Archive for the ‘Alternative Christmas Music’ Category

A Starbucks Ad Featuring Matt Pond PA

December 27, 2017

Matt Pond PA is a band from Pennsylvania led by Matt Pond (clever). Pond formed the band back in 1998 – they’ve changed members frequently but have released 13 records since. In 2005 the band released Winter Songs and I’m featuring the song, Snow Day from it tonight. Ten years after its release, the song was featured in a Starbucks ad. I’m guessing that made them more money that they had previously ever seen.

The band writes catchy, poppy tunes and they’re very good (good enough to get featured in a worldwide ad campaign).

Matt Pond PA – Snow Day

Starbucks Ad



Traveling Day (Three Songs Tonight)

December 23, 2017

A few years ago I discovered that December 23rd is the busiest traveling day of the Christmas season. On this day I try to find songs about people coming home or missing those that aren’t. I’m featuring two that fit both categories nicely. And one that is close.

First up is a beautiful tune from Caroline Pennel. If you’re a follower of the TV program, The Voice, you might recognize Pennel as a contestant from season five of the show. Her song tonight is titled This Year and also features vocals from the very talented Aaron Espe who I presented on December 9th of last year.

This Year
“This year I´m coming home instead of staying wishing I was there
This year I´m gonna be there for all”

Next up is I’m Coming Home from Robert Shirey Kelly, a Nashville based singer/songwriter (I’d write more about him but his ‘about’ pages on his website and his facebook page share very little information). The song is excellent nonetheless.

I’m Coming Home
“I guess you could say that I’ve been waiting
Since around the 26th of last December
I’ll be home by Christmas Eve”

Last year was the first Christmas my wife and I spent as empty-nesters. Consequently, I expanded the traveling day theme to include melancholy songs about parents missing their kids. The final song tonight is a cover of Toyland from the band SHEL. If you’re just considering the lyrics of Toyland, then it fits neither category. The accompanying video from SHEL however features a young lady who discovers someone’s long forgotten stuffed toy and then seeks out its owner. Lovely cover and very sweet video.

SHEL by the way is a folk quartet from Fort Collins, CO featuring the sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza. They write, direct and shoot all of their own videos (which is a feat). In 2015 their song, Exactly What You Wish For was featured in a Toys r Us ad. Watch it here (tearjerker alert).


Caroline Pennell – This Year (featuring Aaron Espe)

Robert Shirey Kelly – I’m Coming Home

SHEL – Toyland

Garrett Viggers and Thin Places

December 22, 2017

Part of the fun of writing this blog is discovering artists whose music blows me away. Paul Kelly yesterday was one. The guy I’m featuring tonight is another.

Garrett Viggers is a very talented musician, singer/songwriter. Several years ago he picked up a hammered dulcimer, fell in love with the music it created and “sought to connect those ancient sounds into the modern world of music.” Viggers has been a worship pastor, played small solo dulcimer gigs and huge productions with his band, A Thin Places Band.

He has also performed in studio and live gigs with Third Day, Brandon Heath, Randy Stonehill, Jeremy Riddle, Bethel Music, Jim Brickman and several others.  Pretty impressive list. Oh and the guy playing the hammered dulcimer parts in the movie Ragamuffin The True Story of Rich Mullins? Yep. That’s Garrett Viggers.

It was back in 2010 or so when Viggers formed A Thin Places Band. (The term “thin places” is an ancient Celtic term that was later used by Celtic Christians to describe the veil between this world and the eternal world as being “tissue thin.” If one felt the presence of God, they would say “this is a thin place.”) They have recorded two records, Thin Places and A Thin Places Christmas.

In 2012 Viggers and Thin Places performed a Christmas concert that is a stunningly powerful show. I’m going to feature two songs from this concert tonight, Our God Is Hungry and Shatter The Dreams of Darkness.

Our God Is Hungry.
I love everything about this song.
The message.
The arrangement.
The performances.
The title of the song is a biblical concept — and is literal: Mary & Joseph, your newborn son, God, is hungry. Feed him.

Our God Is Hungry

Virgin Mary
in your belly
was a wonder wrapped in flesh

oh the scandal, heaven’s gamble
born so lowly wordless world

Father Joseph
could’ve rose up
with stones to throw
at your girl

but an angel came to tell you
incarnation is knocking at your door

Jumpin’ Johnny
inside your mommy
baby prophet
speakin’ truth

have to mention her redemption
through your cousin
and your king

holy holy
our God is hungry

God is with us
dumping our weakness

Virgin Mary
Father Joseph
Jumpin’ Johnny
Our God is hungry

Such a great song.

