Let me give you a quick peek behind the curtain here at Christmas Underground. There is often a healthy discussion in the Twitter DMs between myself and other Christmas music-obsessed folks, and there may have been a comment about my site that went something (exactly) like this: “I say it’s pretty darn easy to make a mix entitled ‘Christmas music to slash your wrists by.'” To which, I replied, “You gotta have your niche.” Well… I’m not all tearjerkers and Christmas humbug (I’m only 51% of those), the other 49% is searching for a song that will make my ass move. So I introduce London’s Wicketkeeper, who has written a song that is 34% wonderful, and 66% fucking amazing, “Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again.” But you really have to look behind the lyrics – they are saying something really profound here. Like in the last verse, where they mix it up and add the “WOOOO.”
Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again, Ho Ho It’s Christmas Again, WOOOOO, lalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalalalala, lalalalalalalalalalala lalalalalalalalalalala
Kinda brings a tear to your eye.
Bottom Line: The most fun 1.5 minutes of Christmas music you will experience this holiday season.
I often think about what it would be like to be just now getting into this hobby of underground Christmas music mix-making. When I got in the game (18 years ago!), there wasn’t quite the wealth of indie rock/pop/alt.country/etc Christmas releases to hunt down. Bandcamp, the venue which I primarily exploit to find cool new songs, wasn’t founded until 2007, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I could have even embedded a track on a site like Christmas Underground. It is both exhilarating and terrifying to think about dipping my toes in for the first time in 2022… there is just so much to listen to – years and years of great songs to get through, let alone all the new releases that come out every year. Well, lucky for my imaginary self, as well as that very real person taking their first stab at making a cool Christmas mix, fellow weirdo Christmas music fan Kevin McGrath has created the perfect introduction to this niche of holiday music with the massive, expansive collection of 108 songs, Have Yourself a Merry Indie Christmas Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. This is like one of those The Greatest ________ Album in the World collections I used to bump into in the import sections of the 2000s – packing an absolute ton of the tracks you need to hear to fully get what has been going on. The sheer effort that it took to clear 108 songs is astounding, let alone the challenges of contacting bands that are no longer together, and there are some wonderful ones represented here, to which I’m delighted their musical legacy will persist. Readers of this site will find some familiar faces and names, such as Sweet Tempest, St. Lenox, Charlie’s Hand Movements, The Ornaments, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, and many, many more.
Just know you are bound to discover a new classic or two that you’ve never bumped into before. Christmas Underground is a one-person shop, and I can’t and won’t be able to know every single cool indie Christmas song out there… as I’m currently sitting here listening to Volume 1, bobbing my head to a song I’ve never heard – and I love it. All this great music also benefits a great cause, Crisis, a UK charity that helps the homeless. So, while the suggested price for each massive collection is a mere £7/$8.50, just know that you don’t necessarily have to give only $8.50. Maybe make yourself a sandwich each day this week for lunch and give a bit more? This is the season of giving, and in a world where billionaires aren’t going to save us, we need to look out for each other.
Bottom Line: These two releases could fashion 3-4 years of indie Christmas mixes for your friends and family. It is an absolutely essential purchase for new and old collectors alike.
I’m rather active on Twitter, and will not let the giant turd who owns it keep me from hanging out, spouting off, and never clicking on ads. Shrewsbury, England’s BumbleWasps gave me a shout the other day, hipping me to his latest Christmas single, “Mr Christmas.” I always listen to suggestions at least once, and this track was interesting enough to not only have me listen to it a few times but to dig a bit deeper and discover that this is not BumbleWasps first rodeo. He put out an 7-song Christmas mini-album last year, F U Christmas, that is packed full of catchy hooks and seasonal fucking sentiment. Hey, BumbleWasps gets a bit fresh, and I will too. So… let’s just say that I was getting prettyyyyy amped as dove into the discography. “Mr Christmas” is BumbleWasps’ indiepop diss track targeting Mariah Carey, Shakin’ Stevens, Bing Crosby, Elvis, Elton John, Wham! (amongst others), pretty much all the Christmas legends… and it is both catchy and goddam hilarious. I don’t think I’m mistaken in thinking this is some of the best-produced bedroom pop that a little bit of money and a lot of effort can produce (confirmed!). F U Christmas obviously shares the same humorous point-of-view, but you’re going to find some touching shit in there as well. Thanks for reaching out BumbeWasps, you obviously checked out my blog and had an idea that I’d be down for your weirdo Christmas tunes.
