Annika Norlin “CORRESPONDENCE: Silent Night” (2018)

Razzia Records
Buy: 7Digital (FLAC/MP3) | iTunes | Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Jens Lekman and Annika Norlin (Hello Saferide) set off on their Correspondence project at the beginning of this year, writing each other letters though song in an alternating fashion. I don’t recall specifically hoping that there would be a Christmas song, but that hope is my default position. My default hope has been fulfilled, and I am ecstatic that one has emerged in this, the final month of the project. It is Annika Norlin’s turn for a song, and boy does she deliver a finale. “CORRESPONDENCE: Silent Night” has Annika musing on the the two composers of the original “Silent Night,” and how they must have felt to create it, then for those around them to experience it for that first time. What a brilliant approach for a song – I’m already in and I might not have heard a note yet. Annika’s simple guitar melody propels her delicate voice through a series of vignettes, from the birth of the song, to its first performance, finally culminating in the famous Christmas truce of 1914. And while there are powerful moments such as that truce, there are also some moments of levity, as she wonders if that first crowd might have thought: “Well I like the older stuff better 
/ They should do more upbeat tunes.” So terribly clever and moving in both approach and execution, this song has it all. Thanks to Jeremi for the tip!

Bottom Line: What a stunner.

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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.

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Taken by Trees “Holiday” (2017)

Taken by Trees "Holiday"

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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Crying Day Care Choir “Cosas Caras” (2017)

Crying Day Care Choir

Warner Music Sweden
Buy: Amazon MP3 | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

What a 1-2 punch… first Sunturns, now Crying Day Care Choir! In the past, CDCC has released two stone-cold classics, Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and while we are not getting a full EP this year, we are getting an amazing new single, “Cosas Caras.” This translates from Spanish to English as “expensive things,” and the song’s simple premise is that Christmas is about everything but cosas caras. The melody is infectious, and the infusion of Spanish is both unexpected and beautiful. Crying Day Care Choir can pretty much do no wrong in my book… and if you dig their Christmas tunes, you are going to love their non-seasonal faire as well – so please dig further into their discography. This single, as with all their previous Christmas releases, benefits Musikhjälpen, a Swedish radio campaign that raises money for charity. So, purchase the track from the links above and throw it on your mix, because this track is 100% mix-ready. (Hopefully they’ll add their Bandcamp link soon!)

Bottom Line: Crying Day Care Choir continue to amaze with “Cosas Caras.” What a way to start the season.

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Junkie Thrown “Natten går tunga fjät (The Night Sleeps Heavily)” (2016)

Junkie Thrown "Natten går tunga fjät"

Self Released
Buy: Streaming on FB

Göteborg, Sweden’s Junkie Thrown is in the midst of a Facebook Advent calendar right now, and while the entries are not necessarily meant to be seasonal, she found herself compelled to create a new take on a old, Swedish language, Saint Lucia Day song. Saint Lucia Day is generally celebrated throughout the Scandinavian world, as well as in Italy, and signals the arrival of the “Christmastide.” While many different cultures recognize Saint Lucia Day, but Sweden has a particular way of celebration. Traditionally, towns, schools, and eventually (via a televised event) the nation chooses a girl to represent Lucia, and there are great processions, celebrations and caroling. However, this year there has been much debate, and public (one might say, racist) furor over a big company using a young black boy as Lucia in an advert. He subsequently became the target of cyber-bullies, culminating in his parents asking the company to pull the ad. This sounds like something that could happen… well pretty much anywhere; This is the world we are living in. Junkie Thrown has created a haunting version of a traditional, Saint Lucia Day song, with the words “Alla kan vara Lucia,” which means “everyone can be Lucia,” displayed throughout. A nice sentiment… and fuck racism.

Bottom Line: I love the meaning behind this song, and just as with 2014’s “Fairy Christmas Day,” it is beautifully performed.

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My Bubba “Champagne Drops” (2016)

My Bubba "Champagne Drops"

Cash Only / Tone Tree Music
Buy: iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

The duo of My Bubba, previously known as the trio My Bubba and Mi, hail from those crazy Nordic states (Sweden and Iceland to be specific), which any reader will know are a particular hotbed of music that Christmas Underground both covers, and loves. To my pleasant surprise, their most recent single… is a one-off Christmas original! “Champagne Drops” is both fresh and new, as well as completely familiar, as it has suggestions of both “Unchained Melody” and “What a Wonderful World” in the cadence and melody that drives the song. This feeling of familiarity helps bring the song into an even more intimate experience. The vocals accentuate this intimacy, hushed but not whispered, as if spoken in a room so that others might not be bothered by their intrusion. “Feels like home when you dance me around / much crackling under the soles of our feet / a Christmas sound.” This cozy song demands a fire… and a bit of champagne.

Bottom Line: Sometimes I don’t go for the extremely pretty stuff… but the intimacy that My Bubba achieve in this song is undeniable.