Shatter The Dreams of Darkness

Shatter the Dreams of Darkness is about the hopes of the Jewish people who await the coming of their Messiah who will come and deliver his people from darkness and oppression.
An amazing message, song and performance.

Both of tonight’s featured songs are available as a free download from NoiseTrade (along with three other songs from the show). Go get it!

Facebook (site has not been updated in several years)

Garrett Viggers and A Thin Places Band – Our God Is Hungry

Garrett Viggers and A Thin Places Band – Shatter The Dreams Of Darkness

The Light of Christmas Day – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

December 19, 2017

As a movie, Love The Coopers was a bomb at the box office and the reviews were not kind either. It did have one redeeming factor, a song from the soundtrack featuring Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, The Light of Christmas Day.

Plant we all know from his Led Zeppelin days and his subsequent solo career.

I first heard Krauss when I was working at Barnes & Noble back in the mid-90’s. She’s a bluegrass artist for the most part — but that really pigeonholes her. She a well-rounded singer and musician. (BTW, she was born in Decatur, IL and grew up in Champaign, IL.)

In 2007, Plant and Krauss teamed up to record the award winning album, Raising Sand. Raising Sand won five Grammy Awards and was Rolling Stone magazine’s #55 on their list of the 100 Best Albums of the 2000s.

The Light of Christmas Day was their first collaboration since.

The Light of Christmas Day @

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – The Light of Christmas Day

Jars of Clay – Hibernation Day

December 17, 2017

Derived from the bible verse “But we have treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,” (2 Corinthians 4:7) the band Jars of Clay formed in the early 90’s when all of the band members were attending Greenville University in southern Illinois.

By 1994 Jars of Clay had signed a record contract and began getting noticed. Adrian Belew, then the guitarist for the prog rock band King Crimson heard the band and offered to produce a few of their songs (Liquid and Flood).

In 2007 they released Christmas Songs a record says is a “highly nontraditional treatment of holiday themes, though one that will suit fans of the band from almost any era.” While said, “Jars Of Clay’s Christmas Songs may be the best modern Christmas album to come along in a long, long time.”

Tonight I’ll feature a live version of Hibernation Day (from Christmas Songs) and then a Jars of Clay live take on the Phil Spector classic,  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Both cuts come from the NoiseTrade Eastside Manor Christmas 2013 Sessions (which I featured earlier in the month here and here). The excellent Eastside Manor record is a free download – and every track is good.

Jars of Clay – Hibernation Day

Jars of Clay – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

A Couple Songs About Obligate Hemiparasitic Plants in the Order Santalales

December 15, 2017

In other words, a couple songs about Mistletoe.
According to legend (and wikipedia), in Norse MythologyLoki tricked the blind god Hodur into murdering Balder with an arrow made of Mistletoe, being the only plant to which Balder was vulnerable. Some versions of the story have mistletoe becoming a symbol of peace and friendship to compensate for its part in the murder. That Loki is always up to something it seems.

Apparently Mistletoe became part of Christmas traditions starting in the 18th century.

“When at Christmas in the hall / The men and maids are hopping,/ If by chance I hear them bawl /Amongst them quick I pop in./ All the men, Jem, John, and Joe,/ Cry, “What good luck has sent ye?”/ And kiss beneath the mistletoe/The girl not turn’d of twenty.. ” song by George Colman the Younger in the musical comedy Two to One (1784)

Those dudes are lucky they lived long ago. They’d get arrested for that behavior nowadays.

Enough of the history lesson. Tonight I’ll feature two songs that sing of the hemiparasitic plant, Mistletoe (The Christmas Sweater Song) from Tenth Avenue North and Under The Mistletoe from Never Shout Never.

Tenth Avenue North is a Christian band from Florida. They released an interesting Christmas record in November of this year, Decade the Halls Volume One. Each song on the record is recorded in a style from each decade beginning in the 1920s all the way through 2010. Interesting concept they actually pull off fairly well. Mistletoe comes in the aught-years of 2000 and is much in the style of Weezer.

Official Website

Never Shout Never is a band from Joplin, Missouri. They released The Xmas EP in 2013. Under the Mistletoe features Dia Frampton. If you’re a fan of The Voice, Ms. Frampton was the first runner up of season one of the program.

