A quick search for “Guinness book of world records most Christmas songs” comes up with the usual results – mainly that Bing Crosby’s performance of “White Christmas” is the biggest selling single of all time. There is not a record for MOST Christmas songs yet… though if there is (and there should be), Kristian Noel Pederson will have a shot at it. In what is his 14th record of original Christmas songs (not including the Hanson’s Snowed Incover record), Saul McCartney’s Magical Holiday Season is a triumph. A concept record that follows an alternate-universe pop star from the 60’s starting anew with a solo career, this record feels joyful and light. Perhaps this is the freedom of writing from a wholly new perspective outside of yourself? I’m not in Kristian’s mind… yet. There are so many wonderful moments on this record, but as I start thinking about which one to talk about, I realize that I’m gravitating to all the horn parts. The use of brass on this record is just perfection – it is that final seasoning on your Christmas meal that makes you sit up and take note… creates those neural connections that will make you talk about that meal for years to come. I’m in the midst of “I Hope it Snows Tonight” for the third time, delighting in every moment- horns, guitars, the whole damn thing. Please listen to this record – it is an absolute joy.
Bottom Line: A Kristian Noel Pederson record is always one to look forward to, and this has to be my favorite yet. I would buy this on vinyl – 100%
I’m going to post a bunch of single tracks, then the whole thing so that they aggregate in the Hype Machine. There is a method to the madness below.
Fun indiepop from Athens, Georgia. Well, that feels about as right as deep-dish Pizza from Chicago, or Nazis on Twitter; They just make sense together. Casper & the Cookies also holds a special place for me because I have a friend who used to be in the band! (I doubt she reads my blog, but hi Suzanne!) They also have lots of connections to the Athens, Georgia scene – being part of peak Of Montreal (IMHO Satanic Panic/Sunlandic Twins), opening for the Apples in Stereo, releasing singles on Happy Birthday to Me Records, etc, etc. Their new Christmas song, “Kiss Me Beneath the Christmas Tree,” would have fit nicely in with the sexy Christmas song roundups that have been curated over at Christmas a GoGo, as this song bypasses the mistletoe and gets you horizontal, “I’ll unwrap you, you’ll unwrap me.” Santa even gets an invite to a “ménage a three,” should he show up. Tie all these playful, sexy words up in some upbeat indiepop, and you have a recipe for some silly, poppy holiday fun.
Edit: It appears this track was originally released as an MP3 in 2007. Happy to have it back!
Bottom Line: You need some silliness amidst all the sentimentality, and this’ll do the trick.
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.
Jacklen Ro has an absolutely stellar pop sensibility. Their previous season effort was 2020’s “C U Christmas Day,” is an indiepop classic and one of my favorite songs to come out of that Covid-plagued season. Their latest, “Wishlist,” is slower and sweeter, but that indiepop goodness remains as potent as ever. For some reason, I loved the line “cause you make all my bulky sweatshirts look nice.” It made me think about how my wife is often stealing my sweatshirts as she lets the dog out… and made me feel that much sweeter about her, and about the song. You know you love someone when they steal something of yours and you think it is cute, and not THE ABSOLUTE WORST.
Bottom Line: Jacklen Ro is one of those bands you’re going to fall in love with.
To say I’ve been busy is an understatement. I pulled my first 24-hour long day the other day… and I haven’t done that in… maybe 15 years? My mix is done, and I hope to post it in a day or two, but until then, I’ll try to share a few more songs depending on how much energy I have. I always burn out before Christmas, and this year has had a pretty quick fuse.
Now let’s continue posting some upbeat indiepop Christmas songs!
I know I’ve been writing a lot about French Canadian Christmas music lately, so please don’t be fooled by the name of this next band, the French Cassettes. This lovely indiepop fourpiece hails from San Francisco. “Be Bright (A Christmas Song)” is their first stab at a holiday tune, and I do hope not their last. The lyrics appear to be trying to coax someone out of the house to spend Christmas together, and they’ve piled on the jingle bells and the bpm as an enticement. In a year of slow burns, these simple upbeat jams are a welcome relief.
