I’m no great fan of Christmas. It’s a time of family and rejoicing and I’m still working on that.
What I do like is music and its ability to speak to me, lifting me from gloom with sheer wonder or surprising me with a twist on a well worn theme.
That’s what this post is about. Christmas music that doesn’t suck.
The joy of the Internet and extended free trials of music subscription services is finding and play this stuff.
The local laws of Christmas at home mandate all Christmas music all the time. They don’t say it has to be the same music though.
I’ve spent a happy hour gluing together different Christmas albums to build an amazing play list only to discover that there are already pre-built radio stations to do that for me.
Still, I’ve found Christmas songs from around the world, those rendered unrecognisable in the best possible way and infinite versions of classics that quell the murderous rage inspired by Little Bloody Drummer Boy and that wretched soundtrack to ironic festive misery Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time.
Here’s a selection (and a playlist to go with it).
You want it darker?
Metal cover versions are nothing new but sometime it takes a snarling take to truly understand how creepy the sentiments of Santa Clause is Coming to Town is.
Even more joy came from learning that The Nightmare Before Christmas has its own cover album.
Within seconds I knew it was Korn. It shouldn’t do but it works. The cookie monster vocals underlines the playful menace of the plan to kidnap Santa Claus and see what makes him tick.
I could quite happily link to every track on this but let’s keep the Christmas theme going. I will say that the Nightmare Revisited Album is well worth exploring.
Metal cover versions are often easy, lazy ways to replay the same song with just a shed load of distortion and albums full of hair metal carols with questionable Spinal Tap irony free covers generally confirm that.
Then there are bands that take the source material and do something a bit more involved and then there are bands that take these songs and make them their own.
August Burns Red has produced a fantastic Christmas album of incredible Christmas metal(core) songs that deploy all the tricks of metal but in a way that doesn’t cheapen or mock the source material. It also does a rare thing for that most po-faced of genres, it makes songs that make you smile.
It also does the impossible. It makes me hate Little Drummer Boy that little bit less.
It’s not all metal
Bored of the offerings from Christmas channels I went looking for Christmas blues and funk and found some great tracks.
And this one is for anyone that thinks the idea that Christmas has become too commercialised is some sort of new radical concept.
After being bored rigid by s l o w Christmas dirges (looking at you Bing and your imitators) this was a revelation.
Sometimes it’s less about the sturm and drang and just hearing something amazingly intricate and pretty like the musical equivalent of a snowflake.
I also got lost trying to track down a really beautiful version of the eerie hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel and found some beautiful variations of its haunting melody.
Sadly I couldn’t find the better version by the Mariachi Kings but this one is still fun.
The Christmas Spirit
Because I’m not completely adverse to sentimentality:
And in the spirit of Christmas tradition: