No Monster Club - Trahira - Zygote

No Monster Club “Christmas In Dublin” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (gone)

This No Monster Club track popped up right as I was running out of gas, which is a warning for those folks releasing Christmas tracks… hit that sweet spot (Nov. 25-Dec. 5) when actual people (!) are visiting our blogs, and the bloggers aren’t completely exhausted. Enough inside baseball – lets talk trax. No Monster Club added a new Christmas track to their catalogue in 2017 with this cover of a Dustin the Turkey/Bagatelle song, “Christmas in Dublin.” Yes, you read that correctly, Dustin the Turkey. To the Google I go, once again. Dustin is a turkey puppet character from a RTE TV show, who as well inexplicably represented Ireland in the 2008 Eurovision contest. America has the Kardashians… we all have our own weird baggage I suppose. “Christmas in Dublin” is a cover of a parody song by Dustin, the original being “Summer in Dublin” by Bagatelle. One might expect a parody song to be funny, but this one is actually quite sweet, with only a few slightly bitter moments. I found it oddly lovely, perhaps you will too. Should I be embarrassed? Maybe a little, but I’m an underground Christmas music blogger; I’m already a little embarrassing on my own, so I’m cool with it.

Bottom Line: Lets all enjoy this parody song originated by a turkey puppet. And no, I’m not bullshitting you. Where I to bullshit you, it would have been a good idea to wait a week to post this.

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Seazoo - Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December

Seazoo “Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December” (2014)

Self Released
Buy: Free!

Welsh indie-popsters Seazoo released a great new single this past December, “Dig,” which led me to their Bandcamp page… and to their 2014 Christmas song! “Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December” has a truly lovely indiepop groove that goes wonderfully with their extremely long title. One would be compelled to do a bit of the googling when presented with such a title, and thus I’ve come to find that Sergeant Eddie Stone is a rather legendary Scots Guardsman who moved on to be a BBC presenter. Eddie is known for his unique toughness, having (during his SAS service) survived for days in the freezing cold wilderness wearing just a t-shirt and jeans, and more recently, eschewing proper outdoor gear when presenting on TV. Thus, knowing who Eddie Stone is helps you understand what the hell is happing in the song. Now, the song is particularly twisted – as the narrator takes advice from an imaginary Eddie Stone in preparation for his ambush of Santa Claus. Yes, you heard that right. “Eddie helped me plan it right and observe the house / Your expertise, a fire-side ambush after dark.” Brutal and wonderful, this song perfect for a night of plotting your enemy’s death while curled up with some eggnog.

Bottom Line: A fun little indiepop bloodbath!

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Taken by Trees "Holiday"

Taken by Trees “Holiday” (2017)

Harry
Buy: iTunes | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Taken by Trees‘ Victoria Bergsman penned one of the best almost-Christmas songs I’ve ever heard;  the Concretes’ “Lady December” remains one of my absolute favorite seasonal (almost-Christmas) songs of all-time. So I was delighted to see she dropped yet another almost-Christmas song today with “Holiday.” The song is less about this seasonal holiday, and more about being able to take your friends and family, shut off the outside world and take a personal holiday from reality. A very nice sentiment, indeed, which only becomes more vital when she describes the reason why she wrote this song (from The Line of Best Fit):

“I felt that I had been quiet for far too long and wanted to say something -that you can flee away for a moment with your loved ones and shut your eyes so you don’t have to see that freak who is leading the US, where I am living currently,” Bergsman adds.

“Just give yourself some rest from all the crazy news that has been spitting you in the face for that last year. Take a moment and be kind to yourself and the people you love, focus on what is beautiful and important in life.”

A-f*ing-men Victoria. This song not only has the kind of sentiment that I appreciate, it also highlights the dreamy indiepop that I’ve come to love from Victoria. As she readies her new record for 2018, pop on “Holiday” and take solace in the quiet comfort of those you love… if for just one moment… as the dumpster fire waits for you on the other side.

Bottom Line: Victoria has taken a moment to remind us that we all deserve a break, cloaked in a dream-pop prayer.

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Peach Pit "Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day?"

