One of the delights I discovered this year in my random Twitter searches was an announcement a month or so ago from the captivating Icelandic indie popster Daði Freyr. So… I check him out. At first glance, the insane videos make you believe that this might just be a joke, but you quickly realize that the songs are absolutely fantastic. As I awaited the new single to drop, I went down the rabbit hole, with every song (and video) poking that spot in my brain that made me smile really, really big. Kinda an uncomfortable, oversize smile that makes you look crazy as if I was in a Daði Freyr video. I was especially happy to find two Christmas songs in Daði Freyr’s back catalogue, though truly… it was only one song – in two different languages! “Every Moment is Christmas with You/Allir dagar eru jólin með þér” has that schmaltzy, classic Christmas crooner feel with modern-synth instrumentation. Be rest assured though, there is a quality to Daði Freyr’s voice that can make schmaltzy go down quite smoothly. The new track, “Something Magical,” is the polar opposite–a short, boogie-down track that is TOTALLY what Chromeo would do if they had made a Christmas song. It is GLORIOUS. I can’t stop fidgeting as I write this review. Just listen to it. This is a Christmas tradition that I am 100% down for.
Ah, to tell the story of discoveirng this song. Annie Booth posted this song on Soundcloud back in 2018, but only for a brief period, as it was gone when I first looked. I had been running down random threads on Facebook, stumbled upon Annie and evidence of past Christmas singles (she’s also done some covers!), and immediately messaged her. I must say… it is rare that a band will ever respond to me, let alone send me to the song I’m asking about. However, Annie Booth most certainly did, and I absolutely flipped out. I have been wanting to write about this for two years now, always hoping that Annie would release it properly so that I could encourage you all to pay her money for her wonderful efforts… but alas, it is back on Soundcloud and Annie has made it free for you all to download. So, enjoy the absolutely beautiful, shimmering emotion that is “Christmas Time (Keep It Together),” but please consider buying some of her other incredible music. Musicians are just like you, they don’t sleep in a bed or eat for free. Please remember that.
Bottom Line: A highlight of my 2019 mix (Xmas), this song is a wonderful introduction to Annie Booth, should you not know her already. I trust you will become as big a fan of her as I am.
Written in 2018, but released in 2020, Seattle’s Anna Preston has crafted one of the most beautiful and intimate Christmas songs I’ve found this year (a year late!). The edges of her voice crack with emotion as she finds herself jealous that she wasn’t the first kiss, or standing next to the jukebox watching her love in the colored lights. The production is simple – Anna’s delicate voice over a strumming guitar – until the song opens up and backing vocals layer to lift the song gently up, swaying on its toes. The ending is a bit devastating, yet comforting, in that nostalgic way that we look back on lost love and share in the universal experience of it all… Truly excellent.
Of note, Anna also recorded a cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which you can check out on her Soundcloud.
Bottom Line: Anna Preston’s perfectly-imperfect delivery is incredibly intimate and rewarding.
You know that a band must love Christmas if one of their earliest songs is an epic xmas tune. Welsh indie/glam/britpop band Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard released this stomper back in 2018, but brought it around last year with an accompanying video and back onto my radar. The lyrics are fascinating, and well worth a watch of the video so you can sing along. You’re bound to find a line that makes you smile and shake your head, as I did with “I can still hear the west dropping bombs of peace / Oh for you and me.” This really is a corker. They also have their proper debut, Backhand Deals, coming out in February, so maybe we’ll get lucky with another tune this season?
Bottom Line: Big glam sound with intriguing lyrics make this a must-listen.
My favorite track off of last year’s A Very Cherry Christmas 13 (still available!) has been re-released with a new “Bah Humbug Blizzard” version! The Happy Somethings‘ ode to being miserable on Christmas an odd delight. I absolutely love the groove in this song. Putting together your mix? Need a dance break with bleak lyrics? Let me sell you this song!
(How do you like my update job mess?)
Bottom Line: Indiepop misery at its finest! And it is free! And it is for charity!
There is nothing complicated about this song, with the exception of who the fuck is singing it. King Gizzard and the Shitpost Wizard is an anonymousYoutuber who specializes in making weird ass videos around King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard songs, like the featured video which is “Rattlesnakes” with the every instance of the word rattlesnakes replaced by a member of the band repeating “mean brown rice stir fry.” On their Bandcamp, there is and entire record using a sample of someone saying “eggs.” Somehow mixed amongst this insanity is a simple, yet oddly satisfying, parody Christmas song. “Christmas Lights” is a parody of KGatLW’s “Vegemite,” and frankly, I prefer the parody! I think this song passes as a legit Christmas song all on its own, with the reworked lyrics not being too silly, yet silly enough to not take itself too seriously. It rides that perfect groove of near-silliness, one might say… perhaps you’ll agree.
when everyone says september is too early i string lights up with my girlfriend and then we’ll toast, to scrooge’s ghosts, and what i love most, is christmas lights
i love i love my christmas lights theyre bright as hell on dark ass nights i keep my bulbs all screwed in tight and plug them in whenever i like
Bottom Line: This parody song didn’t go far enough if they think I’m not gonna like it as a Christmas song. GAUNTLET THROWN King Gizzard and the Shitpost Wizard. Make a sillier tune for us, and I won’t fuck with all your parody plans the next time around…
facebook has reminded us that ‘a day like today …’ a year ago we published for the first time “worse would be to kill”, which included this anti-Christmas carol that, at these dates, we cannot continue to ignore.
so we have re-done it, this time with a little more affection and with less uncertainty about what our friends will think about it. We already know they like it, we hope you do too 🙂
Marcos y Molduras, Bandcamp
Well, as you might assume, the procedure was a smashing success. Sometimes I am all about lyrics, sometimes I’m all about FEELING. This song just FEELS SO GOOD. I do not speak Spanish (I took German in high school), but that has certianly never stopped me from jamming to some incredible spanish-language Christmas songs. I did some Google translate, and I’m even down for the anti-Christmas message. The food is too expensive, the families are loud and the businessmen are obnoxious. Christmas in the big city can be pretty shitty, especially without you.
So with that, Merry Christmas and try not to smile… even though you know the gist of the lyrics. I dare ya… Just feels too good eh? This is a stone-cold Christmas-mix hit.
Bottom Line: “La de Navidad” is bound to lead to involuntary movement of your feet, legs, head and mouth. Buy it, listen to it four times, and tweet at me in the morning.
Commodore Trotter / Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly Buy:Bandcamp
I am not the kind of blogger who seeks out a great voice. So many of my favorite singers couldn’t sing (How I miss David Berman), but even I can still fall for a voice. Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly is a fantastic blog and music-compiler based in Seattle, and their most recent release is Ball of Wax 58: The Ball of Wax Winter Spectacular, featuring this truly beautiful song by Brittain Ashford & Matt Bauer. Honestly, I’m having a tough time describing Brittain’s voice in a better manner than Ball of Wax did:
The teller of this tale is Broadway star and thematic alchemist* Brittain Ashford. With a voice that balances diaphragmatic force with childlike vulnerability, Ashford paints the sort of holiday portrait that those of us who suffer from melancholy particularly this time of year can appreciate and empathize with, and what’s more—what we need most during the dark season—she infuses every line with a tattered but palpable hope.
This song was almost too pretty for me… but those distinctive qualities of Brittain’s vocal delivery were undeniable. The music is also quite lovely, but after learning of composer Matt Bauer‘s folk and banjo background, I am SO intrigued to hear a version with banjo. Damn that could be cool.
I don’t normally write about straight-up Christmas carols. This is generally a pretty secular Christmas music blog… and if you want Christmas carols, there are a million other places to listen to them. That said, every so often, a treatment just hits me. British Columbia’s Dariynn Silver released a version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” last year that deserves some notice. The vocal melodies are great – her pacing and the words she highlights are truly unique. However, it may be piano in the bridge that just got me. It was just beautiful, and frankly, I thought you might think so as well.
Bottom Line: Who would have thought it? A honest-to-goodness Christmas carol on Christmas Underground. I am full of surprises today.
There is no perfect release schedule when it comes to Christmas music. SO MUCH comes out in such a SMALL AMOUNT OF TIME, that no artist can be sure that their song will have the time to break through the flurry of competing songs. Last year’s fantastic track by Johnathan Rice and Courtney Marie Andrews is a prime example of this problem. Here we have two notable artists collaborating on a fantastic song, and I didn’t hear a peep about it until stumbling upon it a few months ago. The song tells the story of immigrants trying to make a better life, but instead, get caught up in Trump’s child jails. You know, the kind of track to put next to “Santa Baby” on your mix.
Johnathan gave some context to the writing of this song on his Facebook page last December. You would think that after a year passed, things would be looking better… but alas, this story could have been written yesterday:
This song is a story I wrote with Jason Boesel and Courtney Marie Andrews. It’s about a child and his mother trying to make it to the other side of the border. Reasons beyond their control intervene, and they don’t make it. This song is my way of calling attention to the current humanitarian crisis taking place at our border with Mexico. Like many of you, I was devastated by the images in the press of mothers being gassed, of little children in cages sleeping on foil blankets. Believe me – as bad as those images are – the worst is yet to come if we do not act immediately.
A few months ago I traveled down to the U.S.-Mexico border with a group of like-minded people to learn more about the situation, and hear about how to help. I started writing this song on the bus ride home. It was recorded in LA a few weeks ago.
Johnathan finished his post with a pitch to donate to Al Otro Lado, whose border rights program “hosts know-your-rights training and legal orientation workshops in migrant shelters in Tijuana, Mexico, and provides direct legal representation to detained asylum seekers in Southern California.” So, if you are so inclined, you can donate here.
Bottom Line: The story is moving and Johnathan and Courtney’s voices blend beautifully. Should you want to add a little bit of humanity to a normally sugary-sweet holiday mix, look no further than this song.