sort. Either which way… it is being released under “The Strange Echo.” You’ll recognize the title no doubt – it’s a cover of Low’s classic, and my person favorite of theirs, “Just Like Christmas,” but with the little eccentricities that make a Computer Perfection (or… Strange Echo?) song! While I do prefer a CP original, a solid cover of a great song with electro-pop touches will most certainly tide me over till next year.

Bottom Line: Very solid cover of a truly wonderful song. That Detroit crew can really do some quality indiepop Christmas. Perhaps they should get together with the Fika/Allo Darlin’/Sunturns crew next year… do some tunes across the Atlantic…

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Lindby “Merry Christmas, Baby (ft. Leon Bridges & Ali Grant)” (2015)

Lindby - Merry Christmas, Baby

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

So… Lindby… what a score. What timing. Leon Bridges on your Christmas EP. Was that, a week ago that he played SNL, and only a few days after a Grammy nomination? “Merry Christmas, Baby” is off of this Fort Worth, Texas band’s 4th holiday EP, which I somehow had missed in the past. Be rest assured – they have been added to my “Bands Who Love Christmas Section.” Lindby’s electro-funk sets a nice stage for Leon and Ali’s vocals, and they both have voices that you kinda want to pay attention to! All the pieces come together to create a great version of a song that (IMHO) is normally covered by-the-numbers. The ending is the best part; You just gotta stay to the end.

Bottom Line: How did this premiere on Ft. Worth Weekly, and not some place like Stereogum… or Rolling Stone? Certainly a solid tune worth your time – and free on Bandcamp!

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Deerful “City Bells” (2015)

Deerful - City Bells

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

It seems like there is this big group of friends making all the great indiepop Christmas tunes in the world. It begins somewhere between London’s Darren Hayman and Norway’s Sunturns, creating an overlapping venn diagram that I really should make someday. The latest wonderful example sprouts from Emma Winston, a frequent collaborator within the London indiepop scene. Her first effort under the name Deerful is the very lovely “City Bells,” which recently premiered on For the Rabbits + the Scared to Dance Podcast (which I really loved yesterday). You could not wish for a more soothing, beautiful, snow-filled day 24 hours in Cambridge. It captures a perfect moment in late December, the city in lights, and holds it close as a memory to cherish.

Bottom Line: This song is like a warm blanket on a chilly winter night.

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The Cave Singers “Christmas Night” (2015)

Cave Singers - Banshee

Self Released
Buy: StreamBandcamp

Seattle’s the Cave Singers‘ fifth album, Banshee, is slated to be released in February, but that hasn’t kept them from releasing (well, streaming) their Christmas song, “Christmas Night!” I almost feel silly writing about it, since it has been mentioned in a number of much, much, much higher-profile venues such as KEXP, where it debuted, and Stereogum. However, the song is just too good to ignore.

Yeah a change might come alright
To go and live a different way
That’s the only thing I haven’t done
See it’s a strange little life
You going to make it in time

The song has us looking out at the world, seeing an experience that isn’t ours. When presented with bitterness and fear, you instead discover love and hope. As frontman Pete Quirk said about this song, “I guess it’s hard for fear to play you like a puppet, with love in your heart.” Beautiful.

Bottom Line: The complicated optimism of “Christmas Night” makes me think of the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life; There is a thoughtfulness to the optimism that isn’t all-too-sweet, and I appreciate that tremendously. If I were the Cave Singers, I might open up this song for purchase ahead of the album; It is good enough to buy twice! They’ve got it for purchase on Bandcamp!

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Joseph Bradshaw & Kyle Cox – Merry Christmas from Coast to Coast (2015)

Joseph Bradshaw & Kyle Cox - Merry Christmas from Coast to Coast (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Nashville’s Kyle Cox has a long history of Christmas tunes, just check out his Bandcamp page! This year, rather than a one-off single, Kyle got together with a fellow musician from Los Angeles, Joseph Bradshaw, and the two put their heads and songs together to create a 4-track Christmas EP,  appropriately titled Merry Christmas from Coast to Coast. Consisting of 2 covers, and 2 originals, I am going to focus on the originals… because they are wonderful.

Joseph Bradshaw’s “Christmas is Always” is an absolutely gorgeous old-time, uptempo country waltz. Joseph’s voice reminds me of Dave Wilson from Chatham County Line, which I would consider a high compliment. The lyrics are truly beautiful: “Christmas is always / it’s ever with you. / When your heart’s full and glad / then you’ll know that it’s true. / So always remember, / whatever you do, / that Christmas is always / it’s ever with you.” In my last post I decried the need some have for pro-Christmas songs… but I’ll tell ya, there has to be a balance, and this song’s pro-Christmas beauty will help sustain a season of dirges.

Kyle Cox’s “Don’t Make My Christmas Blue” begins, and immediately I began thinking – is this an Avett Brothers tune?? I mean that in the best of ways – I know there are some serious Avett detractors out there, but I pretty much adore everything from Emotionalism and earlier. Its simple arrangement, heartfelt vocals, and lovely production blend together beautifully. “I know this time of year can bring you down; / Everyone but you is floating on a cloud. / But it’s hard to feel it, / this Christmas spirit, / when every day you only say how much you really hate it. / I won’t say happy holidays to you / and you don’t have to act like you want me to / No, I won’t say happy holidays to you / if you don’t try to make my Christmas blue.” The Avetts should cover it… and make Kyle a boatload of money!

Bottom Line: The always-wonderful Mad Mackerel first hipped me to this release, and I’m quite glad they did. All four tracks are done quite well, most especially the pair of originals, which are some of the country/folk standouts of the season. Name your own price and send them a few bucks, why don’t you?

