Who is this mysterious Health & Wellbeing? I can’t find anything on them! Too bad, because I’m jamming to these Christmas Demos and they are quite good. Power/dream/brit pop original Christmas songs. I’m absolutely positive that they are going to be somebody’s favorite from this holiday season. There’s even a little nod to The Rolling Stones in “Take it Easy this Christmas,” and it totally works. These were all recorded in the past 3 weeks, and if these are the demos… look the fuck out for the full versions, because these sound great already.
Bottom Line: Well that was a short, rather shitty review for what are 4 pretty great songs? Well… yeah. But now you know about them at least, even if we know nothing about the band!
A quick search for “Guinness book of world records most Christmas songs” comes up with the usual results – mainly that Bing Crosby’s performance of “White Christmas” is the biggest selling single of all time. There is not a record for MOST Christmas songs yet… though if there is (and there should be), Kristian Noel Pederson will have a shot at it. In what is his 14th record of original Christmas songs (not including the Hanson’s Snowed Incover record), Saul McCartney’s Magical Holiday Season is a triumph. A concept record that follows an alternate-universe pop star from the 60’s starting anew with a solo career, this record feels joyful and light. Perhaps this is the freedom of writing from a wholly new perspective outside of yourself? I’m not in Kristian’s mind… yet. There are so many wonderful moments on this record, but as I start thinking about which one to talk about, I realize that I’m gravitating to all the horn parts. The use of brass on this record is just perfection – it is that final seasoning on your Christmas meal that makes you sit up and take note… creates those neural connections that will make you talk about that meal for years to come. I’m in the midst of “I Hope it Snows Tonight” for the third time, delighting in every moment- horns, guitars, the whole damn thing. Please listen to this record – it is an absolute joy.
Bottom Line: A Kristian Noel Pederson record is always one to look forward to, and this has to be my favorite yet. I would buy this on vinyl – 100%
I’m going to post a bunch of single tracks, then the whole thing so that they aggregate in the Hype Machine. There is a method to the madness below.
This song by Australia/Prague’s The Walking Who is equal parts epic and cryptic. Also… who the fuck cares what this song is about because “Halloween on Christmas” is fucking awesome. The song began its life in Australia back in 2019, but was only recently finished in November at a studio in Prague, with a strict palette of eastern European guitars, mics, and synths born between 1960-1985. Eastern bloc or bust! Pair this with those Toad Venom tracks and you’ve got yourself a pretty badass mix in the works…
Bottom Line: Let’s listen to psychedelic Christmas from the caves of Prague… what a great sentence to write, and what a fantastic song to jam to.
Let’s get weird. This record is going to be one of the more interesting Christmas records you’re going to listen to this year, or any other year. There are moments here that will leave you scratching your head, and others that will leave you in wonder. Aussie ex-pat Maxwell Farrington teamed up with Yann Oliver on 2020’s Maxou & Yannou Sing X-Mas, which I regretfully did not sample back then (but Christmas A Gogo highlighted earlier this year, which I also missed!). That collaboration has continued into 2022, with a properly-released full-length that adds a few songs and a new title, Yuletide and I’ll Tide with Yann. I say proper full-length LP, as it is released in LP form on both CD and vinyl, but keep in mind, it clocks in at a brief 26 minutes and change. Short and sweet indeed. I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite tracks below, and let you bask in the Scott Walker-esque weirdness and beauty. (Eagle-eyed readers might notice that one of these tracks is the closer on my latest mix, Jolly Chubby Elf.)
Bottom Line: God I need this on vinyl. This is one of the most unexpected, unique, gorgeous Christmas records I’ve stumbled upon.
I love discovering the cool stuff I have missed… NYC’s Run On recorded “Xmas Trip” for their 1996 Matador record Start Packing, and only 5 years later I was a summer intern for Matador… So, theoretically, I could/should have come across this song, but alas, the world is a big, big place. 2022 sees a re-release of this absolutely wonderful 90’s era indie rock Christmas tune paired with a live version (hence the plural title above). Not only might you be introduced to a fantastic older indie rock Christmas jam, but all proceeds from this re-release will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (need help? SMS 988). So part with your money now.
