Sleep Thieves “November Christmas” (2014)

Sleep Thieves "November Christmas"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I’m sure you’re going to see this track pop up a few more places, as it already has on Stubby’s Free List earlier this morning – so why not here too? Dublin’s Sleep Thieves have created a great, moody, synth Christmas song with their new track, “November Christmas.” The song’s verses trudge along with a deep synth bass, a flutter of melody and a beat you could set your watch to. So, when the tone lifts and the chorus swings in, it pushes you up just enough to pop your head above the water. It really is a great chorus, and worth the wait. Certainly a nice change of pace from the jingle bells that infiltrate most of the season. I would be fawning all over this track if it was just a tad bit more upbeat like their wonderful track “City of Hearts.”

Bottom Line: A dark electro Christmas song and done dark electro well. OH… and free. 3.8/5

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Charlie’s Hand Movements “Baubles” (2014)

Charlies Hand Movement " Baubles"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp | Bandcamp

Wow. What a find. Charlie’s Hand Movements are Adam Gardner and Lance M Keelbe, two gents from Benfleet, England, and they have just released their second Christmas song in as many years. Now that you are introduced, I must say, “Baubles” is really beautiful. “I was your bauble / hanging from a tree / wrap me in tinsel / make me believe.” Some nice turns of phrase, some beautiful music, and excellent vocals to round out the package to make “Baubles” quite spectacular. “If we fall, we’ll shatter / but it don’t matter at all.” I love that lyric. Each listen gets better… and it’s free! So what are you waiting for??

Bottom Line: Love it. Great song, free download. I am pleased as punch. What a day of great Christmas songs. 5/5

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(EDIT) – they took down their own page for this song, so here is an embed of the Dismas compilation that it also appeared on.

Murder by Death – 2014 Christmas Cover Songs (2014)

Murder By Death Christmas Covers 2014

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Murder by Death just released a 2-song covers single to backers of their recent Kickstarter, and lucky for us, they are also offering up for purchase to those who had no clue such a Kickstarter existed! “Oh Holy Night” is done in such a beautiful fashion, with a cello that slips in and, if you are like me, has the ability to give you goosebumps. The other cover is “My Evergreen” by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and the song is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an extremely faithful cover; they did very little to change the approach of the original, but the sound seems more rich and full. To me, this is now the definitive version of “My Evergreen.”

Bottom Line: Absolutely stellar two-song single. 5/5

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Christmas Aguilera “Santa’s Car” (2014)

Christmas Aguilera "Santa's Car"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

It is no secret that I absolutely love Christmas Aguilera. So… I keep in touch and annoyingly e-mail them each year, wondering if they are doing a new Christmas song. Therefore, I knew a song was coming, and think it’s well worth the wait. CA always takes a different tack when it comes to writing Christmas songs, and I greatly appreciate that. A tale is spun of Santa experiencing massive budget cuts, with Christmas spirit in steep decline. Yet he persists, and there’s a sweetness to the melody that lifts it from its dreary premise towards that glimmer of hope. As always, this song benefits their local homeless charity in East London – so you have no reason not to buy this song. Well done, Christmas Aguilera.

In a somewhat related matter, you should also check out Hero and Leander. Just cuz. Not that they might be part of this mysterious Christmas Aguilera band… Did Steve tell you that? That Steve…

Bottom Line: I never know what to expect, and this more subdued tune is yet another piece in a beautiful puzzle. 4.8/5

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Simon Love “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” (2014)

Simon Love "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

freakScene.
Buy: Bandcamp

Simon Love already has one Christmas song coming out this season, “Santa’s Beard”, found on A Very Cherry Christmas 10. He must really have found the spirit, because he felt another was in order. Simon Love acheived exactly what he set out to do – cover “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” as The Jesus and Mary Chain. You cannot get more fuzzed out guitars if you tried. Certainly a unique take on a classic song. However, I do feel that this is less a crowd pleaser and more to a particular taste – perhaps yours?

Bottom Line: “Winter Wonderland” is certainly not my favorite Christmas classic, but points for an original take. 3.9/5

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Seth Pettersen “I Called You Last Christmas” (2014)

Seth Pettersen "I Called You Last Christmas"

Self Released / Burger Records
Buy: Bandcamp

The Burger Records’ crew is always churning out indie rock/garage rock Christmas tunes this time of year, and finally, Seth Pettersen has gotten in on the act! I really loved his 2012 release, Natural Machine, so I was pumped when I saw his song pop up on Burger’s Holiday playlist. It’s a simple song, Seth gets high, calls Sasha, gets the message. Perhaps done by anybody else, I wouldn’t enjoy it quite so much, but Seth is just great. I should be more academic, but I just really like Seth. Even if you don’t like this song, check out that link above for Natural Machine. I wore that cassette OUT.

Bottom Line: Seth Pettersen all up in your earholes. 4/4

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Crying Day Care Choir – Christmas Day Care Choir (2013)

Crying Day Care Choir - Christmas Day Care Choir

Self-Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Last year the wonderful German blog Lie in the Sound pointed me toward this beautiful folk EP by Sweden’s Crying Day Care Choir. The two best tracks, “Christmas Day Care Choir (Falala)” and “First Christmas” bookend the release, and led to a very tough decision when considering which one to include on this year’s mix. I finally decided to add “First Christmas,” which surprised me. Sweet Christmas songs have never really been my forte, and this is most certainly the sweetest to make a mix. The song is grounded in a reality that I found beautiful, and try as I might, I was unable to talk myself out of adding it. It was just too good.

Bottom Line: Simple, beautiful folk music and harmonies from Sweden. 4.8/5

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Saint John and Farmer Jesse “Snowy Evening” (2014)

Saint John and Farmer Jesse

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Saint John and Farmer Jesse put Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” to music, and hot damn if it doesn’t work wonderfully. The whole thing is unexpected – the vocals are a touch gravely, and the music, with the programed beats and the jangling guitar, are far from what you might expect if you were to be presented with the prospect of this song. Internet, feel free to correct me, but in my basic searches (mainly Youtube), there is NOTHING coming close to a treatment like this (at least for this poem). This is just one track off their new, wonderfully-titled Christmas record, Krampus and Clover. Check it out, perhaps other tracks may tickle your fancy the way this did mine.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed their approach, and while not an original “song,” their choices most certainly are. 4/5

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Chris Farren “I’m Not Ready For Christmas (ft. Mae Whitman)” (2014)

Chris Farren - Like A Gift From God or Whatever

Self Released / Soft Speak Records
Buy: Bandcamp | Very Limited Vinyl | Limited Vinyl Repress

Naples-based singer-songwriter Chris Farren has a very interesting Christmas record coming out tomorrow. I can’t say I knew too much about him, but certainly recognized his “The Smiths” t-shirt that made the rounds earlier this year. This ignorance left me quite surprised by this first single, “I’m Not Ready for Christmas.” I either expected a punk or comedy record, to be honest. I was most certainly wrong. What I found instead is a wonderful Christmas song, chock full of the kind of regret that the holiday season can bring. You may think that I revel in wrong stuff… but come on, its songs like this that make listening to Christmas music palatable. If all you listen to are jingle bells, you are an insane person (or will become one). That said, this song is bound to bring up some lost love in your past, be it the girl you loved in grade school or the boy you almost married. “Maybe in another life we’d be walking down that aisle, / but under white string lights you’ll go left and I’ll go right, / and wish each other another silent night.” That part comes in right after he introduces this saxophone that completely makes the song. Tasteful sax, nothing like it. Lots more to read about this record over at Vice’s Noisy blog, including a rundown of all the guests on his full length, Like A Gift From God or Whatever, and an interview where he discusses every song.

EDIT: Just announced today (October 20, 2015) – Vinyl edition with a vinyl-only bonus track!
EDIT: Just announced today (November 6, 2017) – Randomly-colored vinyl repress of 500 copies!

Bottom Line: I loved this slice of melancholy, and the beautiful music only made it sweeter to hear. I only wish I could hear more (it comes out tomorrow!) 4.9/5

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UPCOMING: It’s Coming on Christmas 2 (2014)

It's Coming on Christmas

Daisy Digital
Buy: Bandcamp | Bandcamp Deluxe Edition

One of the most anticipated releases (for me) this year is Daisy Digital‘s charity compilation, It’s Coming on Christmas 2. She just released the lineup of bands, and it includes a NEW Slow Club song, as well as tracks from Summer Camp, Shy Nature and The Districts to name a few (there are a TON of bands on this list). I’m damn excited, and can’t wait to hear it. While it may be coming out too late for this year’s mix (for me at least)… I’m going to have an eye on next year for sure. More to come on this release as it develops.

Be sure to check out last year’s compilation as well – all proceeds are donated to CoppaFeel! a charity that helps breast cancer awareness, educating young people on the importance of checking their boobs regularly and knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

UPDATE: There is now a deluxe version available as well, with 3 additional tracks, outtakes, bonus photos, and a PDF booklet. And they both come out on December 10th!