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.

LISTEN

Deep Cuts “Advent Ansiedad” (2014)

Deep Cuts "Advent Ansiedad" (2014)

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Houston’s Deep Cuts… I just want to say, damn this song is good. “Advent Ansiedad” (translated Advent Anxiety) twists the charm of the holiday season into seeing patterns in the lights, hearing terrifying noises on the rooftop, and receiving mysterious letters from people who somehow know where you live. The premise is perfect, the lyrics are clever, and the music is amazing. I picked it up on the Tape Deck the Walls charity comp put out by Chill Mega Chill Records – so there is that option too… either way, you need this song in your life.

Bottom Line: A short, sweet review for a perfect song. Sorry for the love-fest lately… but you know… its hard to write about stuff you’re not crazy into, unless you spent a bunch of money on it. 5/5

LISTEN

Andrew Bird “So Much Wine” (2014)

Andrew Bird - Things are Great Here... Sort of

Wegawam Music
Buy: Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | 7Digital (US)

How in the world did I miss THIS track last year? Released on Andrew Bird‘s 2014 release, Things Are Really Great Here…Sort Of, this fantastic cover of the Handsome Family not only does the song justice, but makes it his own. Andrew’s phrasing led me to believe that I was actually listening to a different song in that first verse. This haunting, beautiful and tragic song is one of those songs that sticks with you. I almost feel like writing about it takes away from the impact it can have…. one last thing though: Thank god that Andrew has brought Tift Merritt into the fold; Her harmonies are truly gorgeous.

Bottom Line: Andrew Bird honors the Handsome Family, handsomely. 5/5

LISTEN

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHZLHPLzEdY]

Niagara Balls – Jingle Balls (2014)

Niagara Balls - Jingle Balls

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Just based on the titles, I knew I was at least going to like Niagara Balls. Then I heard them… and I was right! I do enjoy a slightly fucked up Christmas song, and “Don’t Be a Dick At Christmas” is exactly that. Not only does it have a good message, but throwing in some PG-13 language is refreshing in Christmas music! “I’m not saying / you can’t party / I’m just saying / Don’t be shitty.” Words to live by.

“Casual Racism at the Dinner Table” showcases once again Niagara Balls’ spectacular ability to lure me in with a great title. This is a story-song about Boxing Day that leaves no family member unscathed. The one truth that I can specifically relate to is that yes, everybody should like Michael Caine. Solid, but not as… charming?… as the first track, IMHO.

The final track, “Christmas ’96,” is a completely unexpected electronic dance track that samples Biggie’s classic “Juicy.” Most certainly apples to oranges. I dig it, just can’t find a compelling reason to consider it on a Christmas blog beyond the title.

Bottom Line: There’s some great stuff here. “Don’t Be a Dick on Christmas” will most certainly find it’s way onto someone’s mix. 3.8/5

LISTEN

The Ornaments – What A Merry Christmastime It Was 7″ (2014)

The Ornaments - What A Merry Christmastime It Was 7"

Folkmonger Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Hailing from the snowy cheese-fields (right? hehe) of Madison, Wisconsin, The Ornaments intend to be an annual Christmas music project that will “release one 7″ and play one show each December from now until the end of time.” Sounds promising! Comprised of Mike Behrends & Lance Owens, the Ornaments are the kind of Yuletide band I look for – nonreligious! I know, I know… but if you want religious Christmas music, look up… look down… you’re swimming in it already. These guys were just looking for a reason to get together, as I look to my Christmas mix as a means to keep in touch with those in my life. So far, so good. On to the songs.

The songwriting is certainly original. The A-side, “Santa’s Existential Crisis,” captures a conflicted Santa Claus who isn’t quite sure he wants to work anymore. He’s worn-out, he’s sick of all the stuff, and he really just needs to take a break. I dig the music too, perhaps more than the lyrics. Everything rests easily on the bed of Hammond organ and drums, with guitar and bell flourishes nicely sprinkled throughout. A very solid start.

The B-side, “Christmas Dinner,” does not go where you think it is going to go. The song is essentially about a glorious Christmas feast for a mother and her children… and what a bloody mauling it was. Ha! Great stuff – I’ll be on the lookout for 2015’s release, no doubt!

Bottom Line: Unique songwriting, great production and EXTREMELY limited (10 copies!), clear, square, 7″ lathe-cut vinyl. (4.4/5)

LISTEN

Young War “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas (I’m Serious)” (2014)

Young War "I Won't Come Back For Christmas (I'm Serious)"

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Young War‘s “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas (I’m Serious)” is a great blend of indie rock and R&B. I love the whole concept of the song – he is not coming back for Christmas just so you know he’s serious. Its beautifully done, and very much worth your time. But don’t take my word for it. Take Lie in the Sound or Christmas A-Go-Go’s advice, and give it a listen (and/or download it via some nefarious Firefox plugin… or something). They gave it so much love last year, so much that I didn’t really find myself needing to help too much. I saw this on numerous mixes last year – it was certainly deemed a highlight of the season. That said, the song is good enough that I knew I’d be compelled to write about it at some point. Hey Young War – I hope this comes back around next year via Bandcamp.

Bottom Line: Wonderfully produced, great lyrics, great vocals and (was) free. 4.8/5

LISTEN

Young War has been kind enough to give me permission to upload and stream their wonderful Christmas song. It had previously been a free download via their Soundcloud page, but they took it down from their own feed.

