Friday, December 5, 2014

Sounds of the Season 2014

Friends, you can imagine how the year has been going since this is the first post in six whole months. But this, and the forthcoming albums of the year post, are things you can count on here. Neither rain nor sleet, nor lack of hours in the day shall delay these music-oriented posts.

Anyhow, I'm kind of surprised how this year's mix came together. Confession: I usually start nosing around the Interwebs for songs around Labor Day. I don't think I had any ideas by Nov. 1 this year. Also, this is the eighth year I've been putting this together. I'm not saying the well is dry... but I'm not NOT saying it either. The way I see it, if I get next year's in some kind of shape, I can celebrate 10 years with a "best of the holiday mixes mix" and call it a great decade.

If this is your first year reading about this, back in 2007, I thought it would be fun to put together a mix of rock and humor Christmas songs. When the "great to listen to at work" radio station in your town switches to all-Christmas-all-the-time around Sep. 15, they rarely play No Doubt's "Oi to the World," or everyone's favorite rendition of "O Holy Night" by Eric Cartman. If ever. So I made a mix happen and it was good.

In doing the research, I found there were a lot of great alt-rock holiday songs out there. Hanukkah started to get its due. Then, I realized rap and hip-hop were badly underrepresented on my mixes. I'd say the reigning high water mark remains the 2011 effort, but all of them have been a nice departure from the same old stuff.

So, if you're looking for a fresher set of tunes to set the holiday mood, check the blog archives on the left and, for sure, see the list below.

As always, most of these are available for purchase from your digital music purveyor of choice.

1) Sufjan Stevens - "Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time!" - Sufjan has more Christmas songs than Bing Crosby at this point, but I think it's the first time he's made it onto one of my mixes. He makes it this time because of the awesome guitar in the whole song. Nice way to get your night of roasting chestnuts by the open fire off to a rollicking start.

2) Bad Religion - "White Christmas" - I'm still letting it sink in that Bad Religion put out a Christmas album and if I am ever mayor of a town with a tree lighting, I assure you, Bad Religion will be the musical guests. Two minutes of loud guitars to help you imagine living someplace where it regularly snows on Christmas.

3) CeeLo Green - "All I Want for Christmas" - This song is important. Maybe more than ever since we now know Mariah Carey can no longer sing. CeeLo does it the right way, though, making the song just as fun as ever.

4) Fitz & the Tantrums - "Santa Stole My Lady" - This is the kind of song this mix was invented for. I actually think the first mix I did, I described it as looking for songs titled "All I want for Christmas is to get in Your Pants." Well, this song title isn't that. But it's in that ballpark. The melody is actually quite lovely. It sounds like a legit Christmas song. Just so happens it's about Santa stealing your girl so bah humbug to the whole kit and kaboodle now.

5) The LeeVees - "Nun Gimmel Heh Shin" - This year's only Hanukkah entry (paging Matisyahu... get to work, bruh). Fortunately, it's a pretty fun little song about teaching children to gamble with a simple top and some candy. Better living through gambling? You bet! Eight crazy nights of such? Please do.

6) Tha Dogg Pound - "This Christmas" - Actually a pretty nice slow jam from Snoop's compilation from several years back. And, much in the spirit of asking Matisyahu to get moving on a new Hanukkah song, I think we can all agree it's time for Kendrick Lamar to do the same for hip-hop. I mean, if you know of some mixtape out there that featured Kendrick rapping about Christmas, hit the comment section now. I'll wait...

7) Ariana Grande - "Snow in California" - Honestly? This isn't a bad song. For as cheesy the subject matter and production, the idea of not wanting your loved one to travel off to some distant place is something we can all relate to and, to this song's credit, it captures that sort of mood. Well done.

8) The Killers - "Boots" - The Killers, happily, DO put out a new original song every year and, at least for now, they've all been good stuff. This one is no different, if a little more showgaze-y than others. But, you know, the world is kinda bad right now and shoe gaze is the mood. So perfect fit here.

9) The Decemberists - "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)" - I mean, a John Denver cover? Sure. This one depends on your mood. Either it's really sad or worth a chuckle, while also thinking it's kind of sad. Also probably a word of caution to people like me who see the holidays as a great reason to pour another drink.

10) Gent & Jawns - "Turn Up Ye Merry Gentlemen" - News! Dubstep is back in Christmas! And really, it should never go away.

However you celebrate, here's to health and happiness through the season!

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