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Crying Day Care Choir – Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2 (2015)

Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I awoke this morning to a lovely note from Sweden. The Crying Day Care Choir felt the love from around the world for the premiere of the first two tracks off their upcoming Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2, and decided to change it from “upcoming” to “released” – and one day early! You can find it on Bandcamp! Tomorrow, I’d imagine you can find it on Amazon, Spotify, etc… (but Bandcamp gives the band a bigger cut FYI). So you Christmas-mixers, your life just got easier, and perhaps you can finally finish your mix and relax. I would like to take a quick moment and share the Christmas message that CDCC has sent out with this release, as it projects the same warmth as their music, and sets the scene for you to imagine the cozy studio where these wonderful songs were born:

In the winter of 2013 we came up with the idea that we would write and record a Christmas EP. That time we were pretty late and recorded it in our living room. However, it should be mentioned that it was a success and that we managed to generate almost 2000 USD that we gave to charity. Two years later, we are now presenting “Christmas Day Care Choir VOLUME 2.” An EP with four newly composed Christmas classics that came about during a week full of mulled wine and gingerbread in our studio in Malmö. The album begins in an Irish Christmas party one would like lasted all year, via a desire to be able to keep Christmas in a small jar, a dream of a very special Holiday free from expectations, to then culminate in a hymn for the season. We have made the EP happy, warm and kind-hearted. Just as we think Christmas should be. With warm wishes, Crying Day Care Choir

I can’t imagine a year that doesn’t have its own challenges, its own war, its own famine or injustice. This world is a complicated and brutal one, and I have certainly felt its weight this season. Leave it to Crying Day Care Choir to find the beauty that we have all been looking for. The sheer joy of community, friendship and family that rise up from every harmony, every melody, every poignant lyric – it can snap you out of your stupor to appreciate what the season means. Volume 2 is a work of pure love, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Of special note, while it does require you to wait a few days to pick up the EP, between Dec. 13-19, CDCC will be donating all Bandcamp proceeds from their 2 Christmas EPs to the national Swedish radio charity for people fleeing climate disasters. However, for those who just cannot wait to grab Volume 2, just circle back and buy 2013’s Volume 1 on December 13th!

Bottom Line: There is no shortage of beauty on this collection of four new Christmas classics, but I encourage you to also revisit Vol. 1, as they are two of the strongest releases of original Christmas music I have had the pleasure of listening to.

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Crying Day Care Choir “Once a Year” (2015)

Christmas Day Care Choir Vol. 2

Self Released?
Buy: Bandcamp | Soundcloud (Free!)

The folk troupe Crying Day Care Choir have previously been featured on this blog, and will continue to be featured until the end of time. They have a second Christmas EP lined up to drop next week, and thankfully they have left a wonderful trail of breadcrumbs for us to gobble up until that time. Just premiering on the Swedish blog Beingblogged, “Once a Year” is the kind of wonderful Christmas song that I just LOVE to put on a mix. Not only is the music wonderful, but the lyrics are amazing. “Do a sleigh ride , next to a hayride, during Gay Pride in July

If I wasn’t feeling so damn poor… I want to buy their (nonseasonal) LPs so bad! RIGHT NOW! Please save me one!!!

Bottom Line: Perfect Swedish indie folk. That is nearly my favorite genre, done as well as any band could ever hope to.  (Its official, killing the rating system to give myself sanity, but damn this is good).

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Junkie Thrown “Fairy Christmas Day” (2014)

Junkie Throw Christmas

Self Released
Buy: Stream

When I’m solicited with a song… it has been my experience that the sender often has no clue what Christmas Underground is about, or what my taste might be. More often than not, it isn’t even a Christmas song… But enough blabbering from my grinch alter-ego. Yesterday I received an e-mail from someone who might actually have an idea of what I’m in to! Junkie Thrown, from my adopted hometown (cuz… I want to hang with Junkie Thrown & Jens Lekman, obviously) of Göteborg, Sweden, has written a beautiful, sorrowful, Christmas song about poverty and its contrast to the materialism of Christmas. In a season where I’m finding it hard to listen to happy Christmas music, and find myself searching for music with some deeper meaning, such as Sondre Lerche’s beautiful and poignant plea for Syrian refugees, Junkie Thrown’s sadness is cathartic.

Edit: Looks like this was originally released in 2014.

Bottom Line: Junkie Thrown’s voice is beautiful, the music equally so, and the subject matter meaningful. This is 2:31 that you, at the very least, will not regret; You may even love it.

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Tvillingarna, Truls & jag “Får vi en vit jul då” (2014)

Våra barns julfavoriter - Julmusik för barn

Alfie
Buy: 7Digital MP3 (US) | Amazon UK MP3

From the album Våra barns julfavoriter – Julmusik för barn (google translated: Our children’s julfavoriter – Christmas music for children) by Swedish singer-songwriter and frontman of Edson, Pelle Carlberg, and his family. I really have very little idea what they are saying, but I like Pelle enough to make mention of this particular track. The title of this song (Google translated) is “We Get a White Christmas When,” and Pelle’s voice and instrumentation make it a lovely little song. His kids sound great on here too, and I’m not normally a fan of children singing on my Christmas music. I wish I knew a bit more about what the heck they are saying though…

Bottom Line: I wish Pelle Carlberg made Christmas music for my English-speaking child. For those interested in hearing Pelle sing a Christmas song in English, buy his last record, The Lilac Time, and read the liner notes. 3.9/5

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