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.
If I had a nickel for every time I said, “You name your band Toad Venom, and I’m going to check you out.” Well, a bunch of psych rock musicians from Vikingstad, Sweden finally took me up on this well-known offer, and have also made some absolutely excellent psych Christmas music! 2021’s The Ingen vidare jul (Christmas is cancelled) EP is two tracks of badass psych, as the leadoff track “God Jul” blasts off, a soaring Swedish Christmas anthem (to which I have no clue what is being said). The flip, “Merry (Christmas) and me,” is in English, and very much suits their style as described on Bandcamp: “A band, experimenting the void between spaghetti western and psychedelic rock.” Those twangy western guitars that introduce the track – so terribly cool. The song builds and builds, at times triggering me to think a bit about Spiritualized for some reason. There are so many cool movements to this song, yet it still comes in at an economical 4:00. Perhaps one of the most badass Christmas tunes I’ve come across in a good while.
Bottom Line: Two extremely good tracks from my new favorite band and best friends (pending).
Sometimes you just want some swagger. Toronto’s Alex Exists is overflowing with such swagger in his big, glam-infused Christmas single, “Never Christmas Without You.” The guitars bend, the vocals soar, and the attitude seeps out of every line. While the song’s first notes immediately place this song within the Christmas canon, the lyrics are far more interesting than you may anticipate. There are these couplets of contradiction that I thought are so perfect and relatable:
Love and hate Are both the same You can’t control where Your heart is aimed We hated the cold but Still loved the snow
Delivered with Alex’s expressive vocals, this song is filled with huge brush strokes of emotion. I found his delivery to be captivating – he isn’t singing a song, he is completely engaged in performing it. While I might continue on to opine about what his motivation might be when writing this song, Alex explains it quite well on his Bandcamp page:
This is a song for anyone that feels crestfallen during the holiday season. Love it or hate it, the holidays bring out a lot of different and often complicated emotions in us all. This is a sentimental song that bites back and evokes a bit of sass towards all those hurtful moments in life. If you’re feeling lonely, like I used to during these times, you might resonate with this song. No matter how tragic life gets for you, there is always an extra seat at our table.
Bottom Line: A big, beautiful, emotional song for a complicated time of year.
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.
Beau Jennings wowed us all a few years back with his stunning Christmas LP, The Christmas Light, and we can all be thankful (it is nearly Thanksgiving!) that he took another stab at a seasonal song – because we all know it is going to be great. “Midnight Service” is a slow burn, with a simple, shimmering guitar line that flutters from ear-to-ear, a delicate flurry of musical snow to encase Beau’s “internal Christmas journey.” The song beautifully captures the transition between a child’s Christmas and an adult’s, and an embrace of something new. This is best captured in his last beautiful lines:
“Now I don’t worry anymore / about the kind of Christmas I knew before I let it come and I let it go / like the northern wind or the falling snow.”
Bottom Line: This song is full of heart and beauty, and is a wonderful addition to Beau and Co.’s stellar seasonal catalog.
I love those Crookes’ Christmas records that they used to put out… and Chicago’s The Walters has me feeling those sorts of feelings once more. TikTok brought them back together after 4-year hiatus, just in time for their first seasonal single, “Another Christmas.” The song shares some DNA with those great indiepop/rock singles of I loved – sentimental and catchy to the point that you end up bobbing down the street singing the chorus in your head. While the main thrust is somewhat sad, spending Christmas alone and such, the end of the song, “everybody’s singing / Christmas bells are ringing” suggests that everything is going to be alright.
Who would have guessed… the Handsome Family classic underground Christmas song “So Much Wine” has finally broken through to the mainstream with Phoebe Bridgers selecting it as her yearly Christmas song. I must say… it is her best one yet. I am genuinely torn as to whether I like hers or Katy Kirby’s better, and I believed Katy’s to be a 2022 Christmas mix lock. Sit back and enjoy… this one is so terribly good.
EDIT: I thought that was Andrew Bird whistling in the background… and yup, it was.
Bottom Line: Phoebe has really knocked it out of the park with this year’s Christmas song… and solidified the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine” with solid, underground (and maybe mainstream??) classic status.
Have you ever heard a song and wondered, “what took so long?” Titus Andronicus popped into my Bandcamp feed this morning with a reworking of a classic song that absolutley everybody knows… but as a Christmas song. It makes so much sense… as if it was always there in the ether and somebody just needed to grab it. I really don’t want to ruin the smile that you’ll have when you immediately realize what they’ve done. This is indeed a Drummer Boy that I can get behind :).
I am finally getting through all the stuff I meant to listen to last year. If you are someone who feels as though a shitload of browser tabs is a personal failing, let me introduce you to the largest failure I know… Me. Thankfully, every so often you find something that makes saving that session worth it. Minneapolis’ Bad Bad Hats has been producing a song a month on their Patreon since at least October of 2020, and what do you know… December 2020’s theme was Christmas! Let’s let them tell you a bit more:
“I was listening to all the holiday classics to get inspired and I was struck by how many great characters there are in the Christmas canon: Rudolph, Frosty, a run-over Grandma. So I wanted to add a new character to the mix. She’s a little sweet, she’s a little sassy. She’s Sally Sweet Tooth. And you’d be wise to give her your cookies.”
The song was deemed worthy to bust out of the Patreon $5 tier jail to the wider world last December, in all its early-2000s alternative/power-pop goodness. So rejoice, and remember not to be stingy with your cookies… she’ll get ya.
Bottom Line: An extremely delicious jam to spread all over your Christmas mix.