Dec 242008

Last year’s Christmas post (here) was prefaced with an apology about jumping on the Christmas post bandwagon. No excuses this year though, I’ll come out and say it: I like Christmas music. Not the schlock you hear at Macy’s of course, but in better contexts those songs can really groove and, in a culture of indie emo, some holiday joy can never be a bad thing. So as my little present to you, here’s the 12 Covers of Christmas.

Yo La Tengo – Rock’ n’ Roll Santa (Jan Terri)
The Ramones with heavier distortion and singing ability. [Buy]

The Beach Boys – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Coots/Gillespie)
Brian Wilson and the Boys combine their trademark harmonies with a lively beat, but the big surprise here is the blaring horn section that forces its way through. [Buy]

Joy Electric – What Child Is This? (Dix)
Like a slow-motion rave, this hymn works shockingly well as an electronic jam. [Buy]

The Raveonettes – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
One of my favorite bands of the year, The Raveonettes released a Christmas EP was a true holiday present, and their fifties fuzz brings a thumping urgency to this desperate plea. [Buy]

Pedro the Lion – I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Longfellow/Marks)
Electronic organ is all Dan Bazan uses, and it’s all he needs. This meandering delivery is so slow you wonder if he’s dozing off, but are glad he doesn’t as he slowly draws you into his world. [Buy]

Sufjan Stevens – Angels We Have Heard On High (Chadwick/Barnes/Trad.)
Sufjan sent his eighth Christmas album (!) to friends only, but luckily one risked a place on his naughty list by leaking it for all to hear. Stevens’ trademark off-pop bliss is here, but with an extra shot of adrenaline that keeps it from being too cute. [Buy]

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – Jingle Bells (Pierpont)
It’s a song I couldn’t be more sick of, but Smokey sings it like it’s just the greatest thing he’s ever heard, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his joy. [Buy]

Patti Smith – We Three Kings (Hopkins)
It’s a well-known fact that I will smack anyone who says Patti Smith is not a genius, and this track is just further evidence of my conviction. Over a reverb background that sounds like quiet rage, she recited the scripture while sings the melody. Who else could make the Bible sound so badass? [Buy]

Bright Eyes – Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (Brooks/Redner)
Slow and ponderous, Coner Oberst’s take on Christmas would be depressing if it wasn’t so beautiful. Reverence and loneliness have never sounded so similar. [Buy]

Pilate – Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)
They don’t drastically reinvent the tune here, and to be honest it kind of makes me want to hear the original, but this song is so good I’ll take as many versions as I can. [Buy]

The Flaming Lips – White Christmas (Irving Berlin)
The Lips attempting covers is truly a hit or miss affair, as their quirky freak-orchestra sound is…unique. All bets would say that White Christmas would truly be a terrible choice for them, but their bizarrely sung interpretation works. I think. [Buy]

Weezer – O Holy Night (Adam/Cappeau)
Christmas With Weezer did not get a proper release, showcased only on an iPhone game. Luckily some clever fan figured out a way to snag the tracks, and this plucked power-pop pearl shows that, Red Album aside, Rivers has still got it. [Buy]

Merry Christmas.

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