Official Website

Tenth Avenue North – Mistletoe (The Christmas Sweater Song)

Never Shout Never – Under The Mistletoe featuring Dia Frampton

Odd Metered Christmas

December 10, 2017

During the holiday season of 2015, a singer named Shannon Soderlund decided to make a new video nearly every day, rearranging Christmas standards into odd meters.  As you’ll see, she records each part and then syncs them all together on-screen Pretty cool. And then she did it again last year. All of 2015 here. 2016 here. I produce video — to produce one nearly every day for a month (in addition to everything else she’s doing) is pretty amazing.

She also produced a Christmas record Sing We Now of Christmas. You can stream it or purchase it on her bandcamp site. (On Spotify hereiTunes, google play.)

Her song, Winter Savings, is a humorous take on Christmas shopping – “this year I insist we buy all our presents right after Christmas”.

In addition to all this she’s very active in the music scene in NYC.

Her odd-metered takes on the classics aren’t for everyone but Lord she can sing.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – Shannon Söderlund – Odd-Metered Christmas

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Shannon Söderlund

Winter Savings

Sia’s All Original Christmas Record

December 9, 2017

I first heard Sia sing Little Black Sandals on a KRCW ‘live in studio’ compilation record way back in 2006 (or 7). It’s a great tune.

Then somewhere I discovered Zero 7 and realized Sia was the vocalist on their song, Destiny. Again… so good.

She has received an array of accolades including ARIA awards, and MTV Music Award and eight Grammy nominations. In total, Sia has been nominated for 167 awards and has won 50. She’s a bit of an odd duck but she is very talented.

In November of this year, Sia released her first record on Atlantic Records, Everyday Is Christmas. Sia wrote or co-wrote every song on the record with her producer, Greg Kurstin. Kustin has produced records for the Foo Fighters, Adele, Pink, Kelly Clarkson and many, many other artists.

In an article from, Sia describes how she and Kurstin ended up writing the all-original 10-song album. In an interview with Zane Lowe she said, “I thought we had a bit of a shortage of good Christmas music. There’s obviously the classics and stuff, but anything new, I wasn’t vibing that much on it,” she said.

“I just was having so much fun, because it’s already there, all of the concepts, you just have to expand on them. It’s not like you have to have an original idea to begin with. It’s like, Christmas, mistletoe, ho-ho-ho, Santa Claus, Christmas list, elves. You’ve got all of the subject matter,” she explained.

“It was easy and fun. So, we did it in two weeks. And I couldn’t stop writing new songs — so, I ended up with an original album by accident.”

Not all of it is my cup of tea, but lots of points for all original material.


Everyday Is Christmas – iTunes
Everyday Is Christmas – Amazon
Everyday Is Christmas – Spotify

Sia – Candy Cane Lane

Sia – Snowman

You, Me & A Christmas Tree – Elise LeGrow

December 7, 2017

Elise LeGrow is a Canadian singer/songwriter. Her first record was released in December of 2012 (Elise LeGrow EP) – it’s a digital only release and I can’t locate it anywhere.

And other than it was released just a few days after her EP, I can’t find out any additional information on her Christmas single, You, Me and a Christmas Tree.

  • it’s not available on iTunes (in the US anyway)
  • not available at Amazon
  • but you can find it on Spotify


Elise LeGrow – You, Me and a Christmas Tree

What If The Box-Tops Wrote A Christmas Song?

December 6, 2017

Alex Chilton was just 16-years old when he and his band-mates, known as The Box Tops, recorded The Letter in 1966. The Letter was the band’s biggest hit and was the #2 song of 1967 topped only by Light My Fire from The Doors. The band broke up in 1970.

Over the next four decades, Chilton continued to write and record and eventually formed a band called Big Star, a group Peter Buck of R.E.M. called a “major influence” on their music. Additionally, Chilton penned the theme song for That 70’s Show.

In 1975, Chilton released his second solo album, Bach’s Bottom. On it was a tune he wrote titled Jesus Christ. I actually heard a version by The Decemberists from Holidays Rule Volume 2. And only after doing some research on the song did I discover its connection to Chilton.

R.E.M. also covered it. All three below.

Alex Chilton – Jesus Christ

The Decemberists – Jesus Christ

R.E.M. – Jesus Christ

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