Zefereli "Oh Christmas" (2016)

Zefereli “Oh Christmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Brisbane, Australia’s Zefereli are a wonderful indiepop duo who… despite my best efforts, alluded me this past Christmas season. “Oh Christmas” is a beautiful, simple folk Christmas song in the vein of early, more acoustic Slow Club. There are no bells and whistles, just beautifully delivered harmonies and warm sentiment. “I won’t be asking for much this Christmas / I’ll just be asking for you.”

Bottom Line: I’m going to take this opportunity to ask Alistar and Clea to record another Christmas song this year because “Oh Christmas” was just too good, and I’m much more demanding than the song’s narrator.

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Kristin Kontrol - Last Christmas

Kristin Kontrol “Last Christmas” (2013/2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream on Soundcloud | Download

I first came across this synth-heavy (not that the original wasn’t) version of “Last Christmas” via Kurt Feldman, the producer of this track and the driving force behind the equally synth-heavy Ice Choir. Of course, I grabbed it and filed it away. Jump-cut to this past week, as I began to get back in the swing of things, and I came across the Minneapolis-based blog WeHeartMusic (who also did the great graphic above), and their feature about this song (including a download!). Kristin Kontrol (AKA Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls) recorded this classic Wham! song back in 2013 as a sort of a b-side to the spectacular Dum Dum Girls’ “On Christmas.” At the time they weren’t allowed to release it, but after the death of George Michael, KK said:

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(Here is a twitter moment that I’ve created showing the progression of tweets – including the reference to “On Christmas” being proto-KK”)

Thus, we have this cool, very Kurt Feldman + Kristin Kontrol version of “Last Christmas.”The beats are slightly amped up throughout the song, and it gives a perfect pacing to a song that I sometimes find just a hair slow. My favorite part about this track comes in at around 3:20, when they bring in these subtle little bits of percussion; They sound like synth bongos or something of the sort. Spot on KK & KF.

Bottom Line: Truly a killer version of THE Christmas pop song of the 80s.

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Gotta go to Soundcloud for this. They won’t let me embed it!

 

Give Me Wallets "On this Christmas Night"

Give Me Wallets “On this Christmas Night” (2016)

Self Released?
Buy: Stream

I don’t normally do straight-up pop, but Tokyo’s Give Me Wallets have released this fantastic, groovy song and I thought it best to share it with you all. “On this Christmas Night” has a nostalgic feel, strictly based on the chord changes amongst the fluttering synths. The lyrics are a  bit tougher for me to pin down… “she wanna post some stuff now / that everyone can see freely / are you happy to receive as a gift / you were supposed to be fine / but the world’s not the same now / what can anyone do for you” There may be something lost in translation here… but what is not lost, is that I’m boogieing in my seat.

Bottom Line: I hope you enjoy this piece of Japanese Christmas candy.

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Faye and the Scrooges "It's Christmas Time"

Faye and the Scrooges “Time for Christmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

I walk in from wassailing at our local pub, and find I’ve been tweeted at! Faye and the Scrooges have released their 2016 Christmas song in 2016! I usually get their song well into the next year, but to my delight, here it is! I believe this is the first time that they’ve tackled what I’d consider to be a dance track, as “Time for Christmas” is meant to move your fucking ass. There is the humor you expect from a F&TS Christmas song, which I absolutely love. Between the verses of cheeky holiday observations and frustrations, the chorus swings in with a full embrace of the season. It’s how many of us feel about the holiday – nothing is quite perfect, but you can still fucking love it. In closing, as Faye and the Scrooges say, “It’s Christmas time / lets all get wasted.” I certainly took a page from that book last night…

Bottom Line: Faye and the Scrooges have my ass moving and grooving with this Christmas jam. Now, you might wonder why I’m swearing so much in this review… it’s to make up for the “Where the f***’s that f***in Sellotape?” that F&TS dropped. Hey Faye! Release a parental-advisory version too! I love a good ‘ol profane Christmas song!

EDIT: Look below! 2 versions, one with all the 4-letter words you could want!

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Daniel Woolhouse "Fairytale of New York" (2016)

Daniel Woolhouse “Fairytale of New York” (2016)

37 Adventures
Buy: Stream (for now)

The Line of Best Fit hipped me to this fantastic new cover of the holiday classic (well, in the UK), “Fairytale of New York.” Daniel Woolhouse, AKA Deptford Goth, begins this classic Pogues’ track with an ethereal a cappella intro, and eases it into a beautiful, electro-pop room. Daniel also makes some refreshing choices in where he adds weight to the lyrics; he accents words where you would not expect it. I truly appreciate that, by every metric, this is far from a straightforward cover. This includes Daniel’s choice to exclude that one, problematic part of the song. He doesn’t change the lyrics, as some do, he just doesn’t even walk down that street. I’m cool with that, and I’m loving this song.

Bottom Line: Finally, a fresh version of “Fairytale of New York” that I feel 100% fine adding to a mix, minus that particular shitty word.

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Nashville Country Cowboys "Blue Christmas"

The Nashville Country Cowboys “Blue Christmas” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Well how about that? Two posts on one day for the same exact song. Technically, three versions of the song if you really want to get into the nitty gritty. This version is a hell of a lot more fun though. Perennial Christmas Underground favorites The Kansas Bible Company are back with yet another collaboration, this time with fellow Nashville band Okey Dokey to do a psych-brushed take on “Blue Christmas.” These old standards really benefit from fresh sounds, and this super-combo, renamed The Nashville Country Cowboys has hit on something very cool. Still not my favorite song to begin with, but their psych + mariachi horn combo is damn entertaining. Check it out for yourselves!

