I’ll Have a Blue (Indian) Christmas (Part 1 of 3)

It’s only six days into December and it feels like I’ve been hearing nothing but Christmas music for ages. Every store I enter is blasting Mariah Carey, Kenny G, or Mannheim Steamroller’s holiday tunes out of their tiny, overhead speakers. It’s enough to make me lose that “holiday spirit” everyone is so excited about.

Fear not! The Blue Indian is here to keep the holiday spirit alive! Each week until Christmas we’ll bring you a playlist of holiday music that won’t make you want to blow your brains out.

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This week our selection is unified under the theme of traditional secular holiday tunes that have received a contemporary 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! Happy Holidays!

The Raveonettes – Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

Written by Phil Spectre in 1963, this holiday tune seems to be a favorite for today’s musicians to cover. U2, Death Cab for Cutie, Anberlin, KT Tunstall, Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Cher and the list goes on… My favorite rendition is Danish shoegazers, The Raveonettes,’ from their 2008 Christmas EP “Wishing You a Rave Christmas.” Grab the Amazon.com exclusive version with bonus tracks for a mere $4.

Sufjan Stevens – Good King Wenceslas

Sufjan’s 5-volume “Songs for Christmas” is probably one of the most beloved, indie holiday albums out there today. Many don’t realize that there are actually eight volumes out there (that we know of). Volume eight was leaked online in 2008 with the whacky title, Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyages. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a huge indicator of the direction he was going stylistically for his 2010 “Age of Adz.” Have a listen to “Good King Wenceslas” and you’ll see exactly what I mean – it ain’t our ole’ banjo strumming, Sufjan.

Sixpence None the Richer – You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Sixpence is usually known for their Christian music (they even did a Christmas tour with Jars of Clay and Sara Groves in 2008) so it’s a bit odd to find this very secular Christmas song in their repertoire. Even odder is that this track is found on their 1998 “best of” album Collage. Really? This is their best? Nonetheless, they do a fun rendition of the song that is bound to conjure up images in your mind from Dr. Seuss’ popular story. Note: I’m not posting the album art for Collage because it will burn your retinas.

Bonus: Also check out Aimee Mann’s version on her “One More Drifter in the Snow” holiday album.

Cocteau Twins – Frosty the Snowman

The Cocteau Twins haven’t released a studio album since 1996, but their style of music definitely fits in with the recent trends of shoegaze  and chillwave. If you haven’t heard of these Scottish geniuses, be sure to check out their incredible 1990 release, Heaven or Las Vegas.

Daniel Johnston – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

What a perfect song for Daniel Johnston to cover! You can’t help but smile when listening to this tune. It came out on his 1988 album, Merry Christmas – a gem you can only order directly from Johnston on cassette tape.

Fognode – Carol of the Bells

Brian Siskind is a producer and ace beat-maker who has released several albums of experimental music ranging from ambient soundscapes to up-beat techno to collections of field recordings. His take on “Carol of the Bells” starts out as expected but then hits you with a surprising twist as it gives way to a haunting melody derived from the original. The song was released on Corporal Blossom’s 2001 A Mutated