Olive Grove Records
Randolph’s Leap had one of the highlights of last season with the EPIC “Christmas, Burn it All),” and they have returned with yet another addition to their already-stellar Christmas Album. “Stay Away This Christmas” is the #xmas2020 anthem we have all been waiting for – a gently aggressive message to just stay the fuck to ourselves and sit this one out to keep each other safe.
“Stay away this Christmas, I don’t want you coming near
Please maintain your distance cause you aren’t welcome here.
I’m sure we can cope without tradition for one year.
Stay away this Christmas, I don’t want you coming near.”
The song has Randolph’s Leap sounding their most dangerous – driving in the fast lane, passing cars and weaving in and out of traffic with these atypical garage-rock riffs. A great change of pace indeed, while still maintaining the melody and instrumental flourishes (that ending!) that you expect from this excellent Scottish indie pop/rock band. They really just nailed it for the second year in a row.
Of note – the track was simply tagged on to their already-excellent, and quite substantial Christmas album which they’ve been adding to for a number of years. In fact, it was a damn pleasant surprise to already own this song! So… if you don’t already, grab the record, and maybe you’ll also get something in your Randolph’s Leap stocking in the future – who knows?!
Bottom Line: Randolph’s Leap continues to impress with yet another perfectly-timed Christmas song. You all are spoiling us… (I can’t wait for next year! Pretty please!!)
Golden Believers Records
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
Bottom Line: Indiepop misery at its finest!
And it is free! And it is for charity!
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
I would like to call out Chad Thomas Johnston for not releasing another epic, 30-song Christmas record this year. I mean, throw out a record that size once, and you just expect it again (hehe). Unlike 2018’s epic compilation of Christmas tunes, Stalking Stuffers: Coal for the Stocking in Your Soul, Chad has recorded a sweet two-track single, with the highlight being an indie rock Christmas original on the A-side. “Let’s Have a Snowball Fight!” is a wonderful song about, well, having snowball fights with his sister when he was a kid! I loved the ringing guitars, the reverb on the vocals and the the rolling baseline. The B-side, “And On That Day” is a Phil Keaggy cover, and religious in nature. Readers will know that this blog is pretty devoted to secular Christmas tunes, but even with my particular bias, the song is done very well. I especially took note of when he layered his vocals in the latter half of the track – it was a gorgeous finish. Overall, two super-solid tracks from a gifted purveyor of Christmas songs (now with 32 to his name!).
Bottom Line: Who knows if we’ll get snow this year, but if not, we can live vicariously through Chad Thomas Johnston.
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)
I swear I listen to stuff that isn’t indiepop or the Captain Underpants soundtrack (I swear it is my son), but when there is great indiepop, I always pay attention. San Diego’s Sugar World has dropped a 4-song EP of covers, and I’m thoroughly digging it. From the fuzzed-out cover of Low’s “Just Like Christmas,” to the synthy, understated cover of Nixon’s “Anorak Christmas,” to the glitchy clipping on “Blue Christmas,” and the static on the Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling,” the band tweaks each song enough to make them interesting and fresh. Solid!
Bottom Line: Even more excellent indiepop for those who like that DIY alt-Christmas sound.
Hamburg’s Meiko has dipped her toes into the alternative Christmas world before, with the excellent 2018 track, “Merry Christmas Wherever You Are,” and she is back with yet another original! This one is even more to my interest, as I LOVE a good splash of bitters in my Christmas cocktail. The soft vocals and lightly strummed melody stand in beautiful contrast with the obvious message of this wonderful song. “Oh this year can kiss my ass \ So let’s cheers to Christmas past…” Lots of dimes for the swear jar on this one, so listen, then empty the jar, and jam it into your computer to buy the song.
Bottom Line: This is certainly not going to be the last of the “fuck this year” songs, but it is certainly going to be one of the best.
2020 has seen the hiatus of some of our most beloved, underground Christmas traditions – most notably to this humble blogger – the storied Fowler VW and Blackwatch compilation. Things were looking grim all around, yet in spite of the obvious COVID obstacles, one indie-Christmas tradition found a way to make it happen. A Very Cherry Christmas was staring down a 15th edition this year, and while that release is pushed to next year, we are pleased to receive a scaled-back release with their very first digital EP, A Very Cherry Christmas E.P. 2020. These six songs are gathered together for the benefit of the Music Venue Trust, an organization whose goal is to help struggling grass-roots live music venues, and there is plenty of indie-pop holiday goodness to be had. For those who have delighted in jangly guitars, poppy electronic beats and off-center subject matter, look no further. There is a debut (Jane and John, a lockdown creation); indie-pop-holiday royalty (The Hannah Barberas – who also have ANOTHER holiday EP out today!); otherworldly inspiration (the Spanish-language “Navidad Interstelar”); pissed-off punk elves (“ELF RIOT!”); a cover of indie-Christmas legends Helen Love (by newcomers Little Ways); and what could be a theme song to slowly developing genre in its own right (“Surfin’ Santa”). Bite size and tasty, this has a little bit for everyone.
For further indie Christmas fun – AVCC compiler Gareth Jones also has a 3-hour Christmas radio show, full of new Indie/Alternative Christmas songs plus an interview with David Gedge of The Wedding Present. Check it out on Mixcloud!
Goonies Indiepop Christmas never die!
I’m in a mood tonight. I want to just yell and swear (in a good way) about every record I find. You have no idea what I’ve already written and deleted for this review, but let your mind go crazy. Glasgow’s The Martial Arts is a project of Paul Kelly, whose CV is a murderers row of great bands (BMX Bandits / Carla J Easton / The Primary 5 / Ette / Radiophonic / Tuckshop / How to Swim / The Hector Collectors) has put together this just FUCKING FUN AND WONDERFUL Christmas EP, recorded over eight years and finished over lockdown. The first two bouncing, beautiful tracks, “Stockings” and “Snow Flakes,” just take off like a rocket and shoot sparklers out of their ass for four minutes a piece. I devoured every second, with a giant grin on my face. “My Christmas was in June” is a cover of a Ze Malibu (feat. members of Redd Kross and that dog) song, and while the tempo slows to a stroll, the scenery is gorgeous. The final track and the only one actually fully-recorded in 2020, “Blinded by the Night” takes me back to the 80’s, to an emotional moment in a movie with lots of driving in the rain and staring out the window. “Stare into my bright disco eyes,” god I love that line. Go buy this record, but wait a few hours for #Bandcampfriday, why don’t ya?
Bottom Line: This is an indie/power/retro pop mixture that, like the unholy concoction the Long Island iced tea, will fuck you up real good.
Deaf Rock Records
YES! Reinvigorated!!! San Diego’s Crocodiles have brought me back from the Christmas-mix brink with their rip-roaring “Christmas in Hell.” Sickness! Unemployment! Fascists! Jerks! Christmas! This is that song I fucking needed to feel like my mix is going to happen this year. It has been years since the fantastic Dum Dum Girls’ collaboration, “Merry Christmas (Please Don’t Die),” and damn I wish they would show up to this party every year. I have too much listening to do for a very long review, but this thing is going to grab you immediately, so no need for the hard sell.
Bottom Line: “Bah bah bah bah… Christmas in Helllllll”
London punk rock band Dream Nails surprised the first 450 people who preordered their new S/T record with a Christmas card… and a Christmas song! “Lonely Star” is the first Christmas song that I’ve encountered that is specifically about sending out love to our LGBTIQ+ brothers and sisters during this time of very specific emotional baggage, and when family ties require more love than just blood can solely provide. The heart in this song is huge and beats loudly: “We wrote a Christmas song that sends strength and love to anyone finding this time of year particularly tough – especially those who are LGBTIQ+ or struggling with acceptance and support at home. We see you, we’re here for you and we love you!!!”
Proceeds from Bandcamp sales will be going to The Outside Project, the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Crisis/Homeless Shelter and Community Center. You can also tune in for the first live performance of the song at their live-streamed Feministmas gig on December 6th. Pay-what-you-can tickets are still available!
In the year of COVID COVID COVID, it can be easy to forget that there are so many other issues and people that need our attention, and Dream Nails reminds us to remember check in with those we love. Not everyone is going to call you up to let you know they are hurting or lonely, so no matter who you are or how your identify, let’s share our love this Christmas.
Bottom Line: Great song and a beautiful message. I see (and hear) you Dream Nails, this thing is fantastic.
Buy: Bandcamp | Bandcamp (Full Album)
There are a few bands who this blog is pretty much wholly devoted to, and Christmas Aguilera is one. I have yet to miss a post on a release, and as long as they continue to record them, I’ll continue to write about them. They can hit you with something that makes you smile, something that make you cry, or fucking both! This year they’ve got a few things up their sleeves, but we’ll concentrate on the new song first. “Why Can’t I Go To Sleep” is actually a song that they wrote around the time of their first EP, the self-titled Christmas Aguilera. Played live but never recorded, the band rediscovered it amongst some bedroom recordings, and decided to give it a go. COVID being what it is, the extra time afforded some more collaboration – a guest drummer, a bass player and a choir of friends joined the effort. The recordings were passed around and each person added their part, until we have this beautiful, choral mantra to open the song, “Go to sleep / Why Can’t I / Go to sleep / Sheep counting / Go to sleep / Why Can’t I / Go to sleep.” Then, the tension of the mantra breaks and the song bursts open. You can feel the joy and love in this song, as the voices raise and the shouts go up. You get the feeling that the collaborative production of the track was a pressure release valve. To participate in this song was to press play on a world that has been perpetually paused… a light at the end of the tunnel. The excitement of Christmas, and of the future, comes through beautifully, and is just what I needed.
Christmas Aguilera have something else up their sleeve this year – they are finally going to be on all those fancy streaming services. I know most of you are on Spotify, and so am I, but I gotta say – I’m seriously considering Tidal because it pays artists more. I’m pretty invested in Spotify, but maybe we’re a two-streaming service family for a bit? I could get the family on board… give Tidal a run… and help all those people whose music I love buy dinner, pay for a kid’s college, etc. You know I don’t post many streaming links here – it takes 1500 streams to equal one song (Billboard) – but the convenience is unavoidable. I encourage you to buy the song. I want you to buy records (I bought 3 today), buy t-shirts and buy livestream tickets. Think about how great it feels to be told you did a good job! That is what buying someone’s record feels like to them – it is validation for their hard work and worth as an artist! SHOW YOU LOVE THEM, don’t just tell them. Oh yeah, I started this paragraph by saying that the entire Christmas Aguilera catalog is going to be on streaming. This is wonderful, and please help spread their music – AFTER you purchase it on Bandcamp and help support Shelter, a UK charity that aids the homeless, because that is who Christmas Aguilera continues to support with all their proceeds. This is a year like no other to think of the less fortunate… so let’s not just think, let’s do.
Bottom Line: Christmas Aguilera pull a treasure out of the closet and wow us once more.