Roders “Julen 92” (2014/2017)

roders - Julen 92

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Readers into Swedish indiepop are likely familiar with the underground indiepop legend Nixon. However, those only familiar with Pitchfork-famous indiepop likely don’t, but you may know Sally Shapiro’s “Anorak Christmas,” the main single off their excellent Disco Romance. Well… that is a Nixon cover. Nixon has been around since the 90s, when Roger Gunnarsson set up his home recording studio, and is largely considered Roger’s first major musical project. However… one band predates Nixon, Roders, though it does not get mentioned in Roger’s Swedish-language Wikipedia entry. Roger and his cousin Anders Nilsson started Roders back in 1982 when they were eight, and it also appears to be the only Roger Gunnarsson project that is presently active (despite any Nixon releases you might see coming out of the Nixon Archives). Roger recently (well, this has been a draft for a while, so not quite so recently) released this lovely, Swedish-language indiepop tune on his Nixon Archives Soundcloud feed, and while the production is more traditional pop than the lo-fi indiepop I expect from a Nixon track, the qualities of the vocals maintain the indiepop roots. Snippets of the video that inspired the song combine with a wistful melody, as this song beautifully invokes the Christmas of these two eighteen-year-olds, celebrating a Christmas on the border of childhood and adulthood. This is just the tip of the Nixon/Roders/Garlands/etc Christmas iceburg… so feel free to dig into the feed, or just wait for me to stumble through my reviews.

Bottom Line: Roger Gunnarsson has a long history if quality indiepop Christmas tunes, and the sweet “Julen 92” is a welcome addition.

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Olympians “Leaving You at Christmas” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Stream

I have been thinking a good bit about what my 2018 Christmas mix might be like. Last year, I gave myself a bit more room to use profanity and politics, saying that it would be an every-so-few-years loosening of standards. I’m a father of a young kid, a lot of my friends have young kids, and I like the idea of being able to listen to the mix around them. However, I am quite undecided as to the tone of this year’s mix. I suppose everything will be decided in November, as to whether this mix will follow the darkest timeline, or will show shreds of hope. That said, should I consider the darker timeline, this track from Norwich->London’s Olympians could fit nicely. Recorded a few years prior to release, they remembered they had this Christmas song and dropped it back in 2014 – completely overlooking the fact that they could have let someone (ahem) know about it! I love a good song about drinking and watching TV on Christmas – and this one has both in spades. The song’s narrator is sitting there, in his girlfriend/boyfriend’s folks house, having a terrible time, drinking to pass the time while he wishes to go home and watch TV. Stuck there for a week, he begins to ponder leaving… only to decide in a crescendo of Weezer (when they were good) wall-of-sound that indeed he will. Any readers of this blog know we love the dark stuff as much as the light, and this one is a solid, deep gray.

Bottom Line: I’d love to see if the Olympians could dig up another Christmas song, because this indie-rock downer is damn solid.

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Seazoo “Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December” (2014)

Seazoo - Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December

Self Released
Buy: Free!

Welsh indie-popsters Seazoo released a great new single this past December, “Dig,” which led me to their Bandcamp page… and to their 2014 Christmas song! “Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December” has a truly lovely indiepop groove that goes wonderfully with their extremely long title. One would be compelled to do a bit of the googling when presented with such a title, and thus I’ve come to find that Sergeant Eddie Stone is a rather legendary Scots Guardsman who moved on to be a BBC presenter. Eddie is known for his unique toughness, having (during his SAS service) survived for days in the freezing cold wilderness wearing just a t-shirt and jeans, and more recently, eschewing proper outdoor gear when presenting on TV. Thus, knowing who Eddie Stone is helps you understand what the hell is happing in the song. Now, the song is particularly twisted – as the narrator takes advice from an imaginary Eddie Stone in preparation for his ambush of Santa Claus. Yes, you heard that right. “Eddie helped me plan it right and observe the house / Your expertise, a fire-side ambush after dark.” Brutal and wonderful, this song perfect for a night of plotting your enemy’s death while curled up with some eggnog.

Bottom Line: A fun little indiepop bloodbath!