Peach Pit “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)” (2017)

Kingfisher Bluez
Buy: Demo Version 7″ | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Kingfisher Bluez puts out at least one charity Christmas 7″ every year, and this year they put out two, single-sided 7″ singles to benefit 1-800-SUICIDE and Crisis Centre BC. Vancouver’s Peach Pit was the first of the duo, releasing a demo version of the Sufjan Stevens’ feel-good hit, “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!).” The version is quite solid, and while it doesn’t not stray far from the feel of the original, this song isn’t covered very often and hasn’t worn out its welcome; Perform this song admirably, and I’ll likely be on board. Now, the fully-produced version that is available for digital download from the usual outlets (come on Bandcamp! come on 7Digital!), definitely benefits from the extra flourishes. The guitar lines replacing Sufjan’s keys add an extra edge that is certainly welcome for such a conflicted song. So, while I do prefer the fully produced version to the demo, I still strongly encourage you to pick up the demo 7″. Suicide prevention is extremely important, as anyone who has felt that particular pain can no doubt tell you.

Bottom Line: Peach Pit deliver a 1-2 of delicious Sufjan Stevens goodness.

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a POP ETC Christmas

POP ETC – A POP ETC Christmas (2017)

Pop Etc Records
Buy: iTunes | Amazon MP3Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

POP ETC have been thinking about recording a Christmas songs for years, but kept getting too busy around the holidays and would eventually let the idea fall away. That was then, and this is now… when POP ETC is releasing not one, but three Christmas songs! The EP contains two covers, which bookend the release, leading off with the classic Vince Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time is Here.” Their version is very faithful to the original in most aspects – pacing, emphasis, etc. – with Christopher’s vocals floating on top of their minimal orchestration. This leadoff is quite nice, and nicely tees up their original tune, “All I Want for Xmas (Just My Baby).” The pace picks up a bit as Christopher kicks into the song that he’s been singing around the house since the day after Thanksgiving; This is not surprising, as the track is a subtle earworm. It’s a classic “I just want you for Christmas” jam, wrapped wonderfully with POP ETC’s excellent pop taste. Finally, POP ETC tackle the McCartney classic, “Wonderful Christmastime,” and their drummer Julian takes over vocal duties. Thankfully, they don’t go full Macca, and tone down those sugary-sweet moments to create a perfectly nice version. Believe me, that last sentence was a high compliment. In fact, there are some excellent vocals, as well as backing vocal harmonies on this track, and the ending is genuinely beautiful. Had I not heard Slow Dancer’s dramatic reinterpretation from the Amazon Indie for the Holidays playlist, I would likely be adding in even more flowery language in trying to describe this strong cover of a (IMHO) bad song. With three strong tracks on this EP, POP ETC’s first foray into Christmas tunes was worth the wait.

Bottom Line: POP ETC’s Christmas EP is strong throughout, with touches of true brilliance and beauty, and most certainly worth your time.

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Lullabier - 2512

Lullabier featuring Faro “Natale A Ceneda (Just Like Christmas)” (2017)

Silber Records / VeniVersus
Buy: Bandcamp

Did you wake up, as I did, wanting a super chill version of Low’s “Just Like Christmas,” sung in Italian? You did? Well, that works out well for all of us, as Vittorio Veneto’s Lullabier has realized our dream with the leadoff track on his wonderful new EP, 2512. The novelty of hearing this classic song in Italian is not the only draw to the song – the laid-back indiepop orchestration is absolutely beautiful. However, it is the small, but significant, addition of the cabasa (at least that’s what I think they are using – the hand percussion), that evokes a crackling fire and draws out a warmth in this song that I don’t think I have heard before. The other tracks are also excellent – I enjoy the layered spoken word of “Natale A Serravalle (Silent Night),” and the English-language “White Dizziness” is understated and gorgeous. Lullabier has made some wonderful choices, and is very much on my radar now, and I hope yours as well.

Bottom Line: Italy is on the board with this stellar cover by Lullabier, whose warm, beautiful orchestration and production has extracted new qualities from an already beloved song.

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Charlie's Hand Movements "Always a Dream"

Charlie’s Hand Movements “Always a Dream” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Charlie’s Hand Movements are so good at writing wonderful Christmas tunes, that sometimes I’ll find myself sitting here in July, antsy and wanting December to arrive if only for another CHM track. This year’s latest, “Always a Dream” does not disappoint. In a similar fashion to last year’s drop-dead gorgeous “Until the 25th,” “Always a Dream” moves through a number of musical movements, each beautiful in their own right. The song perfectly conveys the rise and fall, the aching feelings of anticipation and release, of being with someone you love at Christmas and having to let them go again. I think my favorite part of the song is when they are trying to deny reality and what the future holds to stay in the moment (with a little liquid forgettin’ juice).

