Holiday Music For Humbugs

As much as I love the culinary aspects of Thanksgiving, the holiday always brings with it a sense of dread. After the turkey has been consumed, thus begins the month in which it is acceptable (or required) for every speaker system in the world to be filled with Christmas music.

I haven’t always disliked Christmas music, but after I heard “Jingle Bells” for the 4,000th time in my life, I started to wonder why so many modern musical artists find it necessary to beat the dead horse of classic Christmas music.

The classics, though overplayed themselves, speak to specific eras when antiquated things like sleigh bells, sugarplums and hay-pennys still existed. When modern artists hijack Christmas songs from the ’20s, it almost makes me wish for of-the-moment interpretations of Christmas — something like “YOLO-mas” or “Santa Swag.” Traditions are honorable, but when they lead to the total death of musical creativity for an entire 12th of the year, a music nerd like me has to put his foot down.

The following includes some Christmas-related songs that I’ll be blasting through my headphones every time I walk into a store for the next two weeks, so I’m not met by music I’ve involuntarily heard 75% more than I would care to. Some are overtly Christmas-y, and some aren’t, but they all speak to the general holiday spirit.

I Have Dreams – “Three Days Til’ Christmas”
While sounding angrier than children who have just realized that Santa isn’t real, this song’s lyrics are probably the most beautiful representation of the humanistic aspects of Christmas spirit I’ve ever heard. One in particular – “It’s beautiful when you find the right people to befriend/If there are any empty holes I will replace them with brighter things from my heart” – is a personal favorite.

Real Estate – “Snow Days”
Everyone’s favorite nostalgia-mining indie band struck gold when they realized that snow days are possibly the most nostalgic thing of all. Whether your Christmas is white or you spend it doing sand-angels on the beach, this song will make you feel like a kid again.

George Winston – “Night”
Taken from the highly-recommended (and highly Christmas-y) album entitled December, “Night” perfectly captures the “not even a mouse”-type quiet that only occurs on Christmas Eve. Winston’s solo piano does a better job of relating holiday feelings than any number of pop singers lachrymose takes on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Van Morrison – “Glad Tidings”
While probably the least Christmas-y song on this list, Van the Man boils down the entire brotherly feeling of Christmas to one line: “Meet them halfway with love, peace and persuasion / and expect them to rise for the occasion.” Humbuggery is very difficult to maintain when those horns are playing.

Vince Guaraldi Trio – “Skating”
Taken from the Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack, “Skating” features the always-smooth Guaraldi at his best. This classy jazz is the antithesis of garish, commercialized Christmas.

Low – “Just Like Christmas”
It’s no wonder that Low’s highly personal tale of Christmas in Scandinavia was featured on The O.C. way back in the day, as it represents everything that was loved about the show: quirkiness, easily-digestible indie music, and heartwarming stories.

John Cale – “Child’s Christmas in Wales”
Named for a Dylan Thomas book, ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale’s take on the season is joyously upbeat, making up for its almost utter lack of Christmas-related lyric. The only thing that could make this better is if it was performed by Lou Reed and all the Velvets.

The sentimentality of Christmas classics cannot be denied. But no matter how great I think Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song“ is (and I do), the song’s going to lose some of its immense charm when I hear it literally every other time I walk into the deli on my corner. I thank the braves souls in music that have resisted the urge to cover “Deck the Halls” for the 150,00th time and have written their own personal observations on the holiday season in its modern state. They’re keeping Christmas culture from stagnating.

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