Bottom Line: The Nashville Country Cowboys find their own entrance into “Blue Christmas” and make it their own.

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Junkie Thrown "Natten går tunga fjät"

Junkie Thrown “Natten går tunga fjät (The Night Sleeps Heavily)” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Streaming on FB

Göteborg, Sweden’s Junkie Thrown is in the midst of a Facebook Advent calendar right now, and while the entries are not necessarily meant to be seasonal, she found herself compelled to create a new take on a old, Swedish language, Saint Lucia Day song. Saint Lucia Day is generally celebrated throughout the Scandinavian world, as well as in Italy, and signals the arrival of the “Christmastide.” While many different cultures recognize Saint Lucia Day, but Sweden has a particular way of celebration. Traditionally, towns, schools, and eventually (via a televised event) the nation chooses a girl to represent Lucia, and there are great processions, celebrations and caroling. However, this year there has been much debate, and public (one might say, racist) furor over a big company using a young black boy as Lucia in an advert. He subsequently became the target of cyber-bullies, culminating in his parents asking the company to pull the ad. This sounds like something that could happen… well pretty much anywhere; This is the world we are living in. Junkie Thrown has created a haunting version of a traditional, Saint Lucia Day song, with the words “Alla kan vara Lucia,” which means “everyone can be Lucia,” displayed throughout. A nice sentiment… and fuck racism.

Bottom Line: I love the meaning behind this song, and just as with 2014’s “Fairy Christmas Day,” it is beautifully performed.

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Shy Nature - My Christmas Tree is Looking at Me

Shy Nature “My Christmas Tree (Is Looking At Me)” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: Stream (for now)

YES! Shy Nature is back, and thus, a tradition is set in stone, and they will have to do some serious negotiating to get out of this gentlemen’s agreement to put out a Christmas song every year. “My Christmas Tree (Is Looking at Me)” shares some emotional complexity with last year’s “Christmas Lullaby.” It starts out sweet, with excited children wanting to go down to the tree. The food, the fun, the battleground of presents. However, as the song progresses, it gets darker. No one wants to sing, you’re losing your hair, and it’s getting colder. “Those magic times / Won’t be magic forever.” The emotional arc is quick, poignant and most certainly relatable. The magic we have as children never lasts, no matter how much we still love Christmas. It will never be the same.

Hold on to it for as long as you can.

Bottom Line: Shy Nature excel at writing emotional, thoughtful Christmas songs, and “My Christmas Tree (Is Looking at Me)” is a wonderful addition to their Christmas collection.

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Les Bicyclettes De Belsize “Christmas Card 1983” (2016)

Self Released
Buy: BandcampStream

Charlie Darling of Les Bicyclettes De Belsize is what one might call a purveyor of fine indiepop Christmas tunes. He is so adept at it, that I imagine him running a small shop, selling Christmas songs a la carte to his walk-in traffic. His current seasonal project is an Advent calendar, to which he is releasing a song a day on Soundcloud. Did he write 24 new songs?? No, not exactly, but he has 10 and he did re-record his excellent older Christmas releases! So new versions! You may recognize #2, which was featured on Christmas Underground last year. Charlie tipped me off to today’s release, as it was going to be a new one. “Christmas Card 1983” is a wonderful piece of Christmas indiepop, and I love it simply for its dreamy atmosphere groove, and the brass colors are fantastic. However, what left me sitting here listing to this song a few times in a row was personal realization I stumbled into. I often have to fight the urge to throw a bunch of downers on my mix, as I tend to find darker music more complicated and fulfilling. I especially worried about this year, as I am not in the best state when thinking about the future of my country, nor the world. But I don’t think I have to worry about my mix… I am sitting here medicating with glimmering nostalgia, rather than drowning melancholy or anger. “Christmas Card 1983” most certainly scratches that itch, with mixtape Christmas presents, buying records at HMV, and old movies. I can’t wait to hear the rest of Charlie’s project, even if there is a downer in the bunch. I think I can take it, thanks to “Christmas Card 1983.”

Bottom Line: Pure indiepop Christmas wonderfulness. As always with indiepop, it may not be your taste… but those who like it, will very likely love “Christmas Card 1983.”

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Silas Nello "Chelsea Boots On a Holiday"

Silas Nello “Chelsea Boots on a Holiday” (2016)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Dallas singer/songwriter Silas Nello contributes an excellent new Christmas original to the 2016 holiday season, one certainly worthy of a listen. Silas doesn’t quite fit in the alt.country mold, as the track leans more rock than country, but his voice (both actual and lyrical) most certainly drives toward those Gram Parsons/alt.country fields. “Chelsea Boots on a Holiday” is a wistful tale of someone whose life demands that they stay in the city, as his mind wanders towards the Christmases of home and lost love. “I can hear the sleigh bells / rolling down the street / its my imagination / mixed with drunk and winter dreams. / New Years coming soon, / I hope it’s not too late. / But I can’t forget you, / wearing Chelsea boots on a holiday.”

Bottom Line: For those looking for some excellent, rootsy melancholia, I give you “Chelsea Boots on a Holiday.”

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