“Well I guess the year is ending
& pretty soon we’ll stop pretending
That life Is one long holiday
With no more work or bills to pay
So drink up & drink all night
Pour yourself another glass of wine
& when you reach the end
fill it to the top again

For out of the haze we’ll go our separate way
Like snowflakes on Christmas Day”

It is in these complex, emotional scenes that CHM are at their best. They excel at finding that nugget of truth, a truth that doesn’t necessarily require direct personal experience as much as a shared, flawed humanity. Charlie’s Hand Movements’ are a truly special band, and I give thanks for the years they have given us such wonderful music, and hope for many more to come.

Bottom Line: Charlie’s Hand Movements continue their spectacular run of emotional, compelling Christmas songs.

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Fascinations Grand Chorus - Merry, Merry Christmas

Fascinations Grand Chorus – Merry, Merry Christmas (2017)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

The classic, retro sounds from Brooklyn duo Fascinations Grand Chorus will no doubt be a favorite of my fellow xmas bloggers-in-arms (We all seem to like that sound). The three-track EP features two extremely strong originals, as well as a faithful cover of “Christmas Waltz.” My favorite of the the two originals is “This Christmas (Underneath The Christmas Tree),” whose girl-group harmonies and twangy guitar truly create a timeless feel. A hat tip to alternative Christmas music impresario Gareth Jones, one of the masterminds behind the A Very Cherry Christmas series, as it was his ears that sent me here. So, why not thank him by picking up Vol. 12 while you’ve got this tasty little EP in your cart as well?

Bottom Line: Fascinations Grand Chorus’ time capsule is a beautiful addition to an increasingly stellar Christmas season.

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The Spook School CHRISTMAS

The Spook School “Someone To Spend Christmas With” (2017)

Slumberland / Alcopop! Records
Buy: Bandcamp

Glasgow’s The Spook School have a new record coming out, Could it Be Different, which is news in itself… but to add a fantastic Christmas single to the mix too??? That is when ol’ Jim here starts getting a bit loopy. “Someone to Spend Christmas With” is yet another great, new Christmas song that takes a wholly new approach to the season. The Spook School describes it as “A song about figuring out how you want to conduct your own relationships when it feels like the world is full of conflicting advice about the “best” way to do it. Whether that be monogamy, polyamory or something else. The refrain relates to the ideal of having one important person in your life with whom you’ll always spend your special occasions.” We don’t have all the answers – We have to figure it out for ourselves, lean on those who care about us, and rock out to some sweet, sweet indiepop. (They’ve got another one on their Bandcamp too, “Bah Humbug” from 2011, for those who want to delve deeper.)

Bottom Line: The Spook School have released a stone-cold Christmas mix lock with this wonderful indiepop jam.

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The Heathen and the Holy "When Christmas Comes Around"

The Heathen and the Holy “When Christmas Comes Around” (2017)

Self Released
Buy: 7Digital (soon?) | iTunes | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

The Heathen and the Holy, the seasonal project of Tom Hobden and Fred Abbott of the much-missed folk/rock band Noah and the Whale, are back with their fourth Christmas song in a row! “When Christmas Comes Around” has the same joyful production that you expect from the Heathen and the Holy, without the dash of sorrow that last year’s “Best Christmas Yet” held. There are bits of comedy, a dash of bitterness, but all in the service of celebrating of the season. The chorus sums up the song perfectly: “It’s Christmas, yeah it’s Christmas. / Remember how it feels. / Look around, you’re in it now – / tell me it’s not real. / It’s the gift that keeps on giving, / it never lets you down. / For just one day your troubles fade / when Christmas comes around.” The video is equally joyful, and as always, extremely well made and endearing. The Heathen and the Holy truly love Christmas; you hear it in their music, and see it in their faces. Throw it on, smile, and get in the spirit.

Bottom Line: The Heathen and the Holy’s love of Christmas and pop sensibilities infuse this song with infectious joy.

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