Meiko “This Year Can Kiss My Ass” (2020)

Self Released
Buy:
Bandcamp

Hamburg’s Meiko has dipped her toes into the alternative Christmas world before, with the excellent 2018 track, “Merry Christmas Wherever You Are,” and she is back with yet another original! This one is even more to my interest, as I LOVE a good splash of bitters in my Christmas cocktail. The soft vocals and lightly strummed melody stand in beautiful contrast with the obvious message of this wonderful song. “Oh this year can kiss my ass \ So let’s cheers to Christmas past…” Lots of dimes for the swear jar on this one, so listen, then empty the jar, and jam it into your computer to buy the song.

Bottom Line: This is certainly not going to be the last of the “fuck this year” songs, but it is certainly going to be one of the best.

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A Very Cherry Christmas E.P. 2020 (2020)

Cherryade Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

2020 has seen the hiatus of some of our most beloved, underground Christmas traditions – most notably to this humble blogger – the storied Fowler VW and Blackwatch compilation. Things were looking grim all around, yet in spite of the obvious COVID obstacles, one indie-Christmas tradition found a way to make it happen. A Very Cherry Christmas was staring down a 15th edition this year, and while that release is pushed to next year, we are pleased to receive a scaled-back release with their very first digital EP, A Very Cherry Christmas E.P. 2020. These six songs are gathered together for the benefit of the Music Venue Trust, an organization whose goal is to help struggling grass-roots live music venues, and there is plenty of indie-pop holiday goodness to be had. For those who have delighted in jangly guitars, poppy electronic beats and off-center subject matter, look no further. There is a debut (Jane and John, a lockdown creation); indie-pop-holiday royalty (The Hannah Barberas – who also have ANOTHER holiday EP out today!); otherworldly inspiration (the Spanish-language “Navidad Interstelar”); pissed-off punk elves (“ELF RIOT!”); a cover of indie-Christmas legends Helen Love (by newcomers Little Ways); and what could be a theme song to slowly developing genre in its own right (“Surfin’ Santa”). Bite size and tasty, this has a little bit for everyone.

For further indie Christmas fun – AVCC compiler Gareth Jones also has a 3-hour Christmas radio show, full of new Indie/Alternative Christmas songs plus an interview with David Gedge of The Wedding Present. Check it out on Mixcloud!

Bottom Line: Goonies Indiepop Christmas never die!

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The Martial Arts – Christmas With The Martial Arts (2020)

Self Released
Buy:
Bandcamp

I’m in a mood tonight. I want to just yell and swear (in a good way) about every record I find. You have no idea what I’ve already written and deleted for this review, but let your mind go crazy. Glasgow’s The Martial Arts is a project of Paul Kelly, whose CV is a murderers row of great bands (BMX Bandits / Carla J Easton / The Primary 5 / Ette / Radiophonic / Tuckshop / How to Swim / The Hector Collectors) has put together this just FUCKING FUN AND WONDERFUL Christmas EP, recorded over eight years and finished over lockdown. The first two bouncing, beautiful tracks, “Stockings” and “Snow Flakes,” just take off like a rocket and shoot sparklers out of their ass for four minutes a piece. I devoured every second, with a giant grin on my face. “My Christmas was in June” is a cover of a Ze Malibu (feat. members of Redd Kross and that dog) song, and while the tempo slows to a stroll, the scenery is gorgeous. The final track and the only one actually fully-recorded in 2020, “Blinded by the Night” takes me back to the 80’s, to an emotional moment in a movie with lots of driving in the rain and staring out the window. “Stare into my bright disco eyes,” god I love that line. Go buy this record, but wait a few hours for #Bandcampfriday, why don’t ya?

Bottom Line: This is an indie/power/retro pop mixture that, like the unholy concoction the Long Island iced tea, will fuck you up real good.

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Crocodiles “Christmas in Hell” (2020)

Deaf Rock Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

YES! Reinvigorated!!! San Diego’s Crocodiles have brought me back from the Christmas-mix brink with their rip-roaring “Christmas in Hell.” Sickness! Unemployment! Fascists! Jerks! Christmas! This is that song I fucking needed to feel like my mix is going to happen this year. It has been years since the fantastic Dum Dum Girls’ collaboration, “Merry Christmas (Please Don’t Die),” and damn I wish they would show up to this party every year. I have too much listening to do for a very long review, but this thing is going to grab you immediately, so no need for the hard sell.

Bottom Line: “Bah bah bah bah… Christmas in Helllllll”

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Dream Nails “Lonely Star (Christmas Song)” (2020)

Alcopop! Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

London punk rock band Dream Nails surprised the first 450 people who preordered their new S/T record with a Christmas card… and a Christmas song! “Lonely Star” is the first Christmas song that I’ve encountered that is specifically about sending out love to our LGBTIQ+ brothers and sisters during this time of very specific emotional baggage, and when family ties require more love than just blood can solely provide. The heart in this song is huge and beats loudly: “We wrote a Christmas song that sends strength and love to anyone finding this time of year particularly tough – especially those who are LGBTIQ+ or struggling with acceptance and support at home. We see you, we’re here for you and we love you!!!”

Proceeds from Bandcamp sales will be going to The Outside Project, the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Crisis/Homeless Shelter and Community Center. You can also tune in for the first live performance of the song at their live-streamed Feministmas gig on December 6th. Pay-what-you-can tickets are still available!

In the year of COVID COVID COVID, it can be easy to forget that there are so many other issues and people that need our attention, and Dream Nails reminds us to remember check in with those we love. Not everyone is going to call you up to let you know they are hurting or lonely, so no matter who you are or how your identify, let’s share our love this Christmas.

Bottom Line: Great song and a beautiful message. I see (and hear) you Dream Nails, this thing is fantastic.

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Christmas Aguilera “Why Can’t I Go To Sleep” (2020)

Self Released
Buy:
Bandcamp | Bandcamp (Full Album)

There are a few bands who this blog is pretty much wholly devoted to, and Christmas Aguilera is one. I have yet to miss a post on a release, and as long as they continue to record them, I’ll continue to write about them. They can hit you with something that makes you smile, something that make you cry, or fucking both! This year they’ve got a few things up their sleeves, but we’ll concentrate on the new song first. “Why Can’t I Go To Sleep” is actually a song that they wrote around the time of their first EP, the self-titled Christmas Aguilera. Played live but never recorded, the band rediscovered it amongst some bedroom recordings, and decided to give it a go. COVID being what it is, the extra time afforded some more collaboration – a guest drummer, a bass player and a choir of friends joined the effort. The recordings were passed around and each person added their part, until we have this beautiful, choral mantra to open the song, “Go to sleep / Why Can’t I / Go to sleep / Sheep counting / Go to sleep / Why Can’t I / Go to sleep.” Then, the tension of the mantra breaks and the song bursts open. You can feel the joy and love in this song, as the voices raise and the shouts go up. You get the feeling that the collaborative production of the track was a pressure release valve. To participate in this song was to press play on a world that has been perpetually paused… a light at the end of the tunnel. The excitement of Christmas, and of the future, comes through beautifully, and is just what I needed.

Christmas Aguilera have something else up their sleeve this year – they are finally going to be on all those fancy streaming services. I know most of you are on Spotify, and so am I, but I gotta say – I’m seriously considering Tidal because it pays artists more. I’m pretty invested in Spotify, but maybe we’re a two-streaming service family for a bit? I could get the family on board… give Tidal a run… and help all those people whose music I love buy dinner, pay for a kid’s college, etc. You know I don’t post many streaming links here – it takes 1500 streams to equal one song (Billboard) – but the convenience is unavoidable. I encourage you to buy the song. I want you to buy records (I bought 3 today), buy t-shirts and buy livestream tickets. Think about how great it feels to be told you did a good job! That is what buying someone’s record feels like to them – it is validation for their hard work and worth as an artist! SHOW YOU LOVE THEM, don’t just tell them. Oh yeah, I started this paragraph by saying that the entire Christmas Aguilera catalog is going to be on streaming. This is wonderful, and please help spread their music – AFTER you purchase it on Bandcamp and help support Shelter, a UK charity that aids the homeless, because that is who Christmas Aguilera continues to support with all their proceeds. This is a year like no other to think of the less fortunate… so let’s not just think, let’s do.

Bottom Line: Christmas Aguilera pull a treasure out of the closet and wow us once more.

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The Royal Landscaping Society – Frost (2020)

Matinée Recordings
Buy: Matinée Shop | Bandcamp | Apple Music | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Seville’s The Royal Landscaping Society may have released the excellent A-side, “Frost,” on their 2014 self-titled album, but am I glad they brought this back to my attention. With its head-bobbing beat and classic indie pop vocals, the vibe of the song is so on target for this blog. Perhaps even more notably, it is rare that I enjoy an ending to a song so thoroughly, but that guitar line is positively beautiful and is the star of the show.

The B-side, “The Gift,” is a They Go Boom!! cover, originally released on Somewhere in England, A Sunday Records Tribute to They Go Boom!!. This track sounds like the indiepop I first got into – jangly guitars, light airy vocals with humming keys in the background. As for the lyrics – you’ve got me, as I’m not terribly familiar with They Go Boom!! and there aren’t many resources for their lyrics. But hey… you put a track called “The Gift” on your mix, who is really going to sit down and pick it apart. The song sounds great and has a nice vibe – that is what really matters!

Bottom Line: Solid 2-track seasonal single package from some of Spain’s finest purveyours of indie pop.

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Jacklen Ro “C U Christmas Day” (2020)

Lolipop Records
Buy:
Bandcamp (maybe?) | Apple Music | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Not much out there about this fantastic indiepop duo Jacklen Ro, but do you really need much more context than they have cut one of the best indiepop songs of the year? “C U Christmas Day” blends their voices perfectly, singing in response to each other before coming together for this big, beautiful chorus.

I’m making my move
to get close to you
I always do, I always do

Cause baby I can’t wait
to see you Christmas day
Cause you’ll look just the way
I remember from my dreams

The perfect memory
where you’re right next to me
Cause you’re all I want, baby.

This chorus does exactly what a chorus should do – it demands that you sing along. As I sit in my basement in a Peter, Bjorn and John t-shirt and underwear (a peek behind the curtain!), I am on my eighth listen and not only am I singing along, but I’m imagining myself singing along in my car at a later date. Why you ask? Because I fantasize about leaving the house these days. Yes, this song is mix-worthy… so I hope you haven’t finished your final playlist.

Bottom Line: Jacklen Ro have crafted one of my favorite songs of the season, no doubt about it. This is indie pop Christmas perfection, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees. I should probably get dressed first…

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael “I Won’t Hesitate (This Christmas)” (2020)

DROMA Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

Five years in, and Stafford, England’s Don’t Call Me Ishmael are settling in as one of those bands that you can rely on for excellent new Christmas music. You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 is a particularly fraught year, and we’ve seen a whole lot of different directions that folks have gone. Some songs are specifically addressing COVID (see Christmas A Go Go’s ongoing posts chronicling that phenomenon), while others are looking for hope and grasping on to those tiny lights, flickering in the dark. “I Won’t Hesitate (This Christmas)” falls squarely in that hope category, as Don’t Call Me Ishmael are grasping for that human touch. While the song could certainly be mistaken for suggesting that you just kiss under the mistletoe without regard for safety, it is much more aspirational rather than prescriptive. In fact, I confirmed this fact with the songwriter, Jack Tasker, over email:

I would say it initially came out of the desire to hug and kiss the people you love after a year of separation (my wife and I had our first child this year and it’s been so hard not to fully share that with my family and friends), but then drifted into that aspirational world of ‘what would a perfect christmas look like after a year of distance’. Gary added the “Feed the World” reference as a bit of light relief. When I started writing it the vibe was very Mountain Goats – really fast palm muted acoustic chords, but it mellowed out as the rest of the band joined in.

Don’t Call me Ishmael will take your worst jumper, your driest turkey, your cheesiest song – they just want to connect. That is a feeling that we all can plug into, no doubt about it. The production is fantastic, despite the challenges of socially-distant recording, and that chorus is catchy as hell. Be on the lookout for their “12 Days of Ishmas,” twelve days of videos which they’ll be posting on their Facebook beginning December 12, because this band fucking loves Christmas.

Bottom Line: Don’t Call Me Ishmael keep the spirit alive once more with their most epic song to date. Also… I kinda want to hear that Mountain Goats-esque demo 🙂

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Grace Eden – Fortune (2020)

Self Released
Buy:
Bandcamp

Continuing this season of phenomenal Christmas folk music, London’s Grace Eden has released three songs of exquisite beauty, each one with its own unique approach. There is an original, a poem backed by music, and a cover of her favorite Christmas carol. Her original Christmas song, “Hold You,” introduces us to her beautiful voice, often singing perfectly in harmony with itself. There is a warmth to this song – fuck, it is cozy as hell, and I am feeling it. “Oh, Let’s raid the fridge / Let’s pretend we’re still kids.” YES! I might normally skip over a poetic interlude, but after that first song, I was on board. “Fortune” is quite nice in its own right, adorned by a sparse guitar track, Grace has an unsurprisingly lovely speaking voice which I’m happy to listen to. The final track, “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a simple and lovely cover of a song that I am happy to listen to when done well, and this is most certainly performed and produced beautifully. With a portion going to Mind, a mental health charity, this EP is an easy buy.

Bottom Line: A perfect trio of holiday songs that can each stand on their own, but taste even more wonderfully together.

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