We're fully in holiday music season whether we're ready or not, and today we got new holiday songs from some indie heavy hitters: Kurt Vile, Titus Andronicus, and Sufjan Stevens & Rosie Thomas.

Kurt covered the Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks-penned 1960 song "Must Be Santa" (that was famously covered by Bob Dylan in 2009) for Spotify Singles: Holiday Collection, with help from his daughters. He says:

When I was asked to be on this Christmas compilation, they said “you can do any Christmas song you want, as long as it’s not repeated by somebody else on this series.” I thought it was nice of them to invite me, but I didn’t know if I could pull off a Christmas song! Then my mind jumped to when John Agnello showed me the Bob Dylan version of “Must Be Santa” while we were making the Smoke Ring for My Halo record. It’s a really hilarious video (he showed me that first), and it shows a rambunctious Christmas party. Bob Dylan has a wig on, and someone goes flying through a window. All this time, I thought it was Bob Dylan’s song. It’s really catchy, and he makes it his own as he usually does. I figured if I can do Dylan’s “Must Be Santa,” if that’s not taken, it’s a sign. I gotta be the next chapter in this version of a Bob Dylan song. Then I realized it was actually a classic Christmas song, and was written however long ago, but I still wanted to do it justice the way Bob did. I wanted to be the guy who attempted to pull it off.

This was also a great excuse to use my home studio OKV Central again, with my bandmate Adam Langellotti on bass, and Ted Young. Ted moved to Philly (he engineers with me a lot), but he was actually John Agnello’s assistant engineer back when I first heard Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa.” It feels like a perfect circle, really. I thought I’d do an acoustic version and have my daughters sing backup, but then it turned into more of a weird synth version with their vocals, which is really the hook. I figured Bob wouldn’t hear it, but I still wanted to do it justice, and once I got my daughters singing with me I hoped he would at least like it. Now I know… he loves it [laughs]. Merry Christmas, Bob Dylan!

Titus Andronicus have released "Drummer Boy," which is a parody of Billy Joel's "Piano Man" with the lyrics changed to be from the perspective of "the little drummer boy" from the 1958 Christmas classic of the same name. Patrick Stickles says:

I first connected the dots between the great Billy Joel song and the beloved Christmas standard several years ago, but it got tossed onto the pile with so many of my other crazy ideas. Things being how they are, though, I may not have the luxury of time to execute all those crazy ideas, so when we had two days off in Montreal on our recent tour, we figured we’d grab the reindeer by the antlers and cross this one off the list, so as to avoid the pain of eternal regret. Also, I’ve noticed a lot of discourse recently about what constitutes a legitimate ‘parody’ lately, and I’d like to get a piece of that action.

Titus also announced new tour dates, including a hometown show at Brooklyn's Elsewhere Hall on April 8. All dates below.

Last, but definitely not least, Rosie Thomas recruited her old pal/collaborator Sufjan Stevens for a new original Christmas song, "We Should Be Together," and she says:

Christmas can be a bittersweet time, and the world can feel hopeless and lonely fairly often, but there’s some kind of magic around Christmas that brings hope and togetherness, or at least that possibility, which I guess is hope. Though this story is framed within a relationship, the larger themes and longings are more universal. We all need hope, and we need each other. The song started with my husband. He had the melody and arrangement and even the chorus. Together we worked on the verses. We’re a pretty great writing team, which just naturally came together over time, and has been really enjoyable. We finish eachother’s... sandwiches. This song’s a beauty, and it was great having Sufjan hop in and make it even richer of course—our little Christmas miracle himself.

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Future Islands, Stars, and The Linda Lindas recently released Christmas songs too.

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Titus Andronicus -- 2023 Tour Dates
Feb 3 Limerick, IE – Pharmacia
Feb 4 Dublin, IE – The Grand Social
Feb 7 Edinburgh, UK – The Mash House
Feb 8 Glasgow, UK – Broadcast
Feb 9 Manchester, UK – YES (Pink Room)
Feb 10 Leeds, UK – Belgrave Music Hall
Feb 11 Sunderland, UK – Pop Recs
Feb 13 Nottingham, UK – Bodega
Feb 14 Birmingham, UK – Hare and Hounds
Feb 15 Cardiff, UK – Clwb Ifor Bach
Feb 16 Brighton, UK – The Hope and Ruin
Feb 17 London, UK – Moth Club
Feb 18 London, UK – Moth Club
Feb 28 Pittsburgh, PA – Thunderbird
Mar 1 Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
Mar 2 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
Mar 3 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
Mar 4 St Paul, MN – Turf Club
Mar 5 Fargo, ND – Aquarium
Mar 7 Great Falls, MT – Newberry
Mar 8 Spokane, WA – Lucky You Lounge
Mar 9 Vancouver, BC – Fox Theatre
Mar 10 Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
Mar 11 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
Mar 14 Sacramento, CA – Harlow’s
Mar 15 San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
Mar 16 Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst
Mar 17 Los Angeles, CA – Teragram Ballroom
Mar 18 San Diego, CA – The Casbah
Mar 21 Phoenix, AZ – Rebel Lounge
Mar 22 Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
Mar 23 Denver, CO – Globe Hall
Mar 28 Omaha, NE – Slowdown
Mar 29 Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s
Mar 31 Bloomington, IN – Bishop
Apr 1 Columbus, OH – Big Room Bar
Apr 2 Richmond, VA - Richmond Music Hall
Apr 4 Washington, DC – Black Cat
Apr 5 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
Apr 7 Asbury Park, NJ – Asbury Lanes
Apr 8 Brooklyn, NY – Elsewhere (Hall)
Jun 1 McGill, NV – Schellraiser Festival

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