Well, I guess this is a tradition now.
Last year I put out an article on alternative Christmas music. It dropped on December 24th. That seemed a little late to me, so this year I’ve made an effort to get it out a day earlier.
So, I’m slipping down your chimney once again, with some of the most obscure and weirdest things I could find:
1. Two Inch Winky – Joy A.D.
Let’s start with something wholesome. By wholesome, I mean chaotic thrash punk from a band with ‘Winky’ in their name.
First off, how about that cover art? Cut up those angels, melt that Santa and round up the creepiest elves you can. My bells began jingling the moment I saw it.
Despite carrying 10 tracks, Joy A.D. is short. The longest song, “Gift Givers” clocks in at 2 minutes 47 seconds. But despite its length and lack of subtlety; Joy A.D. is a decent primer for those unaware of what Christmas is and how it works.
“Cool Yule” helpfully spells things out. I don’t mean that it explains the pre-Christian celebration of the sun’s rebirth, but literally how you spell the words “Cool” and “Yule.”
“Elves” details the professional lives of Santa’s little helpers. Winky note that they use tools, they sing while they work and that they make Santa jolly and proud. But in an unexpected display of class consciousness, they touch on the Bezos-esque, workshop conditions that their bloated, materialistic overload subjects them to. ‘Elves clock out for their lunch. They don’t take breaks paid.’
“Festivus” is the album’s greatest gift. Pre-Joy A.D. I was unaware of this secular, anti-Christmas holiday. Falling on the 23rd, Festivus focuses on the airing of grievances, feats of strength, and was popularised by Seinfeld writer Daniel O’Keefe.
Joy A.D. truly is the gift which keeps on giving.
2. Alpha Chrome Yayo – Kimonos at Christmas
It’s been a big year for friend of the site Alpha Chrome Yayo. They’ve dropped a number of acclaimed EPs, and have done a great deal to push the retro-envelope.
Kimonos at Christmas feels like a display of gratitude for their fans, supporters and friends. A little ditty to mix up your Xmas playlist. It allows you to slot a little outrun in with those old standards.
It carries a twinkling melody. There are bells, there are synth horns. Once the beat kicks in you’re invested in a Christmas drive which isn’t as gravelly as Chris Rea’s. There’s a joyous quality to it, like driving through snowfall in your Ferrari Testarossa.
And ACY has really gotten into the Christmas spirit, as all Bandcamp proceeds will be donated to UK charity Dogs Trust. Raising a glass to you friend.
3. MARIAH SCAREY – All I Want For Christmas (Amulets Remix)
It was inevitable that I would go looking for witch house Christmas music. ҖΣΔϩ music if you will.
I will concede that while it can be exciting and (dare I say it) entertaining, witch house is not a genre known for its humour. It’s visceral and dark, and so I applaud Amulets for rolling out something like this.
It doesn’t play around with the structure of Mariah Carey’s wonderful original too much. Lyrically it’s a straight run. However, the heavily distorted vocals, reese bass and overall pitch-black timbre of the thing elevates it to the level of demented genius.
The Amulets remix should not exist. But I was positively giddy the first time I heard it, so I’m very glad that it does.
4. Strawberry Station – Christmas Present
We went witchy. Now let’s get funky. Future funky.
Strawberry Station is represented by First Class Collective – a vaporwave label out of Washington DC. Their discography carries many of the features you might expect. Kanji, pastel colours and graphic designs harkening back to the 80s and 90s.
There’s kanji right there on the cover of Christmas Present. And a kawaii girl against a pastel background; giddy with Christmas spirit.
The intro is all enthusiastically jingling bells, a bouncing beat and Santa’s jolly laughter at the end. Though to be fair, there’s something I find a little creepy about that part.
“The Gift” has a rolling, satisfying bass, upbeat horns and the melody is taken straight from The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping.” I’m especially delighted by this sample, because “Christmas Wrapping” is one of my favourites. It’s cynical, and most of its appeal comes from the irony dripping off of it. Suffice to say, “The Gift” is the most vaporwave-y way Strawberry Station could’ve put things into gear.
“Macross Roasting On An Open Fire” is arguably the greatest song title ever. Regardless of the season, genre or anything. Actually, that’s a lie: Neckbeard Deathcamp’s “The Fetishisation ov Asian Women Despite a Demand for a Pure White Race” remains the greatest. But that’s unlikely to get granny up and rock and rollin’ with the rest.
But if there’s still life in grandma’s bones (and regardless of her stance on waifu’s or white supremacy), then she’ll get a kick out of this. Not only because it’s funky as hell, but because it samples another of the greatest Christmas songs ever. Nat King Cole’s, er, “The Christmas Song.”
Strawberry Station knows its classics, and how to get the best out of them. “Yours This Year” takes the Vektroid approach. Discordant vocals delivering a chopped and screwed version of Silent Night. All of which glides across a cool retro groove. There’s even a decent chiptune solo.
In the past, I’ve commented about how most vaporwave leaves me cold. But Christmas Present makes a good case for it, during the season of goodwill if nothing else.
5. The Jingle Boys – Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time
Despite being history’s greatest monster, Paul McCartney is responsible for another of my favourite Christmas songs.
“Wonderful Christmas Time” is not a good song. It’s 70’s cringe. Thin production and the bells are obnoxious. I’m not entirely sure it was ever actually finished. And holy shit that video.
But I love it so much. I love it because it’s so dumb, but also so earnest. And I’d never have imagined that anyone could have “improved” it. Then I discovered The Jingle Boys.
The Jingle Boys deserve their own article. But you’re not getting one this year. In short, they’re an LA musical collective who’ve been releasing eclectic Christmas music since 2009.
A choice example is their chiptune album On the 8th Bit of Christmas. But they reeled me in with their parodies. The first being “Santa Baby One More Time.” It’s Eartha Kitt via Britney; executed with enormous confidence and skill.
And then there’s their McCartney cover. It’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” via Pink fucking Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Rudolph Over the Moon is an album which exists. And “Simply Having…” is its “Money.” Popping corks, clinking glasses and bells replace the coins and ringing registers. The iconic bass line, guitars and organ remain, but it all gels with the basic structure of McCartney’s magnum opus. The epic sax solo is also present.
The lead vocals add a jazzy, Bublé vibe to things. It calls back to the smoothest of Christmas tunes and offers a nice contrast to the rest of the song’s production. On top of that, there’s a simply beautiful harmony between them and the female backing vocals.
And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this article. I’d like to thank all of you who offered recommendations to me over on Twitter. I would also like to thank everyone who has supported Pastel Wasteland over the past year.