U.S. Highball “Marge’s Second Christmas” (2022)

Lame-O Records/Bingo Records

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.


Steady Hands “Christmas at the ‘Vous” (2018)

Lame-O Records
Buy: Vinyl | Bandcamp

Perhaps Sean Huber is better known as the drummer to the punk/emo/indie rock (who really knows these days) band Modern Baseball, but as MB is on indefinite hiatus, we should all now consider him primarily the frontman and songwriter of the Philadelphia indie rock band Steady Hands. After a string of EPs and a compilation release of those EPs, Steady Hands’ have just released (Oct 19) their first true full-length LP, Truth in Comedy, which Christmas Underground is happy to find has a Christmas(ish) song as its closer. The grunge-influenced “Christmas at the ‘Vous” is one of those songs that happens at Christmas, but isn’t necessarily about the holiday – which is just the kind of stuff I like here. I’ll let Sean explain from the track-by-track that he did with Punk Rock Theory:

For a few years, when my older family members were still around and living near Philly, I used to spend Christmas day visiting them, then my family would drop me off at my apartment and I’d go out in the city. It was always quiet and relaxing and felt like you got away from reality for one night. I’ve spent a bunch of nights like this with one of my friends after getting off the road – and catching up at home. The verses are all about moments from touring, and at the chorus I’m back home, living a normal life. A bar in Philly was nice enough to charge us by the lot rather than per drink after a particularly indulgent night and we ended up saving some money that way.

I like the approach, I dig the music, and I think you might to.

Bottom Line: Super-solid indie rock from one of the country’s best incubators of fantastic rock bands, Philadelphia.