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It’s that time of the year again, folks. The Holidays are among us, and while most are just getting into the jolly swing of things, others have been in the holiday spirit since Thanksgiving. To either your ire or cheer, songs like “Silver & Gold,” “White Christmas,” “The Grinch,” Amazing Grace,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells” have been circulating the radio waves, malls and department stores for a while. Since we’ve listened to these songs time and time again, it’s time to ask “what else is out there?” What can the people who are sick of those timeless classics, Christmas carols and tunes listen to? Sure, the music listener might know of some good tracks, but for those of you who aren’t the wiser, this list is for you. For this installment of Weekend Download Recommendations, and to start off the holiday with the best festive music around, I’ve dug deep into the catalogs of the best bands from today and devised a list of music that should be playing around your house now. Enjoy! These aren’t your mom and dad’s Christmas songs.
John Lennon – “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”
Even though John Lennon is around my parent’s age, and this song has been around since they were my age, I wouldn’t put this on the list unless I thought it spoke volumes to my generation. This is a Christmas song that doesn’t glorify the acts of consumerism, God, Santa, or anything else that has been attributed to the average holiday song. Instead, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” takes a different approach to holiday music by telling its audience that the fact we can celebrate Christmas shows how good we all really have it. John Lennon was never shy about throwing messages of understanding, peace and love into his music, and by tackling a subject like Christmas, he was able to craft one of his best non-Beatles songs.
Coldplay – “Christmas Lights”
Looking for a melodramatic song, with an uplifting sound? Say what you will about Coldplay, but it’s hard to argue against that the “Clocks” hit makers aren’t talented. Sure, they are a band whose music is dark, intense and emotive, but what happens when they make a Christmas song? Last year around the beginning of December, the British rock stars released “Christmas Lights” out of nowhere and shocked audiences with their whimsical holiday tune. Even though they are a band who can make an emo kid cry, they’ve also been able to create one of the most exciting, unsuspecting Christmas songs in the past 10 years.
Mogwai - “Christmas Song”
The wildcard of this list is from the Swedish post rock band Mogwai. Normally reserved for fans of instrumental rock music, Mogwai’s sound is textured with layers beyond layers of orchestra, bass, guitar and drums. Creating a symphonic wall of sound in almost every song, their music normally includes a heavy baseline which contrasts the lengthy guitar based jams. Even though their music can be a bit predictable in the sense of what they’ll sound like, it is no surprise that they took a different route with their own Christmas song, entitled exactly that; “Christmas Song.” On this holiday instrumental track the band strips down their normally heavy sound for a calmer, sedated listen that’ll be perfect for any night during the month of December. I highly suggest this track.
Death Cab For Cutie – “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”
Indie rock legends Death Cab For Cutie are known for creating pop based songs that seem to flawlessly melt the fine line between indie and glorified art rock. With albums like Transatlanticism and their latest Codes and Keys, the pop heavy influences are proportionately displayed in place of their rock influences while tracks like “Soul Meets Body” and “Grapevine Fires” show that they can really create a poppy song with enough substance in rock. On Death Cab’s holiday themed song though, like Mogwai, they opted to instead throw their previous sound out the window and go for a tighter holiday vibe that’s obviously influenced from the Beatles’ work with holiday music. The perfect time to play this song is while relaxing by the fire, or playing with your new gadgets after Santa buys you that new IPhone.
The Flaming Lips feat. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – “Atlas Eets Christmas”
Eerily similar to the John Lennon song “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” The Flaming Lips’ take on holiday music is also accompanied by the same women who helped John with his Christmas song: Yoko Ono. Instead of having a deeply political message that should be taken seriously, the Lips opted for a funnier or even more confusing message than anything else. That message isn’t quite clear, but who cares, it’s the Plastic Ono Band and The Flaming Lips collaborating on a Christmas song! Filled with a choir, strings, and a plethora of holiday driven sounds, this tune is the perfect addition for anybody who’s willing to let Wayne Coyne and Yoko Ono take them on a ride. Though that ride might not be going anywhere, it’s still fun to travel with those silly artists at the helm. They certainly make a good Christmas song.
Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas
Speaking of wacky artists and their forays into Christmas music, Sufjan Stevens didn’t just write one song based on the holiday spirit, but instead made an entire double album covering the most famous of Christmas songs. Released throughout five installments of EPs, Songs for Christmas is Stevens’ whimsical take on these class songs, with the sounds of his massive hit “Chicago” meeting up with the likes of “Amazing Grace,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Joy to the World” and an assortment of original songs to feast over. This Sufjan Stevens album is such a perfect mix between old and new songs that I had to put it on this list. Nothing really speaks Christmas to me more than this album, and because of its hefty amount of songs and the beautiful sounds that he achieves on it, Stevens’ Songs for Christmas is the only perfect modern Christmas album. Like the rest of his work, Sufjan Stevens creates a unique record that is worth as many listens as there are songs on the record.
Lonely Island/SNL: Digital Short “Dick In a Box”
Forget about Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake fill the void that Rudolph and the island of misfit toys couldn’t. If the Lonely Island’s brand of comedic hip hop isn’t your style, this song will surely not work for you, but for all those out there looking for a laugh, these guys with their dicks in boxes will undoubtedly deliver. Remember everyone; “Christmas; dick in a box. Hanukkah; dick in a box. Kwanzaa; a dick in a box. Every single holiday a dick in a box!”
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