I love digging up old songs as much as I do hearing the latest to drop. 2009’s “Here’s to Holidays” by Austin, Texas’ Hope Irish is one of those forgotten gems that I feel genuinely fortunate to have stumbled upon. The production is full of interesting colors, from the accordion melody to the mandolin, guitar, and slapping drums, providing a wonderful ramshackle accompaniment to Hope’s feisty, boozy lyrics about being alone on Christmas. The ending is particularly notable, as Hope repeats “If I could I’d piss your name in the snow…,” a sentiment that my wife, while falling asleep, really connected with. That’s love folks.
Of note – this song appeared on Superpop Records’ Holiday Collection 2009. Anybody have this? Want to share?? 🙂 I’d love to know what else was on this…
Bottom Line: A quick, boozy song of love and loss is a formula that (unsurprisingly) I can very much get behind.
I must say, I’m much less familiar with the Japanese indiepop scene than I probably should be. I more than dabble in indiepop, I seek it out… yet somehow I’m only now learning about what appears to be a very popular band from Utsunomiya, Japan, Lucie,Too. Their excellent Christmas single from 2020 is the kind of song that requires no further understanding of what is being said, as you’re going to be tapping your foot too much to care. However, I take comfort in the fact that it follows that tried and true indiepop formula of upbeat music with sad lyrics; the song is about the “worst Christmas for a lonely girl who went on a date with (a) taken guy.” There were cassettes of this available back in the day – but again – this band appears to be quite popular (based on the Bandcamp collections/Youtube views/etc), so those are long gone. Too bad for physical music fetishists like me…
Bottom Line: Extremely good indiepop destined for any mixes that have missed it over the past two years.
My fellow holiday-blogger DJ El Toro sparked off Festive! Fanzine’s holiday season with a fantastic interview with San Luis Obispo’s Caleb Nichols. As Festive! went through the effort to interview Caleb, I would like to send you there to learn more about this song and Caleb as a wonderful-song-writing human being. I will, however, let you know a few basic things about the song. First, it appeared last year on Kill Rock Stars’ It’s Hard To Dance When It’s Cold And There’s No Music: Kill Rock Stars Winter Holiday Album Volume 2, but has since also been released on Caleb’s excellent 2022 record, Ramon. Secondly, these lyrics are that mixture of joy and sadness that I am so terribly attracted to. “What Dickens knew I now intone / that without love you die alone. / Though we all must die alone, / maybe love can take the sting away. / Oh Tannenbaum, oh tinsel tree, / oh silver bells, oh misery. / If you can find someone to share / the misery with, you’ll be square. / So fall in love each Christmas day, / cause only love can take away / the loneliness and the bitter pain / that you feel on days like this.” What a lovely sentiment from a lived life.
Bottom Line: This is emotional without being sentimental. Truly a rare treat in the Christmas genre.
Going through my drafts is always fun. Here’s a pearl that led off my Christmas mix last year, yet somehow never made an official entry on the site. Get ready for some extremely modest exposure, Tino Drima!
California’s Tino Drima somehow snuck this gold nugget by us all… and I’m honestly amazed that I’m the first website to highlight this fantastic song. The groove is infectious, and Tino’s relaxed vocals give the song a swagger not often found in Christmas music. For those who listened to 2021’s “This is Just a Modern Xmas Song” (and there may be about 300 of you out there in the billions that live on earth), I hope you Shazamed that first song, hunted it down, and have found a home for this song on your mix this year.
Bottom Line: This song deserves to be an indie rock Christmas classic.
The relief of finding a song that is a “#1 hit with a bullet” for your Christmas mix is something that any mixer can appreciate, so when I saw Christmas A-Go-Go tweet out this song a week or so ago… I had a physical reaction to it. Anxiety manifests in many different ways, from your breathing all the way down to plantars warts… and 15 seconds into this fantastic song, “Christmas Lullaby” by the Welsh indie rock band The Bug Club, my baseline anxiety cleared and a calm washed over me. This song should and will be on a million Christmas mixes… oh to be making my first and discover that fun-ass Christmas songs like this exist…
I realized that I hadn’t talked about the song at all! Just how I felt about it! Well, this could most certainly be a blue-album Weezer Christmas song… so Weezer in the best-possible meaning. That guitar solo… I can almost picture a young Rivers…
Bottom Line: This song has a vibe that I could overdose on if given the opportunity.