Tvillingarna, Truls & jag “Får vi en vit jul då” (2014)

Våra barns julfavoriter - Julmusik för barn

Alfie
Buy: 7Digital MP3 (US) | Amazon UK MP3

From the album Våra barns julfavoriter – Julmusik för barn (google translated: Our children’s julfavoriter – Christmas music for children) by Swedish singer-songwriter and frontman of Edson, Pelle Carlberg, and his family. I really have very little idea what they are saying, but I like Pelle enough to make mention of this particular track. The title of this song (Google translated) is “We Get a White Christmas When,” and Pelle’s voice and instrumentation make it a lovely little song. His kids sound great on here too, and I’m not normally a fan of children singing on my Christmas music. I wish I knew a bit more about what the heck they are saying though…

Bottom Line: I wish Pelle Carlberg made Christmas music for my English-speaking child. For those interested in hearing Pelle sing a Christmas song in English, buy his last record, The Lilac Time, and read the liner notes. 3.9/5

LISTEN

Legends of Country – It’s A Long Way Back From A Dream (2014)

The Legends of Country - Its' a Long Way Back from a Dream

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

This little gem has popped up last year on Stubby’s, and I really wish I had noticed the subject matter of the release earlier than I did (I’m on their e-mail list!!). The Legends of Country are the indie-pop/country hybrid brainchild of Jof Owen from The Boy Least Likely To. Jof’s voice can make any country song sound indie-pop, so no amount of twang can take the indie-pop heart out of these tunes. Both tracks feature seasonal fare: the title track “It’s a Long Way Back from a Dream” is a twangy tale that spins the story of Richie Burnett, world champion darts player, as he heads to defend his title on New Years Eve. The imagery is sad & beautiful, and when the trumpet enters the mix, the instrumentation engulfs you. It’s pretty spectacular.

While the A-side takes us on a New Years journey, the B-side brings us back home to Christmas. “From St. George to Snowflake” is another beautiful story-song that tells of a Christmas Eve car ride. The lyrics present a modest and beautiful tale of love and Christmas. Its not hard to place yourself directly inside the verses, and the warmth it exudes is palpable. Finally, there is a wonderful guitar line that shimmers throughout this song… and it gave me goosebumps. Lovely.

Bottom Line: The indie-Christmas pedigree could not be ignored, and astoundingly, the Legends of Country have exceeded my already high expectations with these two incredible tales. 5/5

LISTEN

Superfuck Numero 2: Spécial Noël (2014)

Superfuxxxmas Songs

Superfuck Magazine
Buy: Superfuck Zine | Bandcamp

Hi Everyone. Missed me?

All hail Christmas Chaos for hipping me to this release. Superfuck magazine is a self-published zine from Paris, and their second issue is extra-special (in this guy’s eyes) Christmas edition. There is a CD-R attached, and it contains 16 seasonal tracks from French artists (I haven’t verified EVERY artist is French… but from my spot checks… highly likely). So many of these bands are so under-the-radar that I couldn’t even find a link for their site…
EDIT – Yes, they are all French artists – thanks Superfuck Magazine for the clarification!

There are some gems on here though – I’m a huge fan of “The Tree is Made” by Milk and Fruit Juice. It is a very solemn acoustic number, but when the electric guitar flourishes enter, the song shimmers.  Certainly a downer if you judge the lyrical content (death), but if you like that sort of thing, you will love this.

There are some upbeat songs on here too… for sure. “Silence in Your Mind” by Wonderflu is a great indie rock tune, and while I can’t quite make out the lyrics enough to hear the Christmas connection – I’ll take their word for it.

“The Gift” by Edam Edam has punk rock spirit, a speed, and a crassness that I appreciate. “Can I kiss your ass / Like its for Christmas?” Fuck yes.

(BTW, Sugar & Tiger‘s excellent “X-Mas Babe” is on this comp too)

There are also a bunch of great instrumental tracks, ranging from the criminally short chimes and claps of “Bruschetta” by Orouni, to the wonderfully glitchy “Some Girls Under to the Snow” by MUDD.

The final track, “Christmas Boogie” by Jaromil Sabor and Prêcheur Loup, is a ramshackle jam that perfectly rounds out a night of Christmas tunes – loose, pretty, with slightly jagged edges. This one could certainly make its way on to a mix.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for an obscure French Christmas comp to impress your friends with, look no further. 1 euro (or more!) gets you 16 tracks, and there are some solid tunes here. 4.3/5

LISTEN

Faye and the Scrooges “X M A S” (2014/2015)

Faye and the Scrooges

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Well, I got tweeted at earlier this month – which is always a treat for a niche music blogger.

I immediately began listening to the new Faye & the Scrooges Christmas track, much to the dismay of my wife. I mean really… who could live in my house and be sick of Christmas music. Well… perhaps the dog isn’t sick of it… I haven’t asked him yet.

“X M A S” has a bit of a “Terrible Presents” groove (their wonderful song from a few years back), but the subject matter makes perfect sense for this festive band. Each year, this group of friends gets together and records a Christmas tune to share on Christmas eve at the pub. It makes wonderful sense that they might document these holiday shenanigans in song. Too many jager-bombs the night before (no doubt while passing around their new song) leads into a food and drink-filled Christmas day. This is the kind of Christmas day that I also look forward to, but mine doesn’t usually have a good beat.

Bottom Line: F+TS remain one of the best Christmas pop bands out there. 4.3/5

LISTEN