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Early Cartographers featuring Kid Conventional “What Will You Open? (An Invitation to Christmas)” (2015)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I’ve been following Sheffield’s Early Cartographers‘ Christmas single creation on Facebook for a while now, awaiting its debut. From tweets that I’ve seen, I knew it was going to be a bit of tearjerker. Indeed, “What Will You Open? (An Invitation to Christmas),” walks amongst those songs that ponder the meaning of it all… let them explain:

This song is an invitation to Christmas. It was written by a notorious grinch and attempts to take into consideration those who find Christmas a difficult time to stomach, whether that be due to apathy, unhappy memories, poverty, disillusionment or social anxiety.

I know that St. Etienne has recently sparked a discussion amongst my fellow indie Christmas brothers and sisters with their suggestion that Christmas songs must be “pro-Christmas.” I think that is far too simplistic an approach for what can be a very complicated time of year. If any of you have seen the excellent documentary Jingle Bell Rocks!, you’ll see that Mitchell’s love of Christmas music was forged by hearing a song that wasn’t all jingle bells and tinsel, Nat King Cole’s “The Boy the Santa Claus Forgot.” In that song, he discovered that he wasn’t alone with his conflicted feelings toward Christmas, and through that relationship, has embraced the holiday for everything that it truly is, not simply the “joy.”

“What Will You Open” is one of those songs that spark contemplation, and I appreciate this. I don’t want every song to be Christmas-party appropriate; Some songs need to tug and poke at your emotions to bring balance to the season. I think it’s all too appropriate that such a song would also be benefiting HARC (Homeless and Rootless at Christmas). Christmas isn’t Christmas for everyone, but throw a few bucks toward a great Christmas song and a worthy cause, and you’ll be a bit closer to making this Christmas a little brighter.

Bottom Line: Gorgeous instrumentation, thoughtful sentiment and a worthy cause make this Early Cartographers track well worth the wait.

Christmas Mix 2015: Elves in Xmastime Want to Dance

Elves in Xmastime Want to Dance

A few days later than my goal of December 1, but well worth the wait. The final piece of the puzzle was “Once a Year” by Sweden’s extraordinary Crying Day Care Choir. It ended up not being as dark as I originally feared, which I’m sure most of my listeners will appreciate. The UK weighs heavy on this mix, much more than in years past, unseating the usual Nordic state residency. I do hope you enjoy. Feel free to tweet me any questions: @Xmasunderground.

Elves in Xmastime Want to Dance on 8tracks.

Crying Day Care Choir – Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2 (2015)

Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I awoke this morning to a lovely note from Sweden. The Crying Day Care Choir felt the love from around the world for the premiere of the first two tracks off their upcoming Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2, and decided to change it from “upcoming” to “released” – and one day early! You can find it on Bandcamp! Tomorrow, I’d imagine you can find it on Amazon, Spotify, etc… (but Bandcamp gives the band a bigger cut FYI). So you Christmas-mixers, your life just got easier, and perhaps you can finally finish your mix and relax. I would like to take a quick moment and share the Christmas message that CDCC has sent out with this release, as it projects the same warmth as their music, and sets the scene for you to imagine the cozy studio where these wonderful songs were born:

In the winter of 2013 we came up with the idea that we would write and record a Christmas EP. That time we were pretty late and recorded it in our living room. However, it should be mentioned that it was a success and that we managed to generate almost 2000 USD that we gave to charity. Two years later, we are now presenting “Christmas Day Care Choir VOLUME 2.” An EP with four newly composed Christmas classics that came about during a week full of mulled wine and gingerbread in our studio in Malmö. The album begins in an Irish Christmas party one would like lasted all year, via a desire to be able to keep Christmas in a small jar, a dream of a very special Holiday free from expectations, to then culminate in a hymn for the season. We have made the EP happy, warm and kind-hearted. Just as we think Christmas should be. With warm wishes, Crying Day Care Choir

I can’t imagine a year that doesn’t have its own challenges, its own war, its own famine or injustice. This world is a complicated and brutal one, and I have certainly felt its weight this season. Leave it to Crying Day Care Choir to find the beauty that we have all been looking for. The sheer joy of community, friendship and family that rise up from every harmony, every melody, every poignant lyric – it can snap you out of your stupor to appreciate what the season means. Volume 2 is a work of pure love, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Of special note, while it does require you to wait a few days to pick up the EP, between Dec. 13-19, CDCC will be donating all Bandcamp proceeds from their 2 Christmas EPs to the national Swedish radio charity for people fleeing climate disasters. However, for those who just cannot wait to grab Volume 2, just circle back and buy 2013’s Volume 1 on December 13th!

Bottom Line: There is no shortage of beauty on this collection of four new Christmas classics, but I encourage you to also revisit Vol. 1, as they are two of the strongest releases of original Christmas music I have had the pleasure of listening to.

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Crying Day Care Choir “Once a Year” (2015)

Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2

Self Released?
Buy: Bandcamp | Soundcloud (Free!)

The folk troupe Crying Day Care Choir have previously been featured on this blog, and will continue to be featured until the end of time. They have a second Christmas EP lined up to drop next week, and thankfully they have left a wonderful trail of breadcrumbs for us to gobble up until that time. Just premiering on the Swedish blog Beingblogged, “Once a Year” is the kind of wonderful Christmas song that I just LOVE to put on a mix. Not only is the music wonderful, but the lyrics are amazing. “Do a sleigh ride , next to a hayride, during Gay Pride in July

If I wasn’t feeling so damn poor… I want to buy their (nonseasonal) LPs so bad! RIGHT NOW! Please save me one!!!

Bottom Line: Perfect Swedish indie folk. That is nearly my favorite genre, done as well as any band could ever hope to.  (Its official, killing the rating system to give myself sanity, but damn this is good).

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