Young War “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” (2019)

Self Released
Buy: Free!

Manchester’s Young War is three-for-three so far, yet to miss. Tweeting out this morning with the kind of cover that I can seriously get behind, one that sounds nearly nothing like the original. In fact, it sounds so much like a Young War song, that I swear the intros to 2014’s brilliant “I Won’t Come Back for Christmas (I’m Serious),” (GO BUY THAT SONG NOW) and this Ramones cover are damn-near cousins. I’ve heard slowed down versions of this song, ones that attempt to chill-out one of Christmas’ rock classics, and they sometimes go way too dark. Not only has Young War not gone dark, but dammit if this isn’t the sweetest version of this song I’ve heard – from production to delivery, this song feels turned on its head, which is exactly where a Christmas cover should be.

Bottom Line: Make Christmas your own, like Young War does with this fantastic version of The Ramones “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”

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PREMIERE: The Grapes & Friends “Christmas in My Neighborhood” (2019)

Self Released
Buy: Stream on Spotify

There are three Christmas events that are on the top of my bucket list: Lost Map Records’ Christmas Baubles, the party that Fowler VW throws every year celebrating their latest amazing Christmas compilation, and of course, The Grapes & Friends’ Annual Christmas Extravaganza! This Austin, Texas tradition is going into an 11th year this year – and if the party is anything like the energy that the Grapes & Friends infuse into their songs every year… it just must be the biggest party of the year.

Now, for the uninitiated, Grapes & Friends come together like Voltron every year, joining together members of DangeresqueThe Gorgeous Hands and Genuine Leather; they are an Austin version of our friends the Sunturns and Christmas Aguilera, a specifically Christmas supergroup. “Christmas in My Neighborhood” is the 6th original Christmas song from the Grapes & Friends. Staying true to their mantra of “making Christmas sexy,” the band finds themselves immersed in the genres of 90s boy band R&B and yacht rock-style production. The song is rich with layered harmonies, bells, synths, and more. There’s even a special treat at the end!

The lyrics are all about finding a sense of community and love in a place where you thought you were alone.

From Chris Galis, one of the lyricists: “One of the first times of the year you notice that its really Christmas season is when the lights go up on your street. That’s when you feel it. That’s what we wanted this song to vibe with.”

The Grapes & Friends will be hosting their 11th Annual Christmas Extravaganza in Austin, TX at the Hole in the Wall on Saturday, December 7th. Should you be in walking, driving, train, plane or teleportation distance, the details are below:

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/11th-annual-grapes-and-friends-tickets-81387160187
RSVP on FB: https://www.facebook.com/events/440203936621398/

Bottom Line: The Grapes & Friends can always be relied on to spice up your Christmas, and this one is going to certainly entice your taste buds.

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Grapes & Friends “Mrs. Claus” (2018)

Self Released
Buy: Free on Soundcloud!

Now… how many times do I need to introduce these guys? I mean come on… they are awesome!! Grapes & Friends are an Austin, TX indie rock band created by smashing together members of DangeresqueThe Gorgeous Hands and Genuine Leather; they are an Austin version of our friends the Sunturns and Christmas Aguilera, a specifically indie-rock-Christmas supergroup. If you live in the Austin, Texas area (or have the means to trave) – NEXT SATURDAY (Dec. 15) is their annual Xmas Extravaganza, and they just released their annual seasonal jam! “Mrs. Claus” is ridiculously fun. That 70s R&B groove about grooving on a lady, but she won’t have anything to do with a “Christmas band”… and then that chorus hits! THAT CHORUS! You can’t help but get moving in your seat… but if you insist on sitting still – it’s your loss. This band sounds like SO. MUCH. FUN. I can only imagine what this party is like!!

Bottom Line: Grapes & Friends are the ultimate Christmas party band, and this might be a highlight of the night!

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Anni Rossi – YULETIDE X ROSSI (2017)

Anni Rossi - Yuletide X Rossi

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

New York-based multi-instrumentalist Anni Rossi returned to recording in March 2017, after a 6 year recording hiatus, with a new single and the following mixtape, HER. The mixtape was expansive, spanning 18 tracks and signaling that she was back to stay. Come December, Anni Rossi has now released a second mixtape, the wonderfully eclectic YULETIDE X ROSSI. The album contains some sparse covers (“The Christmas Song”, “Mele Kalikimaka”), some fascinating interpretations (“Silent Night”), and wonderful originals (“Even on Christmas Day”). The only track that I believe may have been previously released is Rossi’s fantastic cover of “Last Christmas,” which she released a version of on Soundcloud back in 2014. Believe me, the slow jam treatment of “Last Christmas” is absolutely worth your time and attention; Rossi’s version is unique and refreshing. Simply said, there are some wonderful songs on here, and even where a track might not be your cup of tea, Rossi still keeps it interesting. Hat tip to fellow underground Christmas aficionado No Love for Ned for the heads up!

Bottom Line: Anni Rossi’s return yields wonderful results, with an eclectic Christmas record that happily keeps you guessing.

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Wyvern Lingo “Snow II” (2017), “Snow” (2014)

Wyvern Lingo - Snow II

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Well hot damn. This was too good to keep me from writing. Bray, Ireland’s Wyvern Lingo, a trio of singer/instrumentalists has just dropped an indie R&B jam “Snow II,” that is totally worth your attention. Their voices are beautiful, as are the minimal electronic beats and flourishes of color that support them. However, if that groove is not your bag, how about an acoustic version, with no percussion, mainly guitars and keyboards to provide the bassline? (Stubby found this one back in the day, of course) Then their 2014 version, “Snow” is your jam. Either way you slice it, this is a pretty beautiful song, and I think you might dig it too.

