Pond “All I Want for Xmas (Is a Tascam 388)” (2017)

Pond "The Weather"

Marathon Artists/Universal Music Australia
Buy: Bandcamp | 7Digital | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

So many Aussies, so little time. Pond is a fantastic psych rock band from Perth who are the spiritual brothers of Tame Impala, even sharing members at times. “All I Want for Xmas (Is a Tascam 388)” came off of Pond’s excellent LP The Weather, released way back in May of 2017. I know Jim, you’ve known about this for a while, why now? Well, I got nothing – time is a fickle beast, and who knows when our time (or a song’s time) will come. This is a psychedelic delight with wonderful layers of synths, chunky beats, and a deep yearning for that Tascam mixer. Clocking in at just about 2:30, it also doesn’t overwear its welcome; Brevity is essential for a Christmas song that really only has one point to make. Santa, go grab that guy a Tascam 388!

Bottom Line: Mixing it up a bit with some psychedelic Christmas tunes, which can be hard to come by. Pond are top tier psych, and this is a pretty fun song.

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Richard Walters “The First Snow in Years” (2017)

Richard Walters - The First Snow in Years

Pilotlights Music
Buy: Bandcamp

My friend Kurt over at Festive! wrote a great post about the search for “Christmas (Not Christmas)” songs the other day, and not only did I immediately see myself in those paragraphs, but it got me thinking much more about those gems of the past that skirt around the edges of Christmas. One of particular note is the spectacular “Snow” by Sweet Tempest. Those chilly, not-quite-Christmas tunes always find a way into my heart, and this standout by Richard Walters, “The First Snow in Years,” has done so as well. The synth brass lines create an interesting ground for the fingerpicked melody to float over. Richard’s voice is beautiful, as is the imagery: “Midnight / standing still / streetlight / paints my shadow onto the white ground / the whole world is white. / See how it covers everything. / See how it covers everything. / The first snow in years. / The first snow in years.” Gorgeous.

Bottom Line: I write this as the election results trickle in… and this song has calmed me. No small feat. Let’s all wake up to a better tomorrow.

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Jeremy Neale “Christmas (Turn This Around)” (2017)

Dot Dash / Remote Control Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Aussie Jeremy Neale LOVES Christmas. His first Christmas single, 2016’s “Christmas Time (Is My Favourite Time Of The Year)” pretty much sums up his holiday attitude. (That track is great too, maybe I’ll need another post.) His 2017 Christmas single, “Christmas (Turn This Around),” finds Jeremy giving a holiday humbugger a pep talk – they have never found happiness in Christmas, but he is going to turn their holiday around. The driving power-pop rhythm culminates in a flurry of brass and congas that will not be denied, making this perhaps the happiest Christmas song that I can possibility stand at the moment. I mean, can’t you tell I’m falling apart here? I am writing about HAPPY MUSIC. I’m desperately trying to be positive. GO VOTE.

Bottom Line: This song is so happy it could turn a grinch into a Who! GO VOTE. *smooches*

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Brad Peterson “All is Well” (2017)

Brad Peterson "All is Well"

Self Released
Buy: Free!

Chicago-area’s Brad Peterson has been releasing wonderful, one-off singles for a few years now… he may have even released one already this year! I had originally intended to highlight 2017’s excellent “All is Well” last year, but you know how things go – the holidays can get nuts. Having once shared stages with Radiohead and Jeff Buckley (what a lovely story btw), Brad suffered a spinal injury years ago that kept him for recording or performing. Thankfully, he has healed well enough to get back in the game. Brad writes and records in his little backyard garden shed, concocting these wonderfully written indiepop gems. “All is Well” approaches those memories of loss that can sometimes sneak up at Christmas, and as with an Irish funeral, turns it into an exercise in fond remembrance.

“If we’re fortunate, as we get older, we may recall in wistful reverie -an idyllic Christmas season surrounded by loved ones. For me, that blissful time, before experience and loss, can hurt to contemplate. Rather than the melancholic tendencies I’ve often fallen to, this year I choose to celebrate in fond remembrance, those absent loved ones.”

Truly a lovely sentiment, wrapped in excellent indiepop production.

Bottom Line: Brad’s always one to watch when the holidays come around – and this will no doubt be the first of many mentions on CU.

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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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The Technicolors “Santa’s Claws” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Have you ever asked yourself, “what if Pavement wrote a Christmas song?” Phoenix, Arizona’s The Technicolors have answered this question with their excellent “Santa’s Claws.” The phrasing, and even the lead singer’s voice, both left me drifting off to comparisons with Stephen Malkmus’ signature delivery. Pavement have long been a favorite of mine, so I’m totally down. The premise of the song has a young dude falling in love with Santa Claus’ daughter over AOL, and Santa is not happy – loving this premise. My only gripe would be the somewhat campy “voice of Claus” that pops up through the song – makes a pretty killer song just a tiny bit cute. Thankfully, they don’t cross all the way over the cuteness line, so I’m still on board. Hat tip to the truly wonderful Lie in the Sound for hipping us all to this track last year!

Bottom Line: The Technicolors come to the table with a wonderful homage to Pavement and an equally fantastic premise. Diggin it.

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DCR Mixtape #3 – A Christmas Compilation (2017)

Dinosaur City Records Christmas Compilation

Dinosaur City Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Dinosaur City Records… what can I say? Why would you release such a great Christmas release only 3 days before Christmas? This record is PACKED with excellent indie pop (naturally), indie rock, electro-pop, as well as some that forcefully eschew categorization. This comp deserves more than 3 days of listening! I am finding myself fighting the urge to get too specific, to single out any tracks I particularly enjoy, and I want to simply highlight the general strength of the whole damn thing. There is likely a song on here for everyone… and I want you to buy the whole thing. Lets to encourage Dinosaur City Records to do this thing again, because this whole release has left me smiling.

Bottom Line: There are few Christmas compilations that make me feel so warm and fuzzy about them… this is one. I wish I had found it before they sold out of cassettes…

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Saintseneca “The Wandering Star” (2017)

ANTI
Buy: Bandcamp

Back in 2016, Saintseneca released one of the best holiday EPs of recent note, with their holiday compilation The Mallwalker EP. This past holiday season, they continued what has been established as a near-yearly tradition of releasing a new holiday song, “The Wandering Star.” Unfortunately, by December 23rd, I am running on 10% power and the final warning window has popped up. Thus… I am only getting to this song now. “The Wandering Star” is immensely interesting and enjoyable, instantly reminding me of one of the more adventurous tracks you might find on a Sufjan Stevens’ holiday opus. There is more religious imagery in this track than I’m used to from Saintseneca, but they dress it up well enough to keep things interesting. (Avid readers know that this blog is here to write mainly about the secular songs of the holiday… read my about page if you are so inclined.) Saintsenica know their way around a song, and the intro’s finger picking and layered vocals set a thoughtful, yet powerful mood. However, when the pace picks up and the bass kicks in, this song truly blooms. This journey they set the listener on culminates with both a feeling of power and serenity – it is truly impressive. Once again, Saintsenica prove that they are in the top tier of underground, original Christmas music.

Bottom Line: Add this track onto the pile of wonderful Saintseneca holiday songs – and check out their new full-length LP, Pillar of Na, only released about a week ago!

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Space Raft “Another Holiday is Here” (2017)

Space Raft "Another Holiday is Here"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Milwaukee’s Space Raft have crafted a wonderful (and perhaps the greatest) Christmas party/drinking song with 2017’s “Another Holiday is Here.” If you were crafting a Christmas party playlist, you would want to time this song to be about 2/3s into the party… not too early, and not too late, because you want maximum party when this jam comes on. The chorus lends itself to shouting, which every non-singer in the room can most certainly join in on: “So break out the wine / It’s Christmas time / Another glass of gin before we begin / Another holiday is here.” The song stinks of booze and fun, which are two qualities I most certainly look for in a Christmas tune.

Bottom Line: As if grown in a lab to liven up your Christmas party, “Another Holiday is Here” is a drunken-holiday-funtimes bullseye.

 

 

No Monster Club “Christmas In Dublin” (2017)

No Monster Club - Trahira - Zygote

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (gone)

This No Monster Club track popped up right as I was running out of gas, which is a warning for those folks releasing Christmas tracks… hit that sweet spot (Nov. 25-Dec. 5) when actual people (!) are visiting our blogs, and the bloggers aren’t completely exhausted. Enough inside baseball – lets talk trax. No Monster Club added a new Christmas track to their catalogue in 2017 with this cover of a Dustin the Turkey/Bagatelle song, “Christmas in Dublin.” Yes, you read that correctly, Dustin the Turkey. To the Google I go, once again. Dustin is a turkey puppet character from a RTE TV show, who as well inexplicably represented Ireland in the 2008 Eurovision contest. America has the Kardashians… we all have our own weird baggage I suppose. “Christmas in Dublin” is a cover of a parody song by Dustin, the original being “Summer in Dublin” by Bagatelle. One might expect a parody song to be funny, but this one is actually quite sweet, with only a few slightly bitter moments. I found it oddly lovely, perhaps you will too. Should I be embarrassed? Maybe a little, but I’m an underground Christmas music blogger; I’m already a little embarrassing on my own, so I’m cool with it.

Bottom Line: Lets all enjoy this parody song originated by a turkey puppet. And no, I’m not bullshitting you. Where I to bullshit you, it would have been a good idea to wait a week to post this.

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