Bottom Line: BumbleWasps is carving his own xmas niche, and (if you enjoy reading this blog) you’re going to like this fucking niche.
There are some songs that I really, really don’t enjoy… and Macca’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is most certainly on that list. For a guy who genuinely enjoys synths, one would think that I might be more fond of this modern classic, but those sugary-sweet synths rub me the wrong way. Thankfully, Coach Party has flown in from the Isle of Wight and saved the day, scrubbing those cloying synths with as many fuzzed-out guitars as humanly possible. Granted, they didn’t have quite the same hill to climb as anybody who tackles “Little Drummer Boy” might, but I tip my hat to Coach Party for making this terrible song pretty damn awesome.
Bottom Line: There is still a pop sensibility here, but Coach Party has frayed the edges enough to make me a fan.
The relief of finding a song that is a “#1 hit with a bullet” for your Christmas mix is something that any mixer can appreciate, so when I saw Christmas A-Go-Go tweet out this song a week or so ago… I had a physical reaction to it. Anxiety manifests in many different ways, from your breathing all the way down to plantars warts… and 15 seconds into this fantastic song, “Christmas Lullaby” by the Welsh indie rock band The Bug Club, my baseline anxiety cleared and a calm washed over me. This song should and will be on a million Christmas mixes… oh to be making my first and discover that fun-ass Christmas songs like this exist…
I realized that I hadn’t talked about the song at all! Just how I felt about it! Well, this could most certainly be a blue-album Weezer Christmas song… so Weezer in the best-possible meaning. That guitar solo… I can almost picture a young Rivers…
Bottom Line: This song has a vibe that I could overdose on if given the opportunity.
I suppose I’m back… gone much longer than I usually do. I often crash a day or two before Christmas, with a browser overloaded with open tabs that I stare at for a few months until I get the courage to finally sift through them. Well… a few months turned into more than a few months (does that make sense?). I suppose I’ll do my best this year, for what this might be worth, and try to hip you to some Christmas tunes I particularly like.
It does appear to be a bit early in the season, so I hope I can be forgiven for writing about something that “those in the know” already know about. Obviously, it is the new Los Chrismos EP by London’s premier surf/psych/rock quartet Los Bitchos. I don’t know what qualifies for an EP anymore, as with two songs, I might have called this a single! I’d like to dwell on that for a bit more, but even I am bored with me now. The lead track off the EP, “Los Chrismos” rides that seam between groovy and chill, exuding a great time from start to finish. Not that I’m completely scared off by an instrumental, but their giggling and chanting were engaging enough that I rather missed them when they weren’t there. I am quite curious what the b-side is going to sound like – but I’m sure at least this first track, “Los Chrismos,” is going to be on a lot of mixes this year.
For those (like me) who love a physical object, there is a flexi-disc of this single as added-bonus to their early-2022 debut, Let the Festivities Begin. So grab that “Los Chrismos Edition” of the vinyl LP and you’ll be the proud owner of a very limited and super-hip Christmas release that will likely make folks like me a bit jealous.
Bottom Line: Track one was fun, but it still leaves the question as to whether track two will bring on the apocalypse (or also be a fun Christmas song).
How about a bit of fun? Such a descriptive band name as One Member of Loose Articles & One Member of Hallan deserves an equally straightforward Christmas song. Want to know what this song is about… well, it appears that it is about wanting to spend “Christmas in Hulme.” But you know what? I can get behind this silliness. You can taste the joy, the pure fun they had putting this together. Nothing deeper than that – just a song recorded across from a pub by two friends, which sounds vaguely like a cheeky Eddie Argos, speak-sing single.