Bottom Line: I really wish I had caught this before my mix was done. This is the kind of indie rock Christmas I live for.
As The Magnetic Fields are one of the bigger indie bands out there, and thus I am not going to be giving much background as to who they are… look them up if you are unfamiliar, and bask in their classic 69 Love Songs. I’m genuinely jealous of those who have no clue who they are and have the opportunity to listen to them for the first time. There are a number of excellent Magnetic Fields’ holiday-esque songs… “Everything is One Big Christmas Tree” may be the one I see most on playlists. Somewhat overlooked is the absolutely lovely “Have You Seen It in the Snow?” off of 2017’s 50 Song Memoir. Let’s change that.
Bottom Line: Have you read Christmas Underground in the snow? Bet it is as pretty as New York, which I can attest is quite lovely with a dash (not a TON) of snow, and Stephin Merritt paints a beautiful picture here.
I have to tell you… I feel like my mix is the most boring mix for you all when it finally comes out, as I’ve been tipping my hand for a month, and now a whole bunch of you already have these songs on your own mixes. I just have to take comfort in the fact that 99% of those folks who I hand/send one to have not heard a single one… when I do release it, let’s just pretend you’re hearing them for the first time…
THAT SAID, here is another stone-cold mix-worthy song. Sea Pinks (on hiatus?) frontman Neil Brogan has been releasing holiday songs (sometimes hidden on full records) for a few years now and this year gathered them up onto one release, Christmas EP. Three previously-released tracks and one, brand-new-fucking-fantabulous song, “Christmas (with a small c).” Jangly and clever, this track has relaxed vocals and indie rock guitars that, in tandem, make my eyes widen and burst with excitement. This is the vibe I need right now…
Sweden’s Crying Day Care Choir are one of those bands that I’m always hoping will release more Christmas music. They have such an incredible back catalog of songs, which I have been happy to feature many, many times, and I encourage everyone to check out if you are unfamiliar with them. They have taken a few years off from writing seasonal songs, but thankfully return with the brand-spanking new “It’s Almost time for a Christmas Tree.” This song is quite unlike the others, as it is part of the same experimental songwriting project as their recent Give Me Something Vol. 1 EP. With both the EP and this song, Crying Day Care Choir used Damien Hirst’s “The Currency” project for writing inspiration. Hirst has created 10,000 paintings and offered them up for sale. Buyers have the choice of purchasing either the physical object or an NFT, and if they choose the NFT, the physical object is burned. CDCC has exclusively used the pieces slated for the pyre to draw inspiration from, and in a way, giving these objects destined for oblivion a new, eternal life. I’d love to know which panel of colorful dots inspired a Christmas song! The song’s verses are soft, sweet, and piano-driven, but that chorus is will get your blood flowing. “It’s almost time for a Christmas tree / If you’re bringing it home you’re all I need.” Those choruses sound like they were an absolute blast to record – there is a palpable joy to be heard here. How lucky we are to have ears!
Bottom Line: Crying Day Care Choir long ago secured their spot in my heart, and my heart continues to grow.
Let me give you a quick peek behind the curtain here at Christmas Underground. There is often a healthy discussion in the Twitter DMs between myself and other Christmas music-obsessed folks, and there may have been a comment about my site that went something (exactly) like this: “I say it’s pretty darn easy to make a mix entitled ‘Christmas music to slash your wrists by.'” To which, I replied, “You gotta have your niche.” Well… I’m not all tearjerkers and Christmas humbug (I’m only 51% of those), the other 49% is searching for a song that will make my ass move. So I introduce London’s Wicketkeeper, who has written a song that is 34% wonderful, and 66% fucking amazing, “Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again.” But you really have to look behind the lyrics – they are saying something really profound here. Like in the last verse, where they mix it up and add the “WOOOO.”
Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again, Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again, WOOOOO, lalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalalalala, lalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalalalala
Kinda brings a tear to your eye.
Bottom Line: The most fun 1.5 minutes of Christmas music you will experience this holiday season.