I often think about what it would be like to be just now getting into this hobby of underground Christmas music mix-making. When I got in the game (18 years ago!), there wasn’t quite the wealth of indie rock/pop/alt.country/etc Christmas releases to hunt down. Bandcamp, the venue which I primarily exploit to find cool new songs, wasn’t founded until 2007, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I could have even embedded a track on a site like Christmas Underground. It is both exhilarating and terrifying to think about dipping my toes in for the first time in 2022… there is just so much to listen to – years and years of great songs to get through, let alone all the new releases that come out every year. Well, lucky for my imaginary self, as well as that very real person taking their first stab at making a cool Christmas mix, fellow weirdo Christmas music fan Kevin McGrath has created the perfect introduction to this niche of holiday music with the massive, expansive collection of 108 songs, Have Yourself a Merry Indie Christmas Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. This is like one of those The Greatest ________ Album in the World collections I used to bump into in the import sections of the 2000s – packing an absolute ton of the tracks you need to hear to fully get what has been going on. The sheer effort that it took to clear 108 songs is astounding, let alone the challenges of contacting bands that are no longer together, and there are some wonderful ones represented here, to which I’m delighted their musical legacy will persist. Readers of this site will find some familiar faces and names, such as Sweet Tempest, St. Lenox, Charlie’s Hand Movements, The Ornaments, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, and many, many more.
Just know you are bound to discover a new classic or two that you’ve never bumped into before. Christmas Underground is a one-person shop, and I can’t and won’t be able to know every single cool indie Christmas song out there… as I’m currently sitting here listening to Volume 1, bobbing my head to a song I’ve never heard – and I love it. All this great music also benefits a great cause, Crisis, a UK charity that helps the homeless. So, while the suggested price for each massive collection is a mere £7/$8.50, just know that you don’t necessarily have to give only $8.50. Maybe make yourself a sandwich each day this week for lunch and give a bit more? This is the season of giving, and in a world where billionaires aren’t going to save us, we need to look out for each other.
Bottom Line: These two releases could fashion 3-4 years of indie Christmas mixes for your friends and family. It is an absolutely essential purchase for new and old collectors alike.
As I continue to sift through my tabs and tabs and tabs of Christmas tunes I’ve been meaning to check out for about a year, I will continue to highlight the best of the bunch as we settle in and wait for the deluge of 2022 Christmas tracks. Now, you may know that I don’t know French, but I would imagine you agree that it sounds lovely in Christmas music. “Ça, c’est Noël” by Moncton, New Brunswick’s Julie Aubé is the latest addition to that beautiful playlist where I have no idea what they are singing about. Julie’s vocal delivery, along with this classic, French pop (with garage-rock edges) instrumentation gives the song a timeless vibe that is essential to a great Christmas song. Folks will be Googling this song, expecting to find it released on 45 in 1966… mark my words.
You’ll also likely love her non-Christmas offerings, as I’m also getting into her 2022 release, Contentment. Lots to love here.
Bottom Line: Just sing Christmas songs to me in French, Julie Aubé. I’ll bring enough eggnog for everyone.
Santapalooza noted this release on twitter a week or so ago, noting that while it was from 2016, it was “new to us.” Indeed, it was new to us. I’m not sure it was on Bandcamp before, but I could easily be mistaken. What got me was the cover… It was terrible but fantastic. The band is composed of members of two Chicago punk bands, Stephan (Nervous Passenger) and Johnny (Rat Hammer). Their unholy alliance produced three songs – two covers and an original, “Too Broke for Presents.” The covers… let’s just pretend they don’t exist. They are fine, but they are songs that are so over-covered that need to be amazing to be even acknowledged. The original, “Too Broke for Presents,” is another story altogether. The sound is what you’d expect from these guys – it has attitude, humor and a chorus that demands crowd participation – shout out that shit! “Yeah, I’m to broke for presents and I’ve got nothing for you/ I’m too broke for presents and I hope that we’re still cool. / Cause I don’t have a job to buy you anything / but I hope we’re still cool / I totally think you rule.” Yesssss.
