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’m not often one for instrumentals, nor have I ever really featured any dub/reggae/etc on this site. But hey, there are really no rules on Christmas Underground – I just gotta like it. Mato is Thomas Blanchot, a French percussionist who has been making some really fantastic dub records under the moniker of Mato since 2006, my favorite being his reinterpretation of Daft Punk’s Homework. This year, he’s releasing a 7″ on the Paris label Stix Records, fashioning a dub treatment of “Jingle Bells” (which you can preview now) on the A-side, with “Sleigh Ride” on the flip. I could totally see it being a great fit at a Christmas party… so while it might not fit on my largely indie rock/pop-centered mix, this Mato vs Santa Claus record is most certainly worth your time.
Bottom Line: Dipping my toes in the dub shallows… who knows what other cool records are out there to pull me farther in!
French folk band Beausire have managed to convince me (with their music, not their e-mails) to write about an almost two minute long instrumental track. Astounding! “Christmas” is off of their latest LP released in September, and it is just… damn nice. Were the song any longer than it is, and I might not be writing about it, but under two minutes and this enjoyable – that makes an argument for a place on a Christmas mix. So, check it out, and you might as well feel the same.
Bottom Line: I’m here for your mix-making inspiration, and Beausire inadvertently are as well. This may very well find a home with you all.
Le Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club Buy:Bandcamp
One of my absolute favorite finds ever was the Christmas EP put out by Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club, which is SOMEHOW still available. I mean come on. Any self-respecting alternative Christmas fan should own that thing. Well, they have also released two great Christmas singles by the Basse-Normandie band a Drift. The first one was lovingly reviewed on this very blog back in 2015, and the lastest…….. well here it is. I know, what a twist! “Make Christmas Great Again” is an obvious jab at our orange leader, just based on the title alone. However, just to be sure, the song begins with “Once in the biggest tower of the biggest town, / Lived the richest boy who never asked for what he had.” I do believe that fits the biography. However, there may be hope for this young boy. He proceeds to ask for Santa to make a wonderful Christmas for him, his family and friends. While a bit self-centered, not a terrible request from this young boy. However, as Christmas arrives and he is sitting there alone, his true nature is revealed and things take a turn toward the megalomaniacal.
Make Christmas Great Again
Make Christmas Great Again
I want a big big party
I wanna be adored
I want them to scream my name
and ask for more
Make Christmas Great Again
Make Christmas Great Again
Build a wall around the house
so they can’t get out,
and I can play with them
until new year strikes.
One could say that I love a good political Christmas song… and they would be right. A Drift’s deft ability to set the scene, then twist the knife stands in both contrast and compliment to the doo-wop indiepop groove. It is a big smile while flipping the bird, and sometimes those are the best.
Bottom Line: Political indiepop from our sharp-tongued brothers in arms.
I should just leave the review with that, in that those who understand, those in the know, would just see that and buy the record. However, I’m not going to be so presumptuous, and think that every single person reading my blog already knows the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club. This label is devoted wholly to Christmas music, creating a yearly tradition of 3-4 limited 7″ vinyl Christmas singles, featuring a wide array of fantastic bands contributing an A-side original seasonal song, with a B-side cover of their choosing. Paris trio SuperBravo is a particular highlight for me this year. Their original, “La Nuit” is Pinback-esque in rhythm and melody, but with these fascinating noises interjected throughout. Honestly, Snowflakes’ writeup captured it pretty damn well: “The song itself sounds like magic, as a fairytale come to life, with strange little creatures making weird sounds, angels harmonizing ‘Noel Noel’ and dreamy vocals – as dreamy as only French female vocals can sound.” This truly sounds like no other Christmas song I’ve heard, and that is most welcome.
The B-side, “Chanson Pour Les Enfants l’Hiver” (‘Song For The Children Of The Winter’) is a poem published by Jacques Prévert in 1946. Their take collages sounds overtop a chiptune/toytronica base, which wonderfully frames how classicly French-pop Armelle Pioline’s vocals are; They add beauty to every canvas they touch. This is a solid one-two punch of a Christmas single.
Bottom Line: Fascinating French pop that bends the genre to its will.
