It's the Jingle Bell (indie) Rock!
By Jay Cridlin, tbt* staff writer
Published November 30, 2007
And you thought indie kids were too cool for Christmas. These days, you're just as likely to hear Death Cab for Cutie's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) or the Raveonettes' The Christmas Song in the mall as you are to hear Burl Ives burping Holly Jolly Christmas.
Last year, indie fave Sufjan Stevens released a massive box set of 42 Christmas recordings, including lovely instrumental renditions of Angels We Have Heard On High and Silent Night as well as quirky originals like Come On! Let's Boogie to the Elf Dance!
Even harder acts like Jimmy Eat World (Last Christmas), My Chemical Romance (All I Want for Christmas Is You) and Plain White T's (Season of a Lifetime) have gotten in on the holiday fun. The only unifying theme: They don't sound like Christmas music.
Every year around this time, music bloggers delight in posting hand-selected mix tapes of their favorite wintry songs for download, all free of charge. Here are a few of the early holiday mp3 mixes now available at a music blog near you.
Songs:Illinois tends to spotlight rootsy singer-songwriters, and most tracks on this 21-song mix fit that description. The standout is Sufjan Stevens' That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!, a banjo-driven ballad about snow on the driveway that holds up at any time of the year. Bill Kelly's Pettyesque Here Comes Christmas is a very solid pop-rock track, and Hem's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sounds like a classic holiday tune. If you feel like dancing, put on Asleep at the Wheel's Santa Loves To Boogie. You also have to love some of the song titles (i.e. Mike Nicolai's Christmas is for Losers, John Prine's Christmas in Prison and Neko Case's Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis). The album is cohesive, the Americana vibe consistent and the songs more or less solid throughout. This is an album you can play without shame at your next hipster holiday get-together. Grade: A
Here's a novel idea: An all-Swedish Christmas album. Swedesplease, a blog dedicated to Swedish indie pop, compiled this 14-song mix, and it's certainly eclectic. The songs, which are in English, include a handful of throwbacks to Spector-meets-Motown '60s-rock: The Carny's This Christmas If You Come Back, Irene's Christmas on the Beach, Shade Tree's Christmas Peace and Hello Saferide's appropriately titled I-Pod X-mas. Bobby Baby's reinvisioning of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is electronic but warm, like the Postal Service. The songs sound more like Americana than Europop (with the exception of the Knife's creepy Christmas Reindeer). Give the mix a spin if you're in the mood for something quirky and new. Grade: B
This popular New York music blog mixes a sampling of shimmering twee tracks like Yeah, I Know, It's Christmastime, a pulsing, sparkling track by Anathello's Andrew Dost, with flat-out electronic weirdness like Melt Banana's White Christmas and nullsleep's 8-bit silent night. In all, the mix feels a little disjointed. Louis Armstrong's jazzy instrumental Santa Claus Blues is a good tune, but it sticks out like a sore thumb on this indie-friendly mix, and it doesn't sound very "Christmassy," either. A few of the songs, including Ween's acoustic version of Silent Night, are a little heavy on the talking intros, though Santa Claus, a grungy stomper by Wild Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire, makes up for it, as does Holly Golightly's Loretta Lynnish Christmas Tree's On Fire. Bonus: Steven Garvey's loopy instrumental of Dreidle, Dreidle, Dreidle and Woody Guthrie's Hanukkah Dance. Cheers to an all-inclusive holiday! Grade: B-minus
It's Hard to Find a Friend
This blog has a couple of mixes, one free and one that costs $7 (with the proceeds going to Toys for Tots). The 18-track pay-per-download album, Peace On Earth, features guests spots by Great Lake Swimmers, Rosie Thomas, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Death Cab's Chris Walla. But the free mix includes a few heavy holiday hitters, too. It kicks off with Radiohead (seriously) performing a crackly, but otherwise fairly faithful, version of Winter Wonderland, complete with Thom Yorke mumbling about Smurfs. Aimee Mann's lush, twangy I'll Be Home For Christmas and Bright Eyes' whisper-soft Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are gorgeous. The album's a little on the melancholy side, especially Damian Rice's acoustic take on Happy Christmas (War Is Over) and Feist's dirgelike Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming, but every song is beautiful nonetheless. A perfect mix for a cold, lonely winter's night. Grade: A