Premiere: The Heathen and the Holy “It’s Just Not Christmas Without You (In It)” (2018)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp7Digital (soon) | iTunes | Amazon MP3

The Heathen and the Holy, the seasonal project of classically-trained violinist Tom Hobden and musician/writer/producer Fred Abbott, who once recorded together in the much-missed folk/rock band Noah and the Whale, are back once again! The Heathen and the Holy are one of those Christmas treats that you hope for each year, as their songs always bring a bit of levity to what can become a very serious and earnest season. Not saying that these guys can’t be both serious and earnest, but there is always humor that helps take the edge off. So let this song be your snowy day, afternoon gin and tonic, and let’s premiere this great new Heathen and the Holy track together.

“It’s Just Not Christmas Without You (In It)” is about having to be apart for Christmas, and how that separation casts a pall over the entire holiday. Heavy! What was I just saying about levity? Well, no worries there – upbeat orchestration, along with Fred Abbott’s interjections keep you smiling through the pain. There are some truly fantastic parts; my favorite being when Tom and Fred begin trading lines toward the end of the song, culminating in a crescendo where they both sing “They take me back to Regent street to the Christmas lights tonightttttttt.” It is a theatrical moment, which if you have seen any of their previous videos, is no surprise. I love this band equally for their music, as well as for the brilliant videos that they have put together in the past. It is hard not to think of Tom and Fred, dressed in their holiday best with a drink in-hand… somehow still playing instrument… you know, because of the magic of Christmas. The Heathen and the Holy are truly the mulled wine of Christmas bands – a warm, cozy, delicious treat that somehow always seems to present itself at the exact right time. Cheers.

Bottom Line: The Heathen and the Holy have kept their Christmas flame burning bright with “It’s Just Not Christmas Without You (In It).”


Roders “Julen 92” (2014/2017)

roders - Julen 92

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Readers into Swedish indiepop are likely familiar with the underground indiepop legend Nixon. However, those only familiar with Pitchfork-famous indiepop likely don’t, but you may know Sally Shapiro’s “Anorak Christmas,” the main single off their excellent Disco Romance. Well… that is a Nixon cover. Nixon has been around since the 90s, when Roger Gunnarsson set up his home recording studio, and is largely considered Roger’s first major musical project. However… one band predates Nixon, Roders, though it does not get mentioned in Roger’s Swedish-language Wikipedia entry. Roger and his cousin Anders Nilsson started Roders back in 1982 when they were eight, and it also appears to be the only Roger Gunnarsson project that is presently active (despite any Nixon releases you might see coming out of the Nixon Archives). Roger recently (well, this has been a draft for a while, so not quite so recently) released this lovely, Swedish-language indiepop tune on his Nixon Archives Soundcloud feed, and while the production is more traditional pop than the lo-fi indiepop I expect from a Nixon track, the qualities of the vocals maintain the indiepop roots. Snippets of the video that inspired the song combine with a wistful melody, as this song beautifully invokes the Christmas of these two eighteen-year-olds, celebrating a Christmas on the border of childhood and adulthood. This is just the tip of the Nixon/Roders/Garlands/etc Christmas iceburg… so feel free to dig into the feed, or just wait for me to stumble through my reviews.

Bottom Line: Roger Gunnarsson has a long history if quality indiepop Christmas tunes, and the sweet “Julen 92” is a welcome addition.



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

The Heathen and the Holy "When Christmas Comes Around"

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


Give Me Wallets “On this Christmas Night” (2016)

Give Me Wallets "On this Christmas Night"

Self Released?
Buy: Stream

I don’t normally do straight-up pop, but Tokyo’s Give Me Wallets have released this fantastic, groovy song and I thought it best to share it with you all. “On this Christmas Night” has a nostalgic feel, strictly based on the chord changes amongst the fluttering synths. The lyrics are a  bit tougher for me to pin down… “she wanna post some stuff now / that everyone can see freely / are you happy to receive as a gift / you were supposed to be fine / but the world’s not the same now / what can anyone do for you” There may be something lost in translation here… but what is not lost, is that I’m boogieing in my seat.

Bottom Line: I hope you enjoy this piece of Japanese Christmas candy.


Faye and the Scrooges “Time for Christmas” (2016)

Faye and the Scrooges "It's Christmas Time"

Self Released
Buy: Stream

I walk in from wassailing at our local pub, and find I’ve been tweeted at! Faye and the Scrooges have released their 2016 Christmas song in 2016! I usually get their song well into the next year, but to my delight, here it is! I believe this is the first time that they’ve tackled what I’d consider to be a dance track, as “Time for Christmas” is meant to move your fucking ass. There is the humor you expect from a F&TS Christmas song, which I absolutely love. Between the verses of cheeky holiday observations and frustrations, the chorus swings in with a full embrace of the season. It’s how many of us feel about the holiday – nothing is quite perfect, but you can still fucking love it. In closing, as Faye and the Scrooges say, “It’s Christmas time / lets all get wasted.” I certainly took a page from that book last night…

Bottom Line: Faye and the Scrooges have my ass moving and grooving with this Christmas jam. Now, you might wonder why I’m swearing so much in this review… it’s to make up for the “Where the f***’s that f***in Sellotape?” that F&TS dropped. Hey Faye! Release a parental-advisory version too! I love a good ‘ol profane Christmas song!

EDIT: Look below! 2 versions, one with all the 4-letter words you could want!


The Heathen and The Holy “Best Christmas Yet” (2016)

The Heathen and the Holy - Best Christmas Yet

Self Released
Buy: iTunes | MP3 | MP3 | MP3

The Heathen and The Holy are a seasonal project from Noah and the Whale’s Fred Abbott and Tom Hobden. So far, this is their third year, and with their pedigree you might expect a bit of new folk-infusion into the music. Surprisingly enough, Fred and Tom embrace the classical large production values of Christmas tracks of yore. Choirs, pianos, backup singers and big, swinging melodies. This year’s soulful jam isn’t normally what I’d get into musically, but damn if I’m not feeling these lyrics and their overall attitude.. “We’ve lost our way / (break down the walls) / Gave into hate / (open the doors) / It’s been a year / a year to forget / so let’s have ourselves / the best Christmas yet.” This song kind of sums up the year, the folks we’ve lost, the faith in our brothers and sisters that has been shaken, the year that awaits you on the other side… it’s all so heavy this year. Perhaps this song can do a bit to release the tension.

It’s been too hellish a year.

Bottom line: The Heathen and The Holy have provided the first real political song that rises above gimmicks or snapchat. Certainly worth your time, and perhaps worth a spot on your mix…


Deidre & the Dark “The Ghost of Christmas Past” (2015)

deidre & the dark Christmas

Self Released? or Avec?
Buy: Free (till Thanksgiving)

Brooklyn’s Deidre & the Dark have recorded a great 60’s inspired, pop noir Christmas song that will help bridge that gap between the spooky Halloween and cheery Christmas. “I’m being followed by the ghost of Christmas past / I’m being scolded for my cheer that didn’t last.” Deidre & the Dark have approached their Christmas tune from a great angle – they chose subject matter that we’re familiar with, but not used to in a Christmas song, so it feels fresh, yet familiar. Certainly worth a listen, and available for free (well, for your e-mail) until Thanksgiving.

Bottom Line: My wife will no doubt love this spooky take on Christmas, and heck, even though I don’t have a spooky bone in my body, I like it too.



Jess and Frank Charlton “Give Me the Love” (2014)

Jess and Frank Charlton - Homemade Holiday Vol. 5

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Los Angeles’ Jess and Frank Charlton are on their fifth volume of Christmas releases, and this one is pretty great. Granted, I’m only talking about one of the 2 songs, but that’s because I’m trying to cram in a couple posts while out of town at my inlaws. “Give Me the Love” is quite a nice pop Christmas song. It certainly doesn’t deserve the “comedy” tag they’ve given it. Jessica wrote this little song, a song of sweetness and simplicity. The production is pretty great for what I imagine to be a bedroom operation. Kudos, please keep it up!

Bottom Line: For two crazy kids who just love Christmas, you’ve outdone yourself. 3.9/5