Boat Water “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” (2020)

Self Released
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Bandcamp (NYOP)

There are a number of songs out there that just seem to get covered the same ways… and boy is it refreshing to hear something new. Baltimore’s Boat Water has taken the excellent Ramones’ Christmas classic, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight),” and found a new way inside that is truly engaging. The keyboard lines, the pacing, the phrasing – I don’t believe I’ve heard it done quite like this, and thank goodness I now have. There are so many small changes that are unexpected and just fucking delightful. There’s also a cover of a Blink 182 Christmas song… but I am both unfamiliar with it, and don’t really care. They’re not my jam, but maybe they are yours! Art is subjective! I have terrible taste!

Bottom Line: An absolutely stellar cover of a Christmas classic (and one that I’m not already sick of!)

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Kansas Bible Company “Feliz Navidad” (2020)

Kansas Bible Company - Feliz Navidad

Self Released
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A perennial favorite, Kansas Bible Company is one of those bands I always look for around the holiday season. Whatever they touch is going to be a lot of fun, and I can’t believe I didn’t get to writing about this song last year. Wait… I can. The later you put out your Christmas song, the better chance it’ll get drowned out by all the other releases (or I’m completely exhausted). I’m doing my best to make up for missing it… as last year’s cover of “Feliz Navidad” was truly a joyful rendition that deserves to be boogied down to. KBC has a wonderful combination of brass and guitars, and their shared solos in the middle of this song is a perfect example of this musical conversation. Of note – they also properly released “Blue Christmas,” their collaboration with Okey Dokey, which had been previously released under the moniker of The Nashville Country Cowboys in 2016. So add that to your Spotify playlist too… you kids and your streaming….

Bottom Line: KBC can make the telephone book (remember those??) sound fun.

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Daði Freyr “Something Magical” (2021) / “Every Moment is Christmas with You” (2020/2018)

Samlist
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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.

Christmas-A-Gogo was equally excited for this new track... and 10,000 (or two) Christmas music blogs can’t be wrong!

Bottom Line: Daði Freyr’s mixture of crooning, synths, nostalgia, and humor is Something Magical. How cheesy was that??? You are welcome.

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2020’s “Every Moment is Christmas with You”

2018’s “Allir dagar eru jólin með þér”

Anna Preston “California Eve” (2018/2020)

Self Released
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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.

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Cartalk “Merry Christmas Darlin’ or Happy Holidays” (2020)

Self Released
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It may be 2021, but hell, if I find a great song from 2020, I’m going to write about it. Early last December, Los Angeles’ Cartalk released a sparse holiday song born from the distance of COVID that thankfully doesn’t dwell specifically in 2020 (and thus shorten its shelflife). Written in one night for 2020’s final #bandcampfriday, “Merry Christmas Darlin’ or Happy Holidays” is a simply-produced, guitar and vocals song about missing and loving someone on Christmas. A classic premise performed without any unnecessary decoration, this song is better than 99% of those who are writing from the same exact starting point. Familiar, yet fresh, Cartalk deserves to end up on some of your mixes this year, providing a lovely moment of rest inbetween your wall-of-sound classics.

Bottom Line: Carpark only needed one night to create this beautiful song. Hoping they can find a few spare hours again. Love the “chosen family” reference too – chosen family deserves the same (or one might argue, more) appreciation that family does in many situations.

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Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard “Christmas Is Coming (We All Know the Score)” (2018/2020)

Communion Records
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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.

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Geese “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” (2020)

Self Released
Buy: Stream!

Everyone needs a layup here and there, and this faithful cover of Sufjan Stevens’ modern classic “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” affords me that luxury. Yes, the Irish folk band Geese’s approach is much more of a parallel line rather than a perpendicular explosion, but there are some subtleties that I very much enjoyed. Their keyboard atmospherics give the song an etherial feel, while the original trades in the warmth of an occasional piano. Their notes also tend to linger longer than the original, a shimmer to Sufjan’s soft crackle. These changes in approach haven’t changed the heart of the song – it still very feels like the song we all love, just a bit grander in scope.

