I would normally either get their email, flip out, and post the new Christmas Aguilera song within the span of 20 minutes. This year, it came a bit late, when my time is in high demand to go get this out of the attic, to go to the store, to finish up that laundry before everyone gets here. So, while my post comes late, perhaps you’ve found “Icicle Trickle” before I’ve told you about it, and thus you have an extra day to enjoy it during the proper seasonal setting. This seventh release by one of the great Christmas bands working is also their most funky. While the very beginning has the boys channeling Queen, they quickly transition to cheeky Grapes & Friends’ boogie-down territory. The lyrics are a trip:
Be my tinsel
And wrap yourself around my tree
Make me grin so
Let’s keep it going for a week
I love you too much
Your foot’s on my clutch
Though Christmas is beyond my skillset
Stuck in this sweater
It’s scratchy as heck
Jump in that’s better
Gonna stay forever in this pickle
Until the Icicle Trickles
The overt sexual innuendo is nothing new to Christmas Aguilera, as that is part of what made me love them with their first self-titled EP, with the fantastic “I Wanna Give You a Present” setting a great, playful tone. However, then they manage to sneak this beautiful line in amongst the silliness, “Yeah Christmas holidays / Make them every day / And stretch this elastic band of love.” What a line! The production on this latest is a rich as ever, making you wonder how they heck they pull it together at the last minute like this – they only had a CA song meeting a few weeks ago! Be sure to check out their regular gig, Guilt Coins, who also recorded a remarkable cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” this year.
Bottom Line: Bands like Christmas Aguilera are why I write this blog. A true pleasure every year that they bless us with a song.
Always a joy to find a new Saintseneca song in my mailbox, whether it is a holiday song or not. This Columbus, Ohio band have put out some of the most sonically and lyrically interesting Christmas songs over the past few years, nearly making this a holiday tradition. Unsurprisingly, “Winter Breaking” fits beautifully inside of their bespoke holiday soundtrack. The song takes place as everyone goes their own way for winter break. There are some beautiful passages here: “The night before you get picked up / I stop by your new place / you got a dog and a sawed-off / say they make you feel safe / some old soul song is changing all the air around the room / you say you hear the sadness in the singer’s voice / maybe I do too.” Man… that is a movie in my head. The music is warm, his voice is genuine, and the lyrics are interesting – a perfect Christmas blend.
Bottom Line: Saintseneca are just a fantastic band. I just assumed the song would be great when I saw it was released, and yup, it is.
If you buy this today on Bandcamp, BE SURE to download it. I have learned the hard way recently. Nothing is forever.
Buy: Soundcloud (FREE!)
After a long absence, Detroit’s The Strange Echo (fka Computer Perfection) have begun making fun noises again. Earlier in the year, they shared 2 tracks they recorded with Camelot Six, including a fantastic cover of the Talking Heads’ “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody).” I saw this come through my Soundcloud feed, got very excited, but then saw that they were originally recorded back in 2010. Crestfallen, I sunk back into the Soundcloud black hole… hoping for a light to flicker once more. Then, a few weeks back, some instrumental tracks began showing up on their profile (since deleted). From the title… it really suggested a holiday/Christmas song. Well.. what do you know. The indiepop goodness of “We Can Weather Winter” was released today, and I’m quite happy to have The Strange Echo grace my blog once more. The steady drum beat, the walking keyboard melody, and the slow swing of the bassline evoke the calming slow repetition of falling snow. What a lovely return – may we have many more visits from you.
Bottom Line: In a day of comebacks (Cherry Ghost), The Strange Echo has returned with a beautiful wintery gift.
THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT IS.
Manchester’s Cherry Ghost is back with his first track in five years. Hell, Wikipedia has the entire entry in the past tense, so, apparently, this return is more unexpected than anticipated. Their return is a whopper though, with the cheekily-titled “Blue Christmas.” I know, you and I both thought… this must be another crap cover. NO! This is one of the more explicitly political songs of the season. Written only 24 hours before the announcement of the final results of the UK election, Cherry Ghost (Simon Aldred) lays down a song of sarcastic, fantastical hopes shouted into a bag and doused in jingle bells. Dig this first verse:
I hope that Santa Claus gets you a conscience this Christmas
I hope he leaves a beating heart underneath your tree
I hope you wake up to the taste of your hypocrisy
So when you proudly raise a toast to humanity
You realize you turned a blind eye to the cruelty
We all know that isn’t going to happen. But even as brutal as this song is, there is some hope at the end.
We’re only as strong as the weakest among us
We’ll be alright just as long as we have love
We have love
All proceeds go to Lifeshare, helping homeless and vulnerable people in Manchester and Salford. I’m sure Boris is quite concerned about those folks… (how do I properly express sarcasm in print…. hmmm…)
Bottom Line: A short, sharp, political gem indeed. I doubt it will shame anyone into changing their minds… but it is a cathartic listen nonetheless.
El Nébula Recordings
This time of year is always insanely busy. My day job keeps me working late into the night, and then I need to find time to write on this blog, and until that magical moment when it is done, work on my mix. With that, I apologize for the lack of content. You all demand content, and I need to deliver-ish. Thankfully, sometimes you get an easy one, hand-delivered to you and absolutely wonderful. Our friends over at Popcasting and El Nébula Recordings have released a new seasonal single by Oihana & Tamu. You may remember Tamu from the fantastic 2017 release, Cantan a la Navidad, which is SOMEHOW still available on vinyl – GO GET IT! Tamu (Tamu Tamurai) and Oihana (Oihana Herrera) are prolific members of the indiepop/indie rock/psych scene in Pamplona, Spain, and if Christmas is what it takes to bring these two together, then Merry Christmas, everyone. It only took me about 15 seconds to realize that I was going to love this release, but get past those first 15 seconds and you’ll get into all the sonic decor. Each side is drenched in beautiful dreampop synths, with their voices blending beautifully on the A-side, “Figuritas de Star Wars,” which is about the anticipation of Christmas, and waking up to new Star Wars figures. (Let’s just say Santa bought a bunch of Lego Star Wars for my 6-year old… I’m feeling this one big time.) The B-side, “Por fin Navidad” (Finally Christmas) features Oihana on vocals, and is pulsing with beauty. The song is about her love coming home for Christmas, and her promising to not let go. This release is destined for many future mixes (hi Tutti Time!)… no doubt about it.
Bottom Line: Dreampop perfection delivered by Pamplona’s best.
It is rare that a version of “Silent Night” will catch my attention. BUT THIS. This caught my attention. New Zealand indie/lofi artist Lucky Boy began by translating “Silent Night” into Te Reo Maori, which is interesting in itself, but then he goes and makes it SOUND AMAZING. The song builds until all this awesome shit jumps in with a distorted guitar solo bridge. You have to hear this song to believe it… it only gets better as it goes, which for a song I’m generally bored with, is somewhat astounding.
Bottom Line: THIS is how you put your stamp on a classic. Lucky Boy has demolished “Silent Night” and rebuilt it in spectacular fashion.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
Sometimes, a groove is all I need. Cambridge indiepop band Death to Slow Music dropped a 2-song single over the weekend, and I am finding myself really moving to the b-side, “Like Christmas.” It’s later-Pavement-era indie rock, which is a time that still holds a soft spot in my music criticism heart. There isn’t too much to the lyrics, but in all fairness, they hatched this whole “Christmas song” idea about two weeks ago. The groove works, so I’m digging it. I’ll take an original with great music over a boring cover any day.
Bottom Line: Sometimes I just need that SOUND, and Death to Slow Music deliver it.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
Philadelphia is one of those cities that I do my best to focus on when it comes to Christmas music hunting. The wealth of great bands that have come out of there in the past 10-15 years is damn impressive, with Dr. Dog, the War on Drugs and Kurt Vile being some of the headliners amongst a menagerie of other fantastic bands which I don’t have the time or space to fully account for (there are just too many). Gianmarco Cilli has been in the mix amongst many of these bands, both performing with and having them play on his own recordings since his first record, Homely Joys, came out in 2008. While he released a great new record back in September, The Feel is Now (LISTEN! BUY!), this IS a Christmas music site… so I was extremely pumped to see an e-mail from Bandcamp that Gianmarco has a CHRISTMAS song. “Christmas Right Here with You” has that throwback sound that is certain to make Christmas feel warm and cozy. I love the slide guitar accents that ring throughout the song and combined with perhaps my favorite bridge of the season, has put this song on repeat since it dropped last night. Rarely am I a guitar solo guy, but that was just perfection. I’m thinking you all are going to like this one.
Bottom Line: Gianmarco Cilli reps Philly with a fantastic song destined for your Christmas party playlist.
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | Apple Music | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3
Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3 | Google Play | Spotify
DIY Magazine hipped me to the excellent London duo San Scout, and this super-chilled out, current-era Bon Iver-esque Christmas song “Christmas Number One.” The song has a very emotional quality, from the slow, buzzing baseline to the line that the song was crafted around “I need to love myself but I don’t know how.” Depression certainly has a place in the holiday season and San Scout has done an excellent job capturing this without being overwhelming. Appropriately, San Scout has teamed with CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, a charity that runs confidential suicide prevention services. Depression and suicide will touch us all, whether through ourselves, our friends and family, or through people we admire and feel like we know (Scott Hutchison would be one I often think of.). Talking can save lives – be there for someone this holiday season, even if they don’t seek you out first. Check in on your friends and family, as well as with yourself.
Bottom Line: A sonically and lyrically beautiful song with its complicated heart in the right place.
It is quite possible that Kristian Noel Pedersen has written more original Christmas songs than anyone, ever. (Well…. maybe Make Like Monkeys has given him a run for his money…) Kristian is headling into his 11th year producing a Christmas album of all originals, which should make bands who struggle to write one new Christmas song… feel a little inadequate. So why am I writing about Kristian recording a COVER song? Well, because when Kristian decides to record a cover, he goes big. To my knowledge, I can’t recall a full reimagining of an entire Christmas album until Kristian took on the challenge (I’m sure some of my fellow Christmas-music aficionados will correct me). His target? Hanson’s Snowed In, an album that I am not familiar with, despite my dedication to Christmas music. But that leaves me to ponder, what album should/would you need to cover to truly make this a worthwhile endeavor? You have to cover a record that is known because especially within Christmas music, there are only a few that maintain catalog sales (and this one is one of them). Then, you also have to choose an album with originals, otherwise, it is as if you are just covering a sequence of tracks, rather than a specific artist’s album. So, I really think Kristian made a great choice targeting the Hanson LP. The first two singles are up, but the original is where the interest truly lies. “Everybody Knows the Claus” does NOT sound like Hanson. I’m going to have to agree with Kristian in his correspondence with me, his version has turned the song into a “weirdly fucked punk thing.” With dramatic vocals and a driving, fuzzy bassline, I can’t imagine Hanson ever sounding like this. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what the rest of this record sounds like and I will not forget the donuts.
Yet another album to look forward to, A Kristian Kinda Christmas XI is coming to an internet near you in the next few weeks. Luckily you have a new Hanson LP and TEN previous records to tide you over. Tune in and listen as Kristian adds to his likely world-record worthy Christmas music legacy.
Bottom Line: Kristian’s Christmas-music ambition is boundless and inspiring. I love this effort, which only looks even more impressive with every new boring cover of “Blue Christmas.”