Bottom Line: Their energy is infectious, and in a pandemic year, let’s hope that this song is the only thing you catch.
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!!)
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 Christmaswas 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!
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”
There is nothing complicated about this song, with the exception of who the fuck is singing it. King Gizzard and the Shitpost Wizard is an anonymousYoutuber who specializes in making weird ass videos around King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard songs, like the featured video which is “Rattlesnakes” with the every instance of the word rattlesnakes replaced by a member of the band repeating “mean brown rice stir fry.” On their Bandcamp, there is and entire record using a sample of someone saying “eggs.” Somehow mixed amongst this insanity is a simple, yet oddly satisfying, parody Christmas song. “Christmas Lights” is a parody of KGatLW’s “Vegemite,” and frankly, I prefer the parody! I think this song passes as a legit Christmas song all on its own, with the reworked lyrics not being too silly, yet silly enough to not take itself too seriously. It rides that perfect groove of near-silliness, one might say… perhaps you’ll agree.
when everyone says september is too early i string lights up with my girlfriend and then we’ll toast, to scrooge’s ghosts, and what i love most, is christmas lights
i love i love my christmas lights theyre bright as hell on dark ass nights i keep my bulbs all screwed in tight and plug them in whenever i like
Bottom Line: This parody song didn’t go far enough if they think I’m not gonna like it as a Christmas song. GAUNTLET THROWN King Gizzard and the Shitpost Wizard. Make a sillier tune for us, and I won’t fuck with all your parody plans the next time around…
There aren’t many Christmas songs that you could roll your windows down and jam to in 80-degree weather without getting weird looks. “Love Your Christmas,” however, demands those windows down, and the odd person walking by won’t think you are quite so odd… but maybe even awesome. The driving beat, the melody, the acerbic lyrics – Regal has found the sweet spot for cool, cranky Christmas music. Keep in mind… this Belgian band is so damn good, you are going to want to download their regular tunes too. So buy it early and you can enjoy the last bits of great weather with Regal.
Bottom Line: A splendid garage rock jam. If one listen doesn’t get you, try five and call me in the morning.
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.
I am terribly torn as to when I should write about this record, and have been putting it off for well over a week now. I have been wrestling with buying a copy, but just cannot bring myself to pay for the shipping. I’m feeling quite poor at the moment, and just can’t do it. I wish I knew of a place in the US that might be carrying this! I will sure update my post if I find one, that is for sure. All I am left with is hope; Hope that I might get a copy for Christmas – and that Santa grabs one before it inevitably sells out – BECAUSE IT WILL. Simply said… if Say Sue Me’s back catalogue is any indication of how good Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie might be – it is going to be stellar. EDIT: I ordered a copy! Bless you Jim!
For the uninitiated, Say Sue Me are an indiepop band from South Korea, and have released a string of fantastic EPs and full-lengths starting in 2014 on a South Korean label, Vitamin Entertainment, and more recently on Damnably out of London. Their most recent (and absolutely excellent) LP, Where We Were Together, is already on its fourth pressing… this band has some heat… and this Christmas EP is limited to 500. IT WILL NOT LAST LONG. Our only glimpse into what the record will sound like is with the title track, “Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie,” having appeared back in 2015 on the South Korean comp, 허수아비들의 성탄절 Heosuabi Christmas. That is one of those releases that I’ve had as a draft post for way too long… so long I forgot I had it as a draft post! Entire comps can bog me down when I normally have just 30 min here and there to try to knock out a post, and I have the thoroughly-encyclopedic Stubby as a role model, which gets me thinking I need to provide much more thoughtful, and complete information on every band. (I am full of tangents today.) Back to the song: The indie/surf pop is jangly and refreshing – a sorbet between courses of sorts – yet the lyrics are melancholy and detached. I totally dig it… but the thing is… I suspect that it is not going to be the best track on the record. Again – just based on how great their last record was, I think this EP is going to be a total highlight of the season.
Bottom Line: BLARG! I want to hear this thing. Perhaps I will do a proper (well, as proper as I do) review when I do.