Bottom Line: The French Cassettes Christmas debut is a worthy, upbeat slice of holiday fun. You might also get a postcard from them if you buy the song 🙂
I’m not shy when it comes to hunting down Christmas tunes. I was scouring indiepop Facebook, spot-checking bands with keyword searches, and came across the Scottish indiepop band U.S. Highball. The two members of U.S. Highball had both been in the band The Pooches, who released a 4-song Christmas EP a number of years back and was no longer available. Thus, I reached out with the hope that it might still exist somewhere. The band, specifically the half of the band named Calvin Halliday, was extremely sweet and got back to me quickly – that EP was lost! Well, as luck would have it, I am friends with (and live in the same town as) No Love for Ned, a fellow indiepop and underground Christmas music fan. Ned also has a very generous physical and digital collection… and he had it! A couple covers, short and lovely, notably including “Jesus Christ” by Big Star. Wasn’t that a very long story to tell you that Calvin mentioned he and James Hindle were currently working on a Christmas song?! Here we have “Marge’s Second Christmas,” and it is a ton of fun. The song began as a demo Calvin had recorded over ten years ago, worked into a Christmas song, and recorded and released into the world as a beautiful tribute to Calvin’s dog Marge. I want to feel the way about my new puppy that Calvin did about Marge, but puppies will test that love. Think I’m crazy? Have you had a puppy? Or have you just enjoyed other folk’s puppies? Adult dogs, 2-year-old dogs like Marge… those dogs know what’s up and how to be a dog. A puppy is an adorable ball of fur and destruction. The tiny, tiny holes in my clothes…
Ah yes! All proceeds go to Give a Dog a Bone – a charity that tackles loneliness and isolation for folks over 60 through animal companionship. It is the season of giving, so give it a listen, then give generously.
Bottom Line: UPBEAT Christmas indiepop in a season of chill, introspective tunes… you are going to need to mix it up, and this pup will lead the way.
Aōtearoa, New Zealand-based alt.country/folk/pop (how do you like that combo?!) artist Erny Belle has complicated my mix-making struggle by throwing this beauty into the mix at the last second. Erny has moved from hating the commercial behemoth that is our cultural commercial Christmas celebration and found a way to love the weird ritual of it all. This is her take on a Maori Christmas song, as she is very much celebrating the love, but poking a little fun at the neon-laced seriousness of the holiday. I’m game for sure.
Bottom Line: I love it when folks approach Christmas from a wholly new direction, and the music is quite gorgeous as well.
I check in every year, hoping to get a “Yup, we’re working on it!” and thankfully, after a week or so of anticipation, the new Christmas Aguilera has dropped. One of the stalwart presences on Christmas Underground, I believe I have mentioned them on every podcast I have ever appeared on (3 now!) and will continue to do so as long as folks make the mistake of asking me to talk to them. “Once Upon a Time” fits beautifully into that gen-x/millenial Christmas pocket that my wife and I perfectly straddle. Remembering our youth, dreaming of those Adidas predator cleats (or boots) meant to help you curve the ball or that copy of Mortal Combat… you don’t have to necessarily have to relate to those specific items to remember that feeling of slightly-desperate Christmas hope. This is a very specific feeling of anticipation that I am happy to tap into and Christmas Aguilera captures that beautifully.
Bottom Line: I never know what I’m going to get from Christmas Aguilera, and each year they manage to bring something new and wonderful to the table.
As The Magnetic Fields are one of the bigger indie bands out there, and thus I am not going to be giving much background as to who they are… look them up if you are unfamiliar, and bask in their classic 69 Love Songs. I’m genuinely jealous of those who have no clue who they are and have the opportunity to listen to them for the first time. There are a number of excellent Magnetic Fields’ holiday-esque songs… “Everything is One Big Christmas Tree” may be the one I see most on playlists. Somewhat overlooked is the absolutely lovely “Have You Seen It in the Snow?” off of 2017’s 50 Song Memoir. Let’s change that.
Bottom Line: Have you read Christmas Underground in the snow? Bet it is as pretty as New York, which I can attest is quite lovely with a dash (not a TON) of snow, and Stephin Merritt paints a beautiful picture here.
In my previous post, I was amazed that you could make a foot-stomper out of “Silent Night.” I find it only appropriate to mention that the UK’s Silver Biplanes have managed to pep up the (often) slow burn of “Silver Bells.” Most bands find themselves drawn to slow down this classic, yet Silver Biplanes have discovered the path to making this song a good bit of fun. Jangly indiepop is all one really needs sometimes…
Bottom Line: Kick out the jams and speed up those ol’ chestnuts.