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Wyvern Lingo “Snow II” (2017), “Snow” (2014)

Wyvern Lingo - Snow II

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Well hot damn. This was too good to keep me from writing. Bray, Ireland’s Wyvern Lingo, a trio of singer/instrumentalists has just dropped an indie R&B jam “Snow II,” that is totally worth your attention. Their voices are beautiful, as are the minimal electronic beats and flourishes of color that support them. However, if that groove is not your bag, how about an acoustic version, with no percussion, mainly guitars and keyboards to provide the bassline? (Stubby found this one back in the day, of course) Then their 2014 version, “Snow” is your jam. Either way you slice it, this is a pretty beautiful song, and I think you might dig it too.

Bottom Line: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Both taste great!

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Justin Kennedy (of Army Navy) “What I Don’t Want for Christmas” (2014)

Justin Kennedy Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Justin Kennedy is the lead singer of the LA indie rock band Army Navy, and while Army Navy have their own solid duo of Christmas tunes, I’m really here to talk about this golden nugget of a song that Justin released under his own name back in 2014, “What I Don’t Want for Christmas.” The song begins by saying all the wonderful things he’d like for Christmas this year… but you realize that things are not quite right. The relationship is strained… they are sitting apart, glaring daggers. But then, “I still you love you, you know its true / and yes we’ve both been so cruel / make a wish on this Christmas night / hold me close and lets never fight.” The turn is made, and the love spills out of it. “Yeah I think that I know what I really want for Christmas this year / just hug me so close and I’ll love you, you know till next Christmas eve.” The story is clever and poignant, the music feels contemporary yet classically Christmas, and the production is top notch. Check out the other Army Navy tracks too, and if you are a glutton for punishment, Justin’s version of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” because, while I truly enjoy Justin and Army Navy, nothing will let me enjoy this song… because I’m not 6 anymore… I also loved poop jokes and morning radio DJ parody songs. Of note – the song is not available for download right now, but it had been in the past… so perhaps that will change?

Bottom Line: Well that review got a little old man shaking his fist at the kids there didn’t it? That ending should not dissuade you from listening to the fantastic Christmas songs of Justin Kennedy and Army Navy. Go. Enjoy. And follow Christmas Chaos on Facebook, because Bob reminded me about these guys!

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Minor Miracles “Christmas All Over Again” (2014)

Minor Miracles - Christmas All Over Again

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (might come back) | Stream

Tom Petty’s death is a bigger blow to me than George Michael, Prince, David Bowie or any of the other legends that have passed in recent memory. I likely have listened to more Petty than all three of those legends combined over the years… not to take away from how much I loved them, just that Tom Petty was with me for a long time, and in heavy doses at different moments in my life. That said… I’ve never been the biggest fan of his modern (mini) classic, “Christmas All Over Again.” So, I began poking around for an interesting version, one that takes slightly different directions to get to the same place. Athens’ Minor Miracles have achieved this, covering Petty back in 2014 and releasing it on Bandcamp (presently gone) and Soundcloud. Normally a really upbeat song, lending itself to garage rock/lo-fi treatments, Minor Miracles have toned it down, added a drum machine, layered some lead vocals, sprinkled some synths, and made it their own. The chorus leadout with dueling keys is truly fantastic, and well worth the wait. I hope you dig it too.

Bottom Line: Minor Miracles dim the garage rock down to reveal a cool synth version of the Tom Petty classic. Of course… Stubby knew all about this back in 2014.

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Aquatic Slime “Winter” (2014/2015)

aquatic-slime

Self Released
Buy: Soundcloud

Aquatic Slime have awoke from their winter slumber… and released all the Christmas tracks they’ve had piling up since 2006! There is even this curious track… which they abandoned because it was deemed “too slow/terrible drums.” Well… lets think about this. I do not agree with it being too slow; It’s slower track, but Aquatic Slime have great instincts, and it works quite well. I’ve come to expect a certain sound from Aquatic Slime, and had someone played this track, with the plinking electronic flourishes, organ synths and beautiful female vocals, I probably would have been able to peg it. Granted, there is something that happened in the drums/production that appears to have caused some clipping, but fix that, and you’ve got a winner.

