with Jingle Bell Rocks!
director Mitchell Kezin was an illuminating one, but also frustrating, since he gave us far too many Christmas song recommendations to fit in the piece about his unique, spirited documentary film. So, here we’ve compiled the top ten list of Kevin's favorite Christmas song discoveries of 2020. There’s something for everyone in here, so read on, even if you think you hate Christmas music.
1. Chilly Gonzales, A very chilly christmas
Who said Christmas music couldn’t be cool? The fact of Jarvis Cocker doing Christmas music, alongside Feist and Chilly Gonzalez should be more than enough to throw that notion out the window. From A very chilly christmas
, Kezin recommends tracks “Snow Is Falling In Manhattan,” which features Cockers’ unmistakable vocals and distinctive visuals via lyrics like “It’s coming down in smithereens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens.” Kezin also points to “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” which he notes “gets covered to death, but his take … is inspired.”
2. Jamie Cullum, The Pianoman At Christmas
No, not that Piano Man. Jamie Cullum is a U.K. crooner, the millennial answer to Michael Bublé. His album The Pianoman At Christmas is an entirely original affair, which Kezin notes is a very ambitious goal in the Christmas music world. Kezin’s favorites are the grand and jazzy number “Christmas Never Gets Old” and the soft-sided “Christmas Caught Me Crying.”
3. Randolph’s Leap, Stay Away This Christmas
Though quite the opposite sentiment than one has come to expect from Christmas music, the phrase Stay Away This Christmas
must ring true for some hoping to avoid uncomfortable interactions this most intimate time of year. The Scottish act Randolph’s Leap will sound familiar to fans of Belle & Sebastian minus the super heavy twee. Kezin calls “Christmas, Burn It All,” which features the Olive Grove All-Stars, a “barnburner,” and it does have a rather wild, celebratory flair to it that appeals to even the Christmas-phobic ear. Probably because of the burning.
4. Girlhouse, “ugly xmas sweater party”
A single from LA-based girlhouse is the song for the indie kids. Like Phoebe Bridgers’ “Halloween,” this song uses a holiday as a veneer for conversations about other things, like getting “into a fight at the ugly Christmas sweater party.” For fans of indie music that assists in any determination to keep feeling gloomy and weird during the holidays, this is a good one. Kezin notes that the song wowed folks in his corner of the “hardcore Christmas music community,” and it might be his favorite song of the entire season.
5. Meiko, "This Year Can Kiss My Ass"
For lovers of the gritty honesty of lo-fi bedroom production and those who are also fed up with this awful year, let the Hamburg, Germany-based artist Meiko comfort you with her humble acoustics on “This Year Can Kiss My Ass.” Kezin notes that often, pessimistic Christmas songs aren’t always the best, because it’s too easy to write a “fuck you Christmas” song, but that here, Meiko has something unique and original to say, in a year and a holiday season that is certainly both of those things too.
6. Christmas Aguilera, Jolly Santa Social Club
This UK-based band with a name that’s very unfriendly to SEO is all about Christmas, and they’ve been releasing Christmas singles since 2012. Now, they’ve got a full album of those singles and more on Jolly Santa Social Club
, from which Kezin draws his favorite track, “Why Can’t I Go To Sleep?,” a song that seems to recall the anticipation of Christmas, but from an upbeat and rather more adult viewpoint.
7. Jacklen Ro, “C U Christmas Day”
This is a song for the indie pop-loving zoomers to relate to, and one which Kezin says seems to have come out of nowhere. More likely it’s just that the duo that make up Jacklen Ro are quite young, with just one album out last year to their name, under the sponsorship from the underground label Lolipop. Their Christmas offering, “C U Christmas Day” is a jangly indie gem, with lines like “my mistletoe is always where you are.” Kezin says, “This is a sweet and sublime modern day love song … what better time to fall in love or be in love than at Christmastime?”
8. Don’t Call Me Ishmael, “I Won’t Hesitate (This Christmas)”
Alt act Don’t Call Me Ishmael has got the Christmas spirit in spades on their new single “I Won’t Hesitate (This Christmas)” which is all about taking the season by the … sprigs of mistletoe and kissing your crush! “Supremely catchy. If you're not in the mood to celebrate after hearing this song, there's no hope for you ! I also dig the references to classic chestnuts à la Bing Crosby & Bob Geldof,” Kezin says. He also points out that the band, who are big Christmas fans, also launched their “12 Days of Ishmas” on Dec. 12, which will feature videos posted to their Facebook page.
9. Andrew Bird, HARK!
Andrew Bird is no stranger to Christmas lovers. Each year around the holidays, he hosts Gezelligheid, a live concert performance in a cathedral in Chicago. This year he streamed that performance and also released HARK!
Kezin doesn’t have a favorite to pick out of the totally Christmas-themed album, but at 12 songs, there’s surely a favorite to be found by every listener.
10. Jetstream Pony, Grief of a Frozen Sailor / Hit the Snow
Perhaps my personal favorite from the list, this is a Christmas release for the lover of ‘90s shoegaze. The work of a stellar group of musicians (Beth Arzy of The Luxembourg Signal, Shaun Charman of The Wedding Present, Kerry Boettcher of Turbocat and Hannes Müller of The BV’s) “Grief of a Frozen Sailor'' is Kezin’s pick off this release, and the song certainly sounds nothing like a Christmas song. But it is, produced specially by Kezin’s friend Robert Voogt, who lives in Amsterdam, collects nothing but 45” records and produces and curates the releases on his Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club