Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sounds of the Season 2013: A Holiday Music Mix You Can Live With

I look forward to this every year. Since 2007, I've been putting together an annual mix of current (or current-ish) bands doing holiday songs. For me, this offers a nice departure from the stuff that crams onto you local all-Christmas radio station. Plus, we're starting to get some decent Hanukkah songs. Maybe in five years there will be enough for an all-Hanukkah mix.

Anyway, I think this year's might be better than last year's installment, though nothing may ever reach the heights of the 2011 mix. As always, everything below is available from most purveyors of digital music.

1) Bad Religion - Angels We Have Heard on High - Dude. Bad Religion just put out a Christmas album. This is WHY I started making these mixes back in the day. If you aren't familiar with Bad Religion, suffice it to say, they probably won't be asked to perform in your church's social hall any time soon. They said they made this album for fun and top show that good songs are good songs, regardless of what they're about. This is exactly the kind of thrasher to start off the mix.

2) Kelly Clarkson - Underneath the Tree - Someone told Kelly it would be a good idea to roll into the studio in her PJs and knock out some Christmas standards (public domain!) and watch money fall form the sky. This person was smart. Fortunately, they included this sing, which might be the best Christmas pop song since Mariah threw down with "All I Want for Christmas is You."

3) Matisyahu - Happy Hanukkah - The no-longer-Hasidic-Jew can still drop a great reggae-tinged song. To some extent, I think Matisyahu should be required to put out an annual Hanukkah song because we NEED more of this. This one is pretty simple, but danceable and, honestly, I like having the dance beat back in Hanukkah.

4) fun. - Believe in Me - Nice little original song with some 1960s sound in there. And a Dave Grohl soundalike in the role of Santa Claus who just wants you to believe in him, man. At least on the mp3 I got, there was an unneeded "skit" at the end that your better desktop mp3 players can trim for you.

5) Oasis - Merry Christmas Everybody - How did I not know this existed? Noel's rich voice gets the lead here, which means it's everything right about Oasis, who remain one of the most under-appreciated bands  of the last 20 years in the USA. This one keeps it simple and it's lovely.

6) The Killers - I Feel it in My Bones - The Killers DO put out an annual song. This one, from a couple years back is the follow-up to indie-rock-Christmas-classic "Don't Shoot Me Santa." Our protagonist has not yet been shot and is continuing to plea with Santa that he's no longer naughty. Santa, though, is one tough cookie. He needs to make an example out of SOMEBODY, damn it, so our protagonist is likely SOL. Can we have this turn into a trilogy?

7) Erran Baron Cohen - Dreidel - You know the dreidel song. Hell, it's the ONLY Hanukkah song most of you know. This is that song. You know, done up right. Rousing beat and instrumentation. Well suited for your next game of Strip Dreidel.

8) The Civil Wars - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - The Civil Wars are very good with what they do and they do it here flawlessly. A bluegrassy-tinged send up of the song you all know.

9) The xx - Last Christmas - The minimalists take the Wham! classic and put the bleak spin on it that it should always have had. Because what if the "this year, to save me from tears..." line is aspirational and not fact? Right? Not so sing-songy now, ARE WE?

10) Jessica Lea Mayfield - Little Toy Trains - First off, can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be if artists like this were the face of country music? But I digress... Mayfield puts her touch on the Glen Campbell song. A girl with a great, distinctive voice and her guitar. Good stuff.

11) Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - Please Come Home for Christmas - A not-too-downtempo end to the mix, which is something I haven't done often, but it just works this time.

However you celebrate, here's to a happy, healthy and safe season to all of you!