French indie rock band Stuck in the Sound did an odd little thing back in January 2018… they released a Christmas single! “Marry Me on Christmas Day” throws me back to my college days listening to Travis’ The Invisible Band, as the vocals are quite pretty, and the lyrics equally sentimental. Nearly too sugary-sweet for my older, crustier ears, this understated song benefited from multiple listens, listens that reminded me of the pleasure a sweet song could bring.
Bottom Line: Hey, there is plenty of shit going on right now. Here is 3:30 of kindness to smooth out your wrinkles. Unfortunately, this track only exists on YouTube… but you know… there are ways to get it onto your mix, should you need to.
Don’t you hate it when you find a band, get all excited, then find out that band has JUST broken up. Well… consider this fantastic garage rock anthem Sapin‘s final Christmas gift to us all. This four-piece garage country-rock band from the Rennes, France countryside demands that you move around in your seat. The youthful exuberance seeps out of every pore with this song – from the lyrics of anticipation and angst – to the driving music and carefree, raspy vocals. This song is just damn, damn fun. Prendre plaisir! (Google translate, don’t fail me now!)
Bottom Line: You are sitting on your couch, wearing your headphones, and your family begins to see you slightly convulse, legs wiggling, head bobbing, eyes wide. This sounds about right.
The fine folks over at Jean Luc Tobine’s Official Fan Club hipped me to this amazing track about a year ago… but I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. It is just such a massive song. The Slow Sliders are this wonderful french 4-piece who decided to jam on a fantastic Beach House-esque shoegaze Christmas song (“Merry Christmas”) for a whole hour, thirty-six minutes and fifty-five seconds. I would say that you could use this one song for your entire mix, but being that I am a Christmas mixer still attached to physical media and its constraints… that would be too long! The gentle rhythm combined with a mesmerizing organ melody, this song becomes a Christmas lullaby interrupted only by bursts of soaring, fluttering vocals. What I would give to hear a proper, 4-5 minute version…
Bottom Line: The pure audaciousness of this song. I somehow love it. I have caught myself listening to this one song for over 40 minutes before, and I still liked it. I’m a little baffled myself.
Is this what a 4-minute version might sound like? 🙂
I can’t even begin to explain who Argentinian-born, France-recorded, UK-reissued Jean-Pierre Bernard Massiera is, but I can say that this track from 1968, recently digitally reissued by London’s Finders Keepers Records, is pretty badass. The release, Bonne Année, technically contains two tracks, “Bonne année” and “Bonne année 1969,” but the first is so much slower and less interesting, and I really just wanted to yell about how much damn fun “Bonne année 1969” is. It is funky, it is trippy, it has off-mic screaming, a driving beat, one hell of a brass section, cackling and ho ho hos – so pretty much everything. It is, simply said, FUN.
Bottom Line: Would you drink water from the kitchen sink? Well no, but this kitchen sink, why yes I would.
It may have been 85 degrees out (30 celsius for my international friends), but snow is in the air… as this past week or so has brought the announcement of the always-wonderful Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club lineup! For the uninitiated, the SCSC is a label that exclusively releases limited-edition Christmas 7″ vinyl singles, with the A-side being an original, and the B-side being a cover. Such a fantastic premise, and one that is realized beautifully by the hard work of our fellow underground-Christmas devotee, Robert.
This year’s crop is a doozy – starting with perhaps the biggest name to grace the SCSC, Bis! Bis have been releasing quality indiepop since 1994 (with a hiatus or two), and astonishingly enough… I think this may be their first Christmas release! How they missed releasing a Christmas single when they are both 1) an indiepop band and 2) Scottish, beats me. I just wrote about 2 Scottish indiepop bands last week!
Next up are the French garage-rock band The Limiñanas. Previously featured on Christmas Underground for their cover of “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” this year they are teaming up with Pascal Comelade for the deliciously-titled “Curse of Santa Claus,” as well as what I’m imagining will be an interesting take on “Silent Night.” Should be interesting!
Finally, St. Petersburg, Florida’s Seafang will lend their shoegaze/dreampop sounds to their original “Happy When it Snows,” as well as the Primatives’ “You Trashed My Christmas.” The Primitives cover could be great fit for Seafang – I’m curious how they’ll make it their own.
All-in-all, it promises to be another very strong year for the wonderful Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club. I hope you check it out, order early and often, and help keep this tradition going!!
Bottom Line: Being that I haven’t heard a thing yet, I can’t really say – but I most certainly can say that I’M EXCITED.