What is up with me? Why am I writing about covers of traditional hymns? Is it because people are actually DOING something cool with them? The question is the answer, duh. Portland’s Hannah Glavor has transformed “O Little Town of Bethlehem” into something that I genuinely enjoy. It has the warm feel of a Midlake record, as I caught myself thinking a whole lot about “Roscoe” (one of my all-time favorite songs). She has fleshed out and modernized a nice handful of tracks here – “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Away in a Manger,” and even “Silent Night” feels like something completely brand new. She takes bits and pieces of the original melody, then adds in all these other lines that your brain is just not ready for. This thing is a workout for your old noodle. There is one modern-day Christmas song being covered here, Josh Garrels’ “May You Find a Light.” Of all the songs on here, this is the one that feels the most similar to the original. That may be because I’m so programmed to know those traditional carols, and not familiar with Josh’s song. Either way, it is a very lovely song. This is folk-pop Christmas at a very high level.
Bottom Line: Very surprising, solid EP that makes the classics seem new once again.
You know how sometimes you love something… and you absolutely know that most people are going to think you are just fucking bonkers? Let me introduce you to “Christmas Cowboy” by Thermos Grenadine, a five-foot-tall, synthesizer-playing animatronic orange dog. Well… Thermos Grenadine could very well also be Richmond, Virginia’s Lil Ugly Mane, as they appear on stage together and he sounds a good bit like Lil Ugly Mane. Known as a pioneer in what has become known as Soundcloud rap, Lil Ugly Mane is eclectic, with influential early underground rap records, and recent releases that steer closer to indie rock. The Thermos Grenadine moniker appears to be more synth-based (obviously, as this is the chosen instrument of the giant dog) and is absolutely fascinating, confusing, and weirdly wonderful. I couldn’t get past the lyrics… they are like fly tape, to which I’ll likely perish. My favorite bit follows…
When I was four / I fell off forty horses one-by-one / they stepped on both my hands. I gave my mommy / fifty basset hounds / and they burned down every acre of her land. I’ve got Egypt in my pheromones / I’ve been to Cairo on a plane Potato chips are in my pockets / but I’m here still playing possum with my brain.
Bottom Line: This thing is bonkers and I love it. There is no way this is an actual Christmas song. But hey, it counts. Dem’s the rules.
I suppose I’m back… gone much longer than I usually do. I often crash a day or two before Christmas, with a browser overloaded with open tabs that I stare at for a few months until I get the courage to finally sift through them. Well… a few months turned into more than a few months (does that make sense?). I suppose I’ll do my best this year, for what this might be worth, and try to hip you to some Christmas tunes I particularly like.
It does appear to be a bit early in the season, so I hope I can be forgiven for writing about something that “those in the know” already know about. Obviously, it is the new Los Chrismos EP by London’s premier surf/psych/rock quartet Los Bitchos. I don’t know what qualifies for an EP anymore, as with two songs, I might have called this a single! I’d like to dwell on that for a bit more, but even I am bored with me now. The lead track off the EP, “Los Chrismos” rides that seam between groovy and chill, exuding a great time from start to finish. Not that I’m completely scared off by an instrumental, but their giggling and chanting were engaging enough that I rather missed them when they weren’t there. I am quite curious what the b-side is going to sound like – but I’m sure at least this first track, “Los Chrismos,” is going to be on a lot of mixes this year.
For those (like me) who love a physical object, there is a flexi-disc of this single as added-bonus to their early-2022 debut, Let the Festivities Begin. So grab that “Los Chrismos Edition” of the vinyl LP and you’ll be the proud owner of a very limited and super-hip Christmas release that will likely make folks like me a bit jealous.
Bottom Line: Track one was fun, but it still leaves the question as to whether track two will bring on the apocalypse (or also be a fun Christmas song).