Fringe Christmas music is the best Christmas music | The Listener | Chicago Reader

Fringe Christmas music is the best Christmas music 

Case in point: the cheeky retro new wave of “Santa,” by Chicago composer and multi-instrumentalist Ian Iversen.

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge The artwork for the Ian Iversen EP Break
  • The artwork for the Ian Iversen EP Break

Normally it bothers me how Christmas invades every facet of life the day after Thanksgiving. The tinsel, lawn ornaments, and other signifiers of the season aggressively underline the point that Jewish people like me have a religious and cultural heritage different from the majority of the country. But my irritation has had an unintended side effect: over the years, I'd grown so annoyed by the jolly chintz that soundtracked my December grocery-store runs that I'd also closed myself off to the strange, compelling, and outright great music that uses the holiday as a framing device. Fortunately, my feelings towards Christmas music have thawed in recent years.

I'm glad they did, because there's joy on its fringes. In April of this year, Chicago sound engineer, composer, and musician Ian Iversen dropped the out-of-season tune "Santa," on an EP called Break. It's cheekily retro, keyboard-laden new wave, with possibly synthesized sleigh bells as its only percussion track, and its florid melodic peaks reach yearningly for something wistful and romantic. The lyrics aren't especially clear—Iversen obscures his words with reverb, which pushes his voice back in the mix—but his singing sounds a little like Andy Partridge of XTC or Michael McDonald. I hope this holiday season brings more music from him.  v

The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories