Written by: Catastrophe Waitress, Special to CC2K
Yeah, I know. Christmas is nothing more than the glorification of consumerist greed. I get it. You wear red as a statement not as an homage to bearded philanthropists. Sure, Christmas sucks. You’re working double shifts at H&M from now until New Years and your 18-year-old manager has just implemented a “seasonal dress code” that includes an I’ve Been Naughty t-shirt. Life’s a bitch. And the cherry on top? You haven’t been able to escape the glut of awful Christmas music, which is like torture for you because music is your life. Well, my darling bedhead, there is any easy solution (one that does not involve spending the next two weeks inebriated). What follows is a 12-song musical antidote to all your Christmas woes, brought to you by the hippest kids of indie rock. Enjoy with a nice cold glass of soy milk and some delicious vegan cookies.
(Download this entire playlist HERE)
Beat Happening – “Christmas”
This beauty is for the modern Scrooge. Sample of lyrics: “I had sex on Christmas / I had sex three times today / three different women taught me how to be bored in their own separate, sweet little ways.” Nice.
Belle & Sebastian – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
The masters of indie pop revamp the long-winded classic as a charming low-brow sing-a-long, complete with sound effects (!) and an infectious swell of giggle fever. Highlight: what sound does a partridge in a pear tree make? Apparently, a hearty “ho ho!”
Bright Eyes – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
A pretty cover. Oberst combines boy-girl harmonization with a minimal piano and strings arrangement. Not startlingly progressive, but pleasing nonetheless; perfect for a snowy afternoon of hot chocolate and Facebook Scrabulous.
The Cocteau Twins – “Frosty the Snowman”
The Scottish trio infuses “Frosty” with their signature brand of ethereal dream pop, replacing the jangle with lush layers of synthesized vocals. Certainly this version of the delightful kiddie carol is creepy, but so is the story of a snowman that comes to life and engages children. Never has an animated ice cube been so cool (pun intended).
Feist – “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming”
Who doesn’t love Feist? She’s like this year’s Cat Power, building bridges between the clueless and the clued-in. Here she jumps on the money sleigh with an English adaptation of the 16th century German carol, “Est ist en Ros entsprungen.” While Feist (née Leslie Feist, of Broken Social Scene fame) may occasionally stray into Adult Contemporary realm, this cover is perfectly lovely, if not vaguely reminiscent of a dozy Cowboy Junkies verse.
The Flaming Lips – “White Christmas”
Bing Crosby’s nostalgic croon gets an epic facelift from Wayne and Co., employing flamboyant orchestration and eerie space-age blips. Mildly frightening, yet not unfitting for an evening with the in-laws.
Daniel Johnston – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
This cheeky reworking of “Rudolph” may not be the ideal preparatory course in outsider music, but Johnston, as the layman’s tunesmith, should be a name to file away under “Curiosities.” Consider that David Bowie, Beck, Sonic Youth and Matt Groening have all praised Johnston’s frank realism. Recommended: The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
Low – “Just Like Christmas”
Fans of Low may appreciate that the following adjectives are rarely applied to the band’s music: ‘upbeat,’ ‘danceable.’ It’s understandable. We’re Minnesotan. Most of us can’t dance and only pretend to be happy so that you’ll be our friend. “Just Like Christmas,” however, is relatively lighthearted and you can kind of shake your hips to it, which makes it nearly impossible to linger too long without moving.
The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
I’m sure your friends are tired of hearing you talk about the “bastardization of real punk rock by MTV-raised corporate choirboys in Hot Topic fingerless gloves.” I’m tired of you too. But if you truly feel the need to satisfy your inner beast, then I suggest raising the horns to this merry number that celebrates peaceful monogamous relationships.
The Raveonettes – “The Christmas Song”
An original song, not to be confused with “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).” The Danish duo couples the heavy-lidded drone of early shoegaze with a vintage surf rock riff, channeling a subversive neo noir for the fashionably enlightened. This is music that induces robotic gyration amongst the underfed; it does not encourage “pogo-ing.” Do not pogo.
Sufjan Stevens – “Holy, Holy, Holy”
If I were you, I would buy Stevens’ Songs for Christmas, a 5-disc set of both covers and original festive compositions. I’m just sayin’. Fun fact: Stevens teamed with Asthmatic Kitty Records to offer aspiring songwriters the chance at penning an original holiday tune, to be recorded by the artist himself, and offered, free of legal limitations, to the winner to do as he/she pleases (hello Starbucks!). Genius? Or really, really stupid?
Tom Waits – “Silent Night / A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”
Much like Jesus, Waits waxes poetic about hookers and dope and deadbeat baby daddies. Some girls want diamonds, other just want retribution and a used car lot. Taped from a live performance, “A Christmas Card” is Waits in absolute form, whiskey-voice-of-death in check and a thorny magnetism that melts even the purest of hearts. An apt soliloquy for the world-weary and a mixtape staple for misunderstood twenty-somethings.