In 2007, I had just about had enough. North Carolina (which still fancied itself as the progressive spot of the South before it went and got crazy and Nashville and Austin were all "about that..." BUT I DIGRESS... where was I? Oh yes, North Carolina) local radio had stations switching to all-day Christmas music on November 1. Also, it was a year or two before that that awful flipping "Christmas Shoes" song was big. I wanted something better. Maybe something irreverent.
And I succeeded!
Eleven songs over about 30 minutes of Christmas songs by more modern bands, kicked off by The Dandy Warhols rock-your-face-off version of "The Little Drummer Boy." I burned it to CD and basically listened to it every day on my commute. (Yeah, we also still had CDs back then. Weird.)
The things was, in going through the paces of putting that together, I saw there were other songs out there that were good, though they didn't quite fit on the 2007 mix. So, I did it again in 2008 with 14 new songs. A tradition was born. Now, nine years and nine mixes later, the canon has grown to include more Hanukkah songs than I knew existed, several of the so much better than the Adam Sandler standby. Rap and hip-hop are represented. Even one year had an EDM song!
Bottom line, if you're a fan of current music and want to augment the endless Bing Crosby and completely avoid the Amy Grant-esque tripe that floods the airwaves, you've never had more options. The Killers just released all 10 of their annual original Christmas Songs ("Don't Shoot Me Santa Claus" remains the most amazing of them all) on Apple Music. Amazon has several indie rock holiday playlists. And, somehow, your old buddy Jay has managed to give you quite a starter set of things to search for and dump on to one playlist like I have:
2008 (includes 2007 list)
2011 (aka the best one)
Last year, I said I was going on hiatus with this. The well was dry, I said. Well, surprise! In 2016, we're going EP style and I promise it's worth your time:
1) Carly Rae Jepsen - "Last Christmas"
Because, I ask, what even are the holidays without candy? And this is candy for sure, albeit candy with more saxophone than normal. You know the song, you know the singer and you like candy. So eat it up.
2) The LeeVees & Matisyahu - "Outside of December"
See, and I thought the LeeVees themselves were the biggest Hanukkah supergroup. I WAS WRONG. Adding Matisyahu to the mix makes it bigger. And this song is pretty great. It starts on Hanukkah, but pulls out to the macro view of goodwill towards men and asks us all if we can pull that off beyond just the holiday season. I can't think of a more timely theme. Well done.
3) Epic Rap Battles - "Moses vs. Santa Claus"
Snoop Dogg plays Moses. Suffice it to say, there's only one horse in this race as a result.
4) Ivan & Alyosha - "Being Home for Christmas"
A nice, sentimental thing about being in the place you want to be and with the people you want to be with. Well performed, at that.
5) The Killers - "Dirt Sledding"
No band has done more on its own to add to the alt-rock Christmas canon than The Killers and they have rightfully held a place on just about every one of these mixes. They've done the sentimental to the flat out fun and this one bends a bit more to the latter with a chorus asking "Pretty girls, Christmas lights, mistletoe, holy nights, don't it sound like heaven on a cloud?" Hell yeah it does.
Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope all these songs help brighten the season. Cheers, all. Thanks for reading!