Dream Nails “Lonely Star (Christmas Song)” (2020)

Alcopop! Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

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.

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Christmas Aguilera “Why Can’t I Go To Sleep” (2020)

Self Released
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.

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael “I Won’t Hesitate (This Christmas)” (2020)

DROMA Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

Five years in, and Stafford, England’s Don’t Call Me Ishmael are settling in as one of those bands that you can rely on for excellent new Christmas music. You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 is a particularly fraught year, and we’ve seen a whole lot of different directions that folks have gone. Some songs are specifically addressing COVID (see Christmas A Go Go’s ongoing posts chronicling that phenomenon), while others are looking for hope and grasping on to those tiny lights, flickering in the dark. “I Won’t Hesitate (This Christmas)” falls squarely in that hope category, as Don’t Call Me Ishmael are grasping for that human touch. While the song could certainly be mistaken for suggesting that you just kiss under the mistletoe without regard for safety, it is much more aspirational rather than prescriptive. In fact, I confirmed this fact with the songwriter, Jack Tasker, over email:

I would say it initially came out of the desire to hug and kiss the people you love after a year of separation (my wife and I had our first child this year and it’s been so hard not to fully share that with my family and friends), but then drifted into that aspirational world of ‘what would a perfect christmas look like after a year of distance’. Gary added the “Feed the World” reference as a bit of light relief. When I started writing it the vibe was very Mountain Goats – really fast palm muted acoustic chords, but it mellowed out as the rest of the band joined in.

Don’t Call me Ishmael will take your worst jumper, your driest turkey, your cheesiest song – they just want to connect. That is a feeling that we all can plug into, no doubt about it. The production is fantastic, despite the challenges of socially-distant recording, and that chorus is catchy as hell. Be on the lookout for their “12 Days of Ishmas,” twelve days of videos which they’ll be posting on their Facebook beginning December 12, because this band fucking loves Christmas.

Bottom Line: Don’t Call Me Ishmael keep the spirit alive once more with their most epic song to date. Also… I kinda want to hear that Mountain Goats-esque demo 🙂

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Hanemoon “Christmas Time Goes By” (2020)

Jigsaw Records
Buy:
Bandcamp

Hanemoon has returned! Always a favorite on Christmas Underground, Hanemoon’s latest, “Christmas Time Goes By” is yet another fantastic addition to his ever-growing indie pop/indie rock seasonal catalogue. Feeling like 90’s-early 2000s indie rock, the groove is right there in my sweet spot. Frankly, when Hanemoon gave me a yell that he had a new song, I was 95% sure I was gonna love it because I just really dig his sound. The only thing that he could do is sing about how COVID shouldn’t be a concern or something (ugh… The Heathen and the Holy, why???) to keep me from loving it. So, gather up all the Hanemoon and Man Behind Tree Christmas songs, and you’ve got one of the best indie rock Christmas releases of the decade.

Bottom Line: Hanemoon has solved the equation for excellent indie rock Christmas tunes. So yes, I like these apples.

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Jetstream Pony – Grief of a Frozen Sailor / Hit the Snow (2020)

Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club
Buy:
Bandcamp (FLAC/MP3) | 3-Single Pack | Rough Trade | Banquet Records | Juno Records | Piccadilly Records | Jumbo Records

Even during this COVID-plagued monstrosity, when wonderful traditions like the Fowler VW/Blackwatch Christmas compilation are on forced hiatus, the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club keep the fire burning. Each year, SCSC finds 3-4 bands that are game to record a new Christmas song A-side alongside a classic Christmas cover B-side, and then he unleashes the into the world in limited white vinyl glory. If you read this blog, you know that I often veer towards the indiepop goodies, and this year SCSC has offered a doozy. To describe Jetstream Pony as anything but an indiepop supergroup is absurd since the band features Beth Arzy (The Luxembourg Signal, Trembling Blue Stars, Aberdeen, Charlie Big Time, The Fireworks) on vocals, Shaun Charman (The Wedding Present, The Popguns, The Fireworks) on guitar and backing vocals, Kerry Boettcher (Turbocat) on bass and Hannes Müller (The BV’s, Endlich Bluete), who makes his debut on drums on this release. With a pedigree like that, you’d expect that the songs will be excellent, and I believe the expectations were beautifully met. The A-side original, “Grief of a Frozen Sailor,” begins those indiepop vocals and jangly rhythm guitars that I love until the reinforcements come in, and shoegaze guitars begin to rain down. Throw in some layered vocals and jingle bells, and this is a highlight of both the shoegaze/indiepop Christmas genre.

I’ve been waiting to write about this record until I could hear the b-side, as I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered a cover of the absolutely stellar Aislers Set indie Christmas classic, “Hit the Snow.” Jetstream Pony’s version has added some meat to the production, with heavier guitars than the original, certainly making their mark on an already fantastic song. An unexpected result of my writing delay was that, as wonderful as this release is, everyone else appears to think similarly. The 7″ is sold out on Jetstream Pony’s Bandcamp, as well as for individual purchase through SCSC (still available within the 3-7″ set). However, I do believe I have found a few stores that may be getting some copies and have listed them above.

Be sure to check out the other 2 releases from this year, and if you are new to this alternative Christmas music game, all the other year’s previous releases at Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club. There are some amazing tracks to be discovered, many of which have made my own personal Christmas mix (high praise!).

Bottom Line: Two sides of absolutely stellar indiepop/shoegaze Christmas tunes. This record is going to be one of those folks are going to be hunting down in a decade…

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Willie J. Healey “Merry Christmas” (2020)

Willie J Healey - Merry Christmas

Yala! Music
Buy:
Bandcamp? | Apple Music | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Wow. Just wow. Oxfordshire’s Willie J. Healey has just released an incredible new Christmas song, and proper fanfare is in order. This song has a heavy John Lennon vibe, but not necessarily tied down to a 60s sound – it feels timeless. Willie’s voice that steals the show here; There are these subtle moments where you get a good feel for how truly good his voice is without the showy fanfare that often accompanies that kind of talent. With some fantastic lyrics, a killer chorus, and that beautiful production, this should make this a surefire hit on your 2020 Christmas mix.

Bottom Line: Willie’s song made my morning Soundcloud journey one of absolute bliss. (Perhaps a Bandcamp listing soon? Fingers crossed!)

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JW Francis “Christmas Heartache” (2020)

Sunday Best Recordings
Buy:
Bandcamp

You think there is a method to my searching? Well, there is SOME method, but a hell of a lot of it is just random searches. I hadn’t heard of JW Francis until a few weeks ago, when I was scouring DIY and caught a whiff of a possible Christmas song. JW Francis looked right up my alley, as lo-fi indie rock from New York is just about enough description to get my head spinning with possibilities. So I checked out We Share Similar Joy, his non-Christmas record (because people feel compelled to do write non-seasonal songs – go figure!), and it was awesome. Flash forward a few weeks, and JW has released a 4-song EP, JW Christmas. The record contains three covers, with “Wonderful Christmastime” being the strongest of the bunch. But I live for new, original Christmas tunes, and “Christmas Heartache” delivers. The jangly groove, the odd vocal drops (WHO DOES THAT REMIND ME OF?! IT IS DRIVING ME NUTS!), the simplicity, brevity and interesting choices make it a fantastic bite-sized snack of a song. Kick those covers to the curb, I’d love to hear some more originals from JW.

Bottom Line: Short, sweet and interesting lo-fi indie rock from JW Christmas Francis.

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Eastern Conference Champions “Saving Christmas” (2013)

RockHampton Records
Buy: 7Digital MP3 | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

After a whole night of searching, sometimes you need to just take a layup, rather than try to dunk it. Yeah, I know the fans want that new song from 2020, but you’re just going to have to settle for this ridiculously fantastic song from 2013. Philadelphia’s Eastern Conference Champions may not be with us anymore, but their legacy lives on with a host of fantastic Christmas songs and I may have to throw those up on the blog as well. You can’t ask for much more than “Saving Christmas” when searching for an indie rock Christmas song – this song kicks in, and you are off and running. I can’t believe it snuck by me for so long…

Bottom Line: Eastern Conference Champions were one of the indie rock xmas greats, and this may be their seasonal Mona Lisa. You may even recognize that this song led off my own 2019 Christmas mix, as I do NOT discriminate against older Christmas songs. It it is fucking fantastic, it is in there.

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King Gizzard and the Shitpost Wizard “Christmas Lights” (2018)

Self Released
Buy:
Bandcamp

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 anonymous Youtuber 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…

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Sharon Van Etten – Silent Night / Blue Christmas (2020)

Jagjaguwar
Buy:
Bandcamp | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

I love, love, love Sharon Van Etten. Some records I would put up in my top 20 of all time… but I did not always feel that way. SVE had to grow on me… and these two songs, perhaps they need more time too. I’ve heard them before on other comps (these are nothing “new”), but this is the first time they’ve been neatly packaged together. Sharon is fighting an uphill battle with these song choices, as they are songs we’ve heard a million times. She does make some nice choices though, especially with organ and trans-inducing, metronomic baseline on “Silent Night.” The “Blue Christmas” B-side has some interesting vocal phrasing, which I can also appreciate. Overall, these two tracks are stronger than the usual suspects I run across, but I desperately want to know what SVE could create on her own.

Bottom Line: Solid versions of those songs you know, which only make you want a genuine, Sharon Van Etten original. That said… had they released this on vinyl, I would have bought it. They are good enough to own, but borderline mixworthy depending on your mix.

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