I’ll Have a Blue (Indian) Christmas (Part 2 of 3)

Last week we brought you a selection of traditional holiday songs performed by contemporary artists. In case you missed it, click HERE. This week our playlist follows the theme of traditional religious Christmas tunes that have received a makeover by indie musicians.

If you’re into hearing it like a playlist, simply leave the window open, hit play on the first tune, and let it roll on down from there! Merry Christmas!

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David Bazan – I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

Over the years, David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones) has released six, limited edition 7″ Christmas singles through Suicide Squeeze Records. This track is off his 2002 Christmas release. The last one he put out was in 2009 and it featured covers of John Lennon and Wayne Coyne (it doesn’t look like there will be a 2010 release). You can read an interview with Bazan about his Christmas series here.

Feist – Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming

Everyone one loves Feist. You’d think you’d be sick of her after Apple slapped her “1,2,3,4” onto billions of iPod commercials. Or when every Starbucks in the nation had her hit songs on a never-ending loop. Heck, she even got her own Sesame Street and Mad TV parodies! And you still love her.

Here she takes a 500 year old German hymn about the birth of Christ and makes it magical again.

Sara Groves – Angels We Have Heard (live)

Groves recently partnered with Hope Shows, an organization that puts on free concerts in prisons, and performed a Christmas show for the women at Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincoln, IL. The entire show was recorded and can be downloaded for free via her NoiseTrade page (free if you provide your email address).

I’m normally not a big fan of live albums, but in this case, it works wonderfully. Towards the end of Sara’s rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High,” she asks the inmates to join her. It gives me goosebumps hearing these women who have seen so much hardship in their lives singing out “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” with so much hope.

Innocence Mission – O Little Town Of Bethlehem

This track was released on the free 2008 compilation Sounds Familyre Christmas Vol. 2The Innocence Mission’s lead singer Karen Peris has one of the most beautiful and unique voices. Though this arrangement of the classic song is nothing special, her vocals make it so.

Kings of Convenience – Deilig Er Jorden

Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe form this indie folk-pop duo out of Norway and are known for their delicate tunes and calming voices. You may also know Øye from his dance-pop side-project The Whitest Boy Alive.

“Deilig Er Jorden” is a traditional Norwegian Christmas song. The title translates to “Wonderful is the Earth” and it is sung to the tune of “Fairest Lord Jesus.” You can read a translation of the lyrics here.

Laura Gibson – It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

In 2007 & 2008 the blog “It’s Hard to Find a Friend” released two Christmas compilation albums in support of charities. This track is from the 2008 compilation Peace on Earth: A Charity Holiday Album. On it, Laura Gibson takes the song and breathes new life into it. The layering of her voice in this version reminds me of old Christmas carols sung in the 1930s.

Sufjan Stevens – Joy To The World (vol 4)

Sufjan Stevens – Joy To The World (vol 8)

Sufjan has given us two versions of “Joy to the World” and the two couldn’t be more different. Volume 4‘s is a more traditional approach, whereas Volume 8’s blankets you with electronic twinkles, bleeps, and synths. Think of it as a “Joy to the Age of Adz.”

Besides Daniel – Do You Hear Anything?

You probably didn’t recognize the title of this song as being a traditional Christmas song. It’s actually “Do You Hear What I Hear” – not quite sure why our Atlanta-based friends Besides Daniel decided to rename it. Nonetheless, they do a great job with it.

Grab this track and three others from the free Christmas EP that Danny Brewer and his band released last year through IVM.

The Civil Wars – O Come O Come Emmanuel

The Civil Wars is a relatively new band created by Joy Williams and John Paul White. In 2009, they released a free live album recorded at Atlanta’s famous Eddie’s Attic and followed it up with a studio recorded 4-song EP. Their highly anticipated debut album is set to drop in February 2011.

This is the 2nd song off their free 2010 Christmas single Tracks in the Snow. Grab it over on their NoiseTrade page.

Derek Webb and Evan Gregory – Out Of Heaven

If you are familiar with this Christmas song, you must be a seminary-trained minister of music. The melody is from a 17th century song “Jesu, Meine Zuversicht” and most of the lyrics are borrowed from another 17th century gem “Welcome God’s and Mary’s Son.” So how did Derek Webb end up singing this obscure hymn?

The track comes from Great Comfort Records‘ 2009 compilation Salvation is Created. The project is the brainchild of Lenny and Daniel Smith (Danielson Famile) and takes traditional (often obscure) hymns and pairs them up with contemporary artists. Honestly, it’s one of the best Christmas albums released in years.

Oh, and if you fancy yourself a musician, you can download all the sheet music for free.

Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon) – Little Drummer Boy

Kozelek fronts the Americana band “Sun Kil Moon” which ranks up there with the likes of Iron & Wine and Damien Jurado. He has released a couple albums from his solo shows and this track comes from his 2006 live album of the same name. I’m not quite sure why the album is called “Little Drummer Boy” since that is the only Christmas song on the entire thing.

This song has always been my favorite Christmas song and I love his rendition of it without drums. Since I like the song so much, here another two takes on this classic – both completely different from Kozelek’s version.

Bonus: Deerhoof – The Little Drummer Boy

Super Duper Extra Bonus: Lindstrøm – Little Drummer Boy (Edit)

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