When I crash, I crash hard. Christmas 2020 was like a brick wall. After an exhausting 2020, the deluge of songs and records that hit in those last 2-3 days before Christmas was overwhelming. I have so many tabs open that they haunt my dreams. I didn’t know when I was going to feel motivated enough to dip my toes back in, but I’ve been driving my wife’s car the past few days (which has a CD player) and popped in my latest Christmas mix… I really love those songs. So now I need to find good Christmas and Christmas-adjacent tunes once more…
I don’t speak Japanese, but I do speak fun (…sometimes). The Pats Pats are a “girl band from Tokyo” (I don’t believe you need to qualify what the sex of a band is, but they specifically do), and their particular brand of upbeat DIY-pop is an absolute pleasure. I have so little more to say about this perfect little pop nugget, which may be why this song is exactly what I needed to get back to this gig. Zero pressure, all fun.
Bottom Line: Japanese-DIY-pop perfection for anxiety-riddled, demanding jerks like me.
Sometimes you just get attracted to a feeling. This new Christmas single by The Reds, Pinks & Purples have created a beautiful, contemplative and melancholy Christmas single. The single features two originals from the DIY kitchen pop project of Glenn Donaldson from Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums, Thuja, and The Blithe Son, etc, etc. The lead track, “We Won’t Come Home at Christmas Time,” is a rather sad song, but with delicately upbeat music in true indiepop fashion. It somehow reminds me of Morrissey with a dash of Mark Eitzel and another artist that I am just at a loss for. I HATE it when that happens. The B-side is an absolutely gorgeous instrumental that is only the second instrumental that I’ve come across this season that I could see as mix-worthy. There truly is an expert craftsman at work here, no doubt about it.
H/T to No Love for Ned, who is always on the lookout for new Christmas songs for me 🙂
Bottom Line: Simple, beautiful and brief. You can’t ask for much more from an original Christmas song.
I sit here a broken man. After weather reports promised 5-8 inches of snow, I gaze out upon our lawn and its slushy, icy mess, and a single tear ran down my cheek… only to freeze before it falls. Then, a DM comes in, announcing a new track by some of my favorite indiepop Christmas folks, and things begin to turn around. Following the triumph that was last year’s Christmas single, Oihana and Tamu return with “Una noche más ,” yet another shimmering Christmas present. The pulsing beat propels their dreamy vocals, as more synths swirl in to season this lullaby for the year that has passed. I was graciously provided an English translation of the lyrics, and they are simply gorgeous.
One more night the year’s over And we, together, say goodbye One more night you’ll come with me Looking -both of us- for a little love
And the light will guide us to the manger, again And the snow will cover the road as we walk One more night One more night we’re peaceful I see you shine in the dark And the light will guide us to the manger, again And the snow will cover the road as we walk One more night.
Should you find yourself wanting even more Oihana and Tamu, and you will, there is much more to enjoy. Oihana leads the band Melenas, whose last fantastic LP, Días Raros (which I am listening to and fucking loving as I type this), came out in May on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind. You can look for Tamu’s band Exnovios, to have a new record in 2021, but in the meantime, you can rock out to their 2020 EP, Exnovious (Apache), which is also available as a 7″. So much good music to spend your Christmas money on…
Bottom Line: There are few bands I can rely on to send me absolutely anything, and I can be rest assured I will love it. Oihana & Tamu have officially joined this club, as they continue their streak of incredible indiepop/garage/dream pop Christmas tunes.
Likely used to the challenges of socially-distanced recording, the BV’s hail from both Falmouth in Cornwall and Ausburg, Germany. This year, they found some time to scratch that itch – you know, the one when you want a little Joy Division mixed into your indiepop Christmas mix! I’m sure I should be able to think of a couple other touchstones, but man… really feeling that Joy Division sound, and it is just what I needed. Between the steady beat, those glimmering guitar lines, to those talk-singing lyrics of woe, this is the prettiest dirge I’ve heard this year.
Our friends in Austin have been BUSY during this, the oddest of years. In years past, the Grapes and Friends have created a swanky jam to add to their already substantial Christmas repertoire, and to be performed at their annual Christmas Extravaganza! Of course, the usual extravaganzas are on hold this year, but that has not stopped this juicy crew from planning a big, virtual party! There will be singalongs, cocktails and shenanigans! Hell, I might even be able to finally tick one of those bucket-list Christmas parties off my list! This year’s song keeps in the recent Grapes’ style, mixing equal parts Beck’s Midnight Vultures, the Bee Gees and Prince. Move this song onto that playlist of hopeful, happy songs that have come out of this lockdown year. Next Christmas is going to be amazing, and the Grapes will be there to woo you with their falsetto seductions and slinky basslines.
• Live performances by the Grapes & Friends • Updates on Boy Christmas’ journey to finally see The Grapes & Friends live in Austin • Exclusive preview of Jack Frost’s latest thriller feature length film • Special guest appearances by some of our celebrity friends • Debut of this year’s Christmas Single music video • Singalongs, audience participation and more!
Bottom Line: The Grapes and Friends are pure, uncut fun. That bridge is gonna get you off your damn ass, no doubt.
Ever since I first discovered Kid Canaveral about five years ago, Lost Map has been a label that I continue to obsess over. I covet their Visitations series, as well as nearly every release they put out – they just have excellent taste in music (and their graphic design is phenomenal too – RESPECT!) and I wish I had all the money in the world to buy everything and then pay the shipping to the States. International shipping is just a killer, and keeps on record blocking me… I shake my fist at you shipping costs! Thankfully their postcards do not cost as much to ship, as I have partaken in a limited-edition Pictish Trail Christmas postcard in the past. That is a deep cut that I relished putting on last year’s Christmas mix. This year was even better, with a full Christmas compilation postcard from our Scottish friends! So, you buy the postcard (or simply, the digital download) and you get nine tracks from Lost Map bands. First off, you may notice the similarity between three tracks, all with the same title, “I Remember Xmas.” This song may even SOUND familiar to longtime readers of the blog, as I covered it back during the song’s first incarnation, as performed by Marble Gods. Marble Gods soon became Happy Spendy, and Happy Spendy’s woodwind wing, Happy Clarinetty, grabbed the song as well. Thus the compilation features THREE versions of the same great song! I’m totally OK with this, as obviously, I’m a fan of the song. The Happy Clarinetty is, as you might imagine, the most sonically distinct of the three, and a welcome addition.
A.R. Pinewood features quite heavily on this release with three songs on the record… and while I would like to give you some background on him as well, I’m just going to defer to the press release:
A.R. Pinewood is the heartbroken cyber-cowboy you’ve been dreaming of. Fully loaded with a baseline encyclopaedia of American musical influences from Abner Jay to Woody Guthrie and Buckweat Zydeco, built with a harmonica for an oesophagus, a pitch-perfect auto-tuned voice, double-denim as standard and a strangely human heart, this machine writes classics, every time.
This cyber-cowboy indeed does write classics, every time, as my favorite track off an already fantastic record is the beautiful “Tis the Season.” The pitch modification on A.R.’s tracks is initially sonically curious, but I quickly settled in to the lyrics: “Tis the season for lovesick fools.” That is one incredible line. A.R.’s cover of “Silent Night” is solid, with his vocal tweaks being the most interesting aspect of the performance until his lonely guitar is joined by a heavenly host of additional voices and instrumental colors. The song most certainly gets better as it progresses, just as a song should – especially one you already know so well. A.R.’s final contribution is the groovy “This Year,” with its’ big, singalong chorus, it is most certainly a crowd-pleaser. Three great tracks, but what more can you expect – he was programmed to do this!
Friends of the Guinness jump in the mix with two tracks, and you might be asking – who the heck are these people? I googled ’em and came up with NOTHING. Well, they are a new supergroup! Martha Ffion and Eimear from Happy Spendy, accompanied by Romeo Taylor, Craig and Beth from Savage Mansion and Ryan from Catholic Action have joined forces for this Google-challenged band, and these two tracks are their first releases. This band really knows their way around a chorus, which is that most addictive of musical drugs. “Ciara” is a snowy tale of lost love with a catchy chorus that almost tricks you into thinking you’re singing a happy song. “Town for Tomorrow” begins with this classic sound, but the keyboard melody snaps the song out of the past. I found the song is best experienced loud, so when those big chords of the chorus hit, they overwhelm. What a fantastic introduction to this new band, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Last, but certainly not least, London’s Fell has created this incredible dayglow indiepop Christmas song that is bound to move your ass. This song shimmers, but the music doesn’t overwhelm the lyrics, which include some incredible lines like “You know you’ve only come to get drunk on a memory.” Incredible from top to bottom, start to finish, Fell’s “Fear of Christmas” is indiepop perfection.
Lost Map has nailed it. Pick up 2 postcards and send them to a friend, and even better… subscribe to the Postmap Club!
Bottom Line: Rarely do I tackle an entire compilation, but this one was too good to pass up.
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!!)
My favorite track off of last year’s A Very Cherry Christmas 13 (still available!) has been re-released with a new “Bah Humbug Blizzard” version! The Happy Somethings‘ ode to being miserable on Christmas an odd delight. I absolutely love the groove in this song. Putting together your mix? Need a dance break with bleak lyrics? Let me sell you this song!
(How do you like my update job mess?)
Bottom Line: Indiepop misery at its finest! And it is free! And it is for charity!
I swear I listen to stuff that isn’t indiepop or the Captain Underpants soundtrack (I swear it is my son), but when there is great indiepop, I always pay attention. San Diego’s Sugar World has dropped a 4-song EP of covers, and I’m thoroughly digging it. From the fuzzed-out cover of Low’s “Just Like Christmas,” to the synthy, understated cover of Nixon’s “Anorak Christmas,” to the glitchy clipping on “Blue Christmas,” and the static on the Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling,” the band tweaks each song enough to make them interesting and fresh. Solid!
Bottom Line: Even more excellent indiepop for those who like that DIY alt-Christmas sound.
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!