Bottom Line: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Both taste great!

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Lonelyspeck “Happy New Year” (2017)

Lonelyspeck "Happy New Year"

TEEF
Buy: Bandcamp | Vinyl (Edition of 50!)

Adelaide, Australia’s Lonelyspeck has released one of the most beautiful New Years’ tunes I’ve heard in years. A highlight on an already stellar new EP, Lave, “Happy New Year” is a shimmering song of seismic beauty. This song resides on the other side of the new year, as there are no parties or celebrations, but a reflection on the core of his being.  There are a lot of volcanic references, and that is with purpose; Sione Teumohenga (Lonelyspeck) was inspired by volcanoes when developing the Lave EP, and the metaphor works beautifully.

unfold me
there are still things that i am trying to rinse
poke a leak
to let them flow out and in
put a river in me
i feel okay but tired a lot
it’s too quiet with the window shut
i opened it to hear the air caught in the leaves
and then in my breathing
scoop out the core
and lather it onto the mantle
no one has lived here before
i gather it was inhospitable
i feel okay but tired a lot
it’s too quiet with the window shut
i was walking through the park and i thought
i don’t hate myself
i don’t berate myself like i used to

The lyrics are poignant and moving, but the song is truly made in the music that carries it. I can’t imagine changing a thing about it. It begins sparse, and slowly builds… till “scoop out the core,” where the vocal layers appear alongside the bassline… and you may get goosebumps. This song is just beautiful.

Bottom Line: Daaaaaaammmmmmn this is spectacular. Discoveries like this are the reason for doing this gig.

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Premiere: Young War “Winter in the City” (2015)

Young War - Winter in the City

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

HOW ABOUT THIS?!? Our first premiere, and a whopper at that! Manchester R&B duo Young War‘s “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas” was a highlight of the 2014 Christmas season, and Christmas Underground is proud to present their beautiful new track, “Winter in the City.” The duo of Thom Stone and Simon Facey have found their own rich vein of Christmas longing, and continue to mine it expertly. “Winter in the City” leans more toward Young War’s R&B roots than last year’s track, and the sparse beats, ringing guitar lines and beautiful melody perfectly compliment the conflicted narrator’s sense of yearning and loss: “I’m losing my mind and I tried to warn you. / Now you’re spending Christmas in California. / I can’t be sad, I don’t have the right, / but when it started to snow, I think I started to cry.” Young War create an atmosphere which envelops the listener to walk the city streets alone, snow dancing in the moonlight, missing the one you love. Just plain beautiful.

Bottom Line: Young War + Christmas = Perfection. This is modern R&B Christmas at its finest. This song deserves a wide audience, so join me and spread its reach far and wide. 5/5

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Young War “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas (I’m Serious)” (2014)

Young War "I Won't Come Back For Christmas (I'm Serious)"

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Young War‘s “I Won’t Come Back For Christmas (I’m Serious)” is a great blend of indie rock and R&B. I love the whole concept of the song – he is not coming back for Christmas just so you know he’s serious. Its beautifully done, and very much worth your time. But don’t take my word for it. Take Lie in the Sound or Christmas A-Go-Go’s advice, and give it a listen (and/or download it via some nefarious Firefox plugin… or something). They gave it so much love last year, so much that I didn’t really find myself needing to help too much. I saw this on numerous mixes last year – it was certainly deemed a highlight of the season. That said, the song is good enough that I knew I’d be compelled to write about it at some point. Hey Young War – I hope this comes back around next year via Bandcamp.

Bottom Line: Wonderfully produced, great lyrics, great vocals and (was) free. 4.8/5

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Young War has been kind enough to give me permission to upload and stream their wonderful Christmas song. It had previously been a free download via their Soundcloud page, but they took it down from their own feed.

Lapland “Maybe on Christmas” (2014)

Lapland

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Lapland, the moniker of Brooklyn singer/songwriter Josh Mease, just released a nice indiepop “original song hastily recorded” today, and I rather dig it. Synths flutter as a flickering flame as Mease sings about staying safe & sound by the fire on Christmas – in a tone that I’d equate to a Mark Mothersbaugh-scored scene in Life Aquatic. So, turn off your “Switched on Santa” and give this modern-synth Christmas a spin.

Bottom Line: Certainly growing on me – would love to have an actual download of it somewhere. 3.9/5

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Beans & Fatback “Tonight Girl I’m Coming Back Home (X-Mas Edit)” (2010)

Beans & Fatback "Tonight Girl I'm Coming Back Home"

Excelsior Recordings
Buy: Stream

The Netherlands’ own Beans & Fatback have just dropped a (I stand corrected – thanks Christmas A Go Go!) have a Christmas edit of “Tonight Girl I’m Coming Back Home,” and its a rocking, bar-band R&B good time. While it wasn’t originally a Christmas song, it very much works in the “Coming home for Christmas” milieu. They’ve even adjusted the lyrics very slightly to place it at Christmas, and it works perfectly. Check out this tune, then go down the rabbit-hole to their other stuff – its really pretty great.

Bottom Line: Solid Christmas R&B that could easily find a place on your mix. Points shaved off for no obvious way of purchasing or downloading this great song! 4.6/5

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