I have to tell you… I feel like my mix is the most boring mix for you all when it finally comes out, as I’ve been tipping my hand for a month, and now a whole bunch of you already have these songs on your own mixes. I just have to take comfort in the fact that 99% of those folks who I hand/send one to have not heard a single one… when I do release it, let’s just pretend you’re hearing them for the first time…
THAT SAID, here is another stone-cold mix-worthy song. Sea Pinks (on hiatus?) frontman Neil Brogan has been releasing holiday songs (sometimes hidden on full records) for a few years now and this year gathered them up onto one release, Christmas EP. Three previously-released tracks and one, brand-new-fucking-fantabulous song, “Christmas (with a small c).” Jangly and clever, this track has relaxed vocals and indie rock guitars that, in tandem, make my eyes widen and burst with excitement. This is the vibe I need right now…
Oklahoma City’s Chase Kerby is part of a whole crew of fantastic Christmas music-making folks including Beau Jennings, Husbands, and Samantha Crain amongst many others. I do miss those Fowler/Blackwatch compilations as well, though those came out of Norman (OKC’s close neighbor). Chase dropped a beautiful track back in 2019, “Angels in the Snow,” which was featured here, with typos of Chase’s last name and everything. So let’s say he already had a pretty good rep around these parts. Chase does not disappoint with this dreamy new song, “It’s Already Christmas.” I feel like I’m calling everything “dreamy” this year, but I don’t own a thesaurus and I never learned to read. That, and this is some dreamy-ass folk music. Those shimmering, descending melodies and layered vocals demand me to use the word dreamy – I don’t have a choice. The song also has a sentimental (but not corny) string to pull, best experienced in this beautiful chorus.
The snow on the street was the gift that we needed as kids And the older we get the less that we feel like it is But all I want for Christmas are the times that I have missed Because time with you is a gift.
Once you hit a certain age, those songs about growing up hit harder… only makes sense. Chase handles this urge to reminisce well and doesn’t make me feel silly for joining him. Settle in and enjoy it.
Bottom Line: Yet another beautiful song from Chase Kerby as he helps continue to maintain Oklahoma City as one of a precious few (London, Montreal, Melbourne come to mind) hotspots of excellent Christmas music.
I don’t know if it is necessary to rehash who this wonderful band is, but for the uninitiated, here we go. Portland’s Corvair is a notable indiepop superduo, comprised of Brian Naubert (Ruston Mire, Tube Top, Pop Sickle, The Service Providers) and Heather Larimer (Eux Autres – who have an indie-classic Christmas EP). They’ve now released three wonderful, original Christmas songs in three years and have firmly planted their flag at the top of the indiepop Christmas charts. The dreamy new single, “I Believe in Christmas,” is certainly bound for receptive ears. The orchestration, the vocals, everything is delivered with a casual beauty that seeps into your brain. Everything is indeed beautiful here.
Bottom Line: I believe in Corvair. Thank god they’re finally here.
Want a little bit of hope? It can feel like an uphill climb, that is for sure. Thankfully, we have the return of Sunturns, one of the preeminent seasonal supergroups (there are more than one!!). Comprised of members of Monzano, Making Marks, Little Hands of Asphalt, Moddi, and Einar Stray Orchestra, they get together every year or so to record some beautiful, original Christmas music. This year’s release is the absolutely lovely “New Snow,” which features Sjur on vocals, as well as Michael Barrett Donovan on bass and violin, Lars Lundevall (of the deLillos) on guitar, as well as much of the Sunturns crew. The song begins by acknowledging the shit we have all just lived through, but the turn from “puke in the snow” towards the hope of the future is simply wonderful.
I’ve been hitting these blue notes Now there’s puke in the new snow I’ve been feeling so down low These past few years.
I’ve been going through these phases Where everything changes and we felt like strangers These past few years.
But it’s not supposed to be this way We’re putting it on display With the darkest observations there in the light of day.
Here’s a rhetoric I want you to stay.
Erased it all with a few strokes Hopeful footprints in new snow. I’d been getting so down low. These past few years.
Moving on through the ages We’ll be up on stages Singing everything changes These next few years.
That turn where he sings “Here’s a rhetoric / I want you to stay,” comes with this beautiful brass line… and the tone switch is just gorgeous. Reminds me of the more orchestral leanings of Jens Lekman, which is a wonderful thought to spark. Quite beautiful indeed.
Bottom Line: Sunturns return with that bit of hope we all need.
