For various reasons, many people find the holidays a difficult time of the year. Often times people are expected to put on traditional holiday music and pretend to enjoy it. However, many people might associate those traditional songs with bad memories from a Christmas past.
While most Christmas music might be considered maudlin at best, many indie artists have taken it upon themselves to attempt to ressurect the category. Some artists attempt to put their own spin on classics while others prefer penning their own songs. For fresh takes on Christmas music, consider the following artists.
The Bright Eyes Christmas album, released in 2002, consists of traditional Christmas songs such as “Away in a Manger,” “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Silent Night.” Connor Oberst also takes on “Blue Christmas,” which was made famous by Elvis Presley. None of the songs steer too far from their original conceptions, but they do feature the usual Bright Eyes arrangements and instrumentation.
On a whole, the album is a little on the depressive side with most tracks being minor key in nature. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” which clocks in just under two minutes, is the album highlight as it is the most raucus take on the album. “Little Drummer Boy” also stands out as it seems particularly suited to Connor Oberst’s aesthetics.
Sufjan Stevens seems to be single-handedly attempting to save Christmas music. Releasing a new album of Christmas music for his friends every year, there are currently eight volumes in the series. The first five have been collected and released as a box set that can be purchased. Stevens mixes his albums with his versions of standards and original tracks.
“What Child Is This?” gets stretched out into a six and a half minute epic in his version entitled “What Child is This Anyway?” The tracks “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever” and “Sister Winter” are the strongest original songs from the collection. As they do not have the typical Christmas music sound, these tracks can be enjoyed all year long along with Stevens’ usual albums.
Elbo.wsThe easiest way to build an indie rock Christmas playlist is to search a music blog aggregator such as elbo.ws. Artists ranging from Yo La tengo, Damien Rice, Julian Koster, Tom Waits, and the Flaming Lips can be found with their versions of Christmas songs. If people were to want to include ironic choices on their Christmas playlist, John Denver’s “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas),” George Takai’s “Let It Snow” from A Sulu Christmas, and Last Christmas by Wham! can be found.
There are also many indie-approved artists that can be found through a blog search as well. Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” is always popular and has been covered by The Mountain Goats. “Zat You Santa Claus?” by Loius Armstrong serves as a jazzy take on Christmas. Also, John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” along with several covers of it, stands out as the essential indie-approved Christmas song.
Armed with a playlist of enjoyable music, the holidays should be an easier time to manage . This guide should serve as a spring board for anyone who wants to start a new tradition with Christmas music.