Bottom Line: Another excellent cover of a great song. I swear I’m not getting lazy – just catching up on some deserving songs! Also, who the heck are Geese? I can ONLY find them on Soundcloud so far…

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Gold Baby “Looks Like A Cold, Cold Winter” (2020)

Self Released
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Yes, I do have more Australian Christmas/Holiday/New Years songs ready… but I think we can all agree that was getting ridiculous. So lets take a quick break and head back to the OG colonizer, England! Last year, London’s Gold Baby put out an extremely nice Bing Crosby cover, which of course was not technically written by Bing – but lets not get too far into the weeds here. The harmony and instrumentation feel just as cozy and warm as the lyrics, which on this first day of sub-40 degree weather in Virginia, has been most appreciated. I also like that this isn’t one of the Bing classics that get extremely overplayed, though perhaps that’s my experience, not yours. Either way – and extremely nice cover by a truly lovely band.

ALSO, the proceeds benefit the Campaign to End Loneliness, which makes this song choice even more appropriate. Well done.

Bottom Line: Pick a good song and do it well – Is that so hard? Gold Baby sure doesn’t think so!

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YACHT “Christmas Alone” (2015/2020)

Yacht - Christmas Alone

Self Released
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I swear. I will stop talking about how I always burn out at the end of the season, and will no longer begin every post with an apology for not posting it sooner. But.. especially when songs are topical, and (HOPEFULLY) very specifically attached to one particular year, it does feel like a missed opportunity (so… sorry). Los Angeles’ YACHT have been on my radar for years, and I do recall their fun, oddball electro-pop track “Christmas Alone” from that inaugural Indie for the Holidays playlist that Amazon released back in 2015. That first version was mainly about how much they love spending time home alone on Christmas – having fun grabbing takeout and going to the movies and such. Well, this past Christmas had its own unique circumstances, and they rewrote the song for our 2020 COVID Christmas. The fun imagery is gone, replaced by these truly beautiful lines, disguised inside this bouncy, Waitresses’ evoking track.

Mom and Dad are vexed we’re spending Christmas far away,
But love is not a test, love is opening to change

We don’t need a Christmas tree and we don’t need a chimney
We just need each other and to stay home watching TV

Remember the days before money ate the mission
Maybe now’s the time to make some new traditions

This year we’re just happy we can celebrate our luck
We made this far and that should be enough

Everybody has to stay at home
This Christmas it’s you and me alone

All we need is love to make a home
So this Christmas it’s you and me alone

Hope is a relation tween the future & the past
Time is so short but dreaming helps it last

Give a little this year to the ones who need it best
lost a lotta living but we’re grateful for what’s left

Gear up for another year you think is gonna break ya
Keep holding up the ones you love and keep each other safer

Doesn’t even matter if it’s Christmas Day today
When we have each other, every day’s a holiday

Everybody has to stay at home
So next Christmas we won’t be on our own

All we need is love to make a home
So this Christmas it’s you and me alone

I’ve been looking for those bits of hope, those bits of love. Those are the songs I gravitated to last year. So… even though I’m a bit late to the post, and even though this song may not have as much potency beyond last Christmas (PLLLLEEEAAASSEEE be so), it is still a worthy song.

Bottom Line: YACHT converted this fun, poppy song into a poignant, yet still fun, poppy song. All money goes to the Los Angeles Food Bank, so don’t be scared off that $5 price tag.

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The Pats Pats “Christmas” (2020)

Self Released?
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Bandcamp

When I crash, I crash hard. Christmas 2020 was like a brick wall. After an exhausting 2020, the deluge of songs and records that hit in those last 2-3 days before Christmas was overwhelming. I have so many tabs open that they haunt my dreams. I didn’t know when I was going to feel motivated enough to dip my toes back in, but I’ve been driving my wife’s car the past few days (which has a CD player) and popped in my latest Christmas mix… I really love those songs. So now I need to find good Christmas and Christmas-adjacent tunes once more…

I don’t speak Japanese, but I do speak fun (…sometimes). The Pats Pats are a “girl band from Tokyo” (I don’t believe you need to qualify what the sex of a band is, but they specifically do), and their particular brand of upbeat DIY-pop is an absolute pleasure. I have so little more to say about this perfect little pop nugget, which may be why this song is exactly what I needed to get back to this gig. Zero pressure, all fun.

Bottom Line: Japanese-DIY-pop perfection for anxiety-riddled, demanding jerks like me.

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