I look forward to checking out all the other tracks that Aquatic Slime dropped too! Some intriguing titles too: “A Rave in a Manger,” “God Rest Ye Badass Gentlemen” – Awesome!

Bottom Line: I hear ya Aquatic Slime, and I understand why you did what you did… but throw a new coat of paint on this baby and you’ve got a new car!

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The Grubby Mitts “Come on Home for Christmas” (2014)

Grubby Mitts - Come On Home for Christmas

Lost Toys Records
Buy: Free!

“I know you really want me / I know you really want me / so come on home / it’s Christmas darling / so come on home. / I’ve seen the way you look at him, / all bleary-eyed and doughly-lipped. / Yeah, I’ve seen the way you look at him. / And you’re so cruel to him, / when it’s me you want / So come on home.”

“Come on Home for Christmas,” takes a very direct approach to the “it’s Christmas, please come home” trope. I don’t think I’ve heard a narrator have at one time have such a sad tone, but such confident lyrics; The vocal delivery is perfection. The walking piano and drums that lay the rhythm set a beautiful scene for all the instrumentation that creeps in by the second verse, and when you do notice, it’s damn beautiful. The Grubby Mitts recorded “Come on Home for Christmas” for Tom Ravenscroft’s BBC 6Music festive programme last year, so it was a late-season release that may have gotten overlooked by some who try to get their mix done early (like me!). Thankfully, they also released the track on Soundcloud for free download.

Bottom Line: Really an interesting, beautiful song that finds a new way to say “Baby, come home for Christmas.” 4.8/5

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Applennium “Just This Christmas” (2013) / “Is It Christmas” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Stream/Free

Buffalo’s Applennium have now released wonderful Christmas songs for two years in a row, and we can only hope there’s another coming in 2015. I’m getting antsy to write about the tracks… so here we go.

2013’s release, “Just this Christmas,” begins as the kind of song that my wife would roll her eyes at, as I have an affinity for a Christmas dirge, and she does not. “Santa, don’t bring me some silly toys / unless I can stomp on them. / No child could imagine the emptiness / of lack optimism.” Dark! But really beautiful. The music is a blend of indie rock, folk and alt country, pretty much hitting three favorites in 3:30. The song is not all dark clouds, though: “This holiday just made me believe / that there’s still hope in me.” Melancholy with a glimmer of hope? I’m hooked. (And its a free download on Soundcloud!)

2014’s effort, “Is It Christmas,” is nearly the polar opposite to “Just this Christmas.” “Tonight, begin to trust / begin to take less than you must / let go of sorrow / let in the good.” The music is soaring, echoing through the night and shimmering out of the speakers. As the track builds, the mandolin flutters into the background and the layered vocals float over the music, and you think, “Low would kill to have written this song.” Such wonderful production to a tremendous song. Loving it.

Bottom Line: These songs have grown on me over the past weeks or so, which is the mark of a winner. Everything about these songs, from the writing, to the music, to the production – truly exceptional. Check out their non-seasonal songs too – you won’t be disappointed. 5/5 (You readers seem to like the rating system.)

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Junkie Thrown “Fairy Christmas Day” (2014)

Junkie Throw Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Stream

When I’m solicited with a song… it has been my experience that the sender often has no clue what Christmas Underground is about, or what my taste might be. More often than not, it isn’t even a Christmas song… But enough blabbering from my grinch alter-ego. Yesterday I received an e-mail from someone who might actually have an idea of what I’m in to! Junkie Thrown, from my adopted hometown (cuz… I want to hang with Junkie Thrown & Jens Lekman, obviously) of Göteborg, Sweden, has written a beautiful, sorrowful, Christmas song about poverty and its contrast to the materialism of Christmas. In a season where I’m finding it hard to listen to happy Christmas music, and find myself searching for music with some deeper meaning, such as Sondre Lerche’s beautiful and poignant plea for Syrian refugees, Junkie Thrown’s sadness is cathartic.

Edit: Looks like this was originally released in 2014.

Bottom Line: Junkie Thrown’s voice is beautiful, the music equally so, and the subject matter meaningful. This is 2:31 that you, at the very least, will not regret; You may even love it.

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