Sweden’s Crying Day Care Choir are one of those bands that I’m always hoping will release more Christmas music. They have such an incredible back catalog of songs, which I have been happy to feature many, many times, and I encourage everyone to check out if you are unfamiliar with them. They have taken a few years off from writing seasonal songs, but thankfully return with the brand-spanking new “It’s Almost time for a Christmas Tree.” This song is quite unlike the others, as it is part of the same experimental songwriting project as their recent Give Me Something Vol. 1 EP. With both the EP and this song, Crying Day Care Choir used Damien Hirst’s “The Currency” project for writing inspiration. Hirst has created 10,000 paintings and offered them up for sale. Buyers have the choice of purchasing either the physical object or an NFT, and if they choose the NFT, the physical object is burned. CDCC has exclusively used the pieces slated for the pyre to draw inspiration from, and in a way, giving these objects destined for oblivion a new, eternal life. I’d love to know which panel of colorful dots inspired a Christmas song! The song’s verses are soft, sweet, and piano-driven, but that chorus is will get your blood flowing. “It’s almost time for a Christmas tree / If you’re bringing it home you’re all I need.” Those choruses sound like they were an absolute blast to record – there is a palpable joy to be heard here. How lucky we are to have ears!
Bottom Line: Crying Day Care Choir long ago secured their spot in my heart, and my heart continues to grow.
Let me give you a quick peek behind the curtain here at Christmas Underground. There is often a healthy discussion in the Twitter DMs between myself and other Christmas music-obsessed folks, and there may have been a comment about my site that went something (exactly) like this: “I say it’s pretty darn easy to make a mix entitled ‘Christmas music to slash your wrists by.'” To which, I replied, “You gotta have your niche.” Well… I’m not all tearjerkers and Christmas humbug (I’m only 51% of those), the other 49% is searching for a song that will make my ass move. So I introduce London’s Wicketkeeper, who has written a song that is 34% wonderful, and 66% fucking amazing, “Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again.” But you really have to look behind the lyrics – they are saying something really profound here. Like in the last verse, where they mix it up and add the “WOOOO.”
Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again, Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again, WOOOOO, lalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalalalala, lalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalalalala
Kinda brings a tear to your eye.
Bottom Line: The most fun 1.5 minutes of Christmas music you will experience this holiday season.
Sara Noelle has been blessing us with atmospheric folk Christmas songs every year since 2020, and I feel like once you hit three years in a row, we are going to consider it a tradition. This year’s song is as good as the last and suggests that once a few more years pass by, you have yourself a fantastic, cohesive album of incredibly beautiful Christmas songs. These songs are for warmly snuggling, canoodling, burrowing, and such around a fire on those nights when Bing, Andy, and Ella are a bit too in-your-face Christmas. “I’ll Sleep ‘Til Christmas” is a particularly cozy song, where one finds peace in the season, where it calms the outside world and makes you feel safe:
There’s a present in the presence Time slows down See the joy in the sky Flickering stars Flickering stars
One night in December Peace calms fear So I’ll sleep ’til Christmas I’ll sleep ’til Christmas this year
That is some lovely stuff.
Bottom Line: Sara Noelle continues building her unique catalog of truly excellent atmospheric folk Christmas music.
At some point, likely soon, 17-year-old Lexie Carroll will just be Lexie Carroll, a thoughtful songwriter with a lovely voice. Heck, she might be 18 by now, as I am only familiar with the press written about her (Clash song of the day), and I am unfamiliar with her birthday. But I would be remiss to not mention her youth, as it makes this simple, yet beautiful vingette of a Christmas at home with family even more impressive. Give it a listen.
Bottom Line: From London to the rest of the world, this song will be on mixes.
If I had a nickel for every time I said, “You name your band Toad Venom, and I’m going to check you out.” Well, a bunch of psych rock musicians from Vikingstad, Sweden finally took me up on this well-known offer, and have also made some absolutely excellent psych Christmas music! 2021’s The Ingen vidare jul (Christmas is cancelled) EP is two tracks of badass psych, as the leadoff track “God Jul” blasts off, a soaring Swedish Christmas anthem (to which I have no clue what is being said). The flip, “Merry (Christmas) and me,” is in English, and very much suits their style as described on Bandcamp: “A band, experimenting the void between spaghetti western and psychedelic rock.” Those twangy western guitars that introduce the track – so terribly cool. The song builds and builds, at times triggering me to think a bit about Spiritualized for some reason. There are so many cool movements to this song, yet it still comes in at an economical 4:00. Perhaps one of the most badass Christmas tunes I’ve come across in a good while.
Bottom Line: Two extremely good tracks from my new favorite band and best friends (pending).
From the cold reaches of Portsmouth, New Hampshire comes Bird Friend, compiling their two seasonal singles onto one handy cassette/digital release. The Christmas song, appropriately titled “Christmas Song,” was initially released on their 2021 EP, Songs About Crime, and is a warm story-song of love without much money, a reality that a lot of us can relate to at some point in our lives… maybe even today. Love can find you at any moment in your life, whether you have enough money for wine or not – and thankfully they don’t get caught shoplifting:
when we went on christmas eve to the convenience store i was a bum and you were venus in the front seat of your honda accord
heads or tails would determine who would go steal us a bottle of booze you slipped that bottle of wine into your purse like it was what you were born to do
and i knew i had to have you
Bottom Line: Short, sweet, and with that bit of vice that can spice up any holiday song, this hard-scrabble love story is quite worth your time.