Bottom Line: Just a bit of fun that made me smile. Hope this is the first of many!
London post-punk band Shame has a solid history of excellent Christmas tunes, a legacy that they really jumped right into alongside their debut record. I covered their excellent version of “Feliz Navidad” back in 2018, and would still love to hear the holiday flexi for “Tinsel Gate,” sent with early preorders of their last record, Drunk Tank Pink. This year’s selection, “Baldur’s Gate,” isn’t a celebration of Christmas, but more a snapshot of a holiday past from frontman Charlie Steen… I’ll let him describe:
‘It’s another Christmas classic. It’s about a period of time in which I’d regularly be trekking up to the streets of Edinburgh to see an ex-partner. These are some of the thoughts I’d have when I’d be leaving Waverley station, en route back to London in the winter nights.’
The deeper the song goes, the more I’m into the groove they have created. Certainly not your standard holiday release… which is what this blog is kinda about. Enjoy!
Bottom Line: Shame is a killer band during all twelve months of the year, and “Baldur’s Gate” only reinforces this.
The latest holiday track to pop up on all the “regular” music blogs that deserves attention is “Plastic Mistletoe,” a wonderful, touching, and hilarious new track from Blackaby. Grandpa sleeps through the holiday scene that develops around him, all with a wonderful indie pop/rock vibe. Super-solid and most certainly mix-worthy, with all proceeds are directed to the Refugee Community Kitchen – so buy it!
“His teeth hanging loooooooooooooose.”
Bottom Line: Blackaby’s smooth seasonal submission certainly succeeds smashingly. Thus ends this year’s “fun with alliteration!”
I somtimes like to imagine a young music fan, who has just gotten this great idea to look for some different Christmas songs, and has found Christmas Underground. I am oddly jealous of this young person – to be able to hear these bands for the first time. They’ll look at my tag cloud, and not know what to make of the weird names on it… including this band, Christmas Aguilera, seeming more like a typo than a premier indie rock Christmas band. Christmas Aguilera are most certainly not a typo, and have returned once more with a new, double-A sided single to brighten our holiday season. Side A, “All Wrapped Up,” is a holiday gone to hell, but with a great chorus to sing along to. Side AA, “All That I Want is You,” is an extremely funny and sweet song about “only wanting you for Christmas.” The lyrics are too great to not give you a taste here:
Don’t write me any song Don’t buy me the biography of Neil Armstrong Don’t order me a piece of the moon Don’t buy me a silvery spoon And don’t knit me a sock Don’t cut of all your hair and give me a lock Don’t make me a strawberry milkshake Don’t buy me a diamond, real or fake I’ll never want a tv show No sunflowers or any old Van Gogh Don’t buy me any car, write it off Don’t buy me anything that I can scoff
All I want is you What Mariah said is true All I want is you Like ABBA sang you’re my Waterloo Got me higher than Katmandu
Damn they are so f*ing clever. Christmas Aguilera are just so much fun to listen to, and I’m grateful for every year that I get a note in my inbox with more songs. Of course, all proceeds from these songs, just like all their other songs, go to benefit Shelter, a UK charity working to end homelessness. This year is a little bit extra-special, as Christmas Aguilera have created an additional Crowdfunder with some pretty great rewards. You can donate via the Crowdfunder and just buy the new songs, but throw in a little more and you can get a Christmas carol sung by Christmas Aguilera. Dig a bit deeper and they will record a Christmas song of your choice for you! Have deep pockets and live within 50 miles of London (not me!)? They will play your house! This is TOO COOL.
Man… what song should I request…
Bottom Line: Christmas Aguilera has been churning out these incredible Christmas tunes for so long that it almost makes you forget that WRITING A GOOD CHRISTMAS SONG IS HARD. This band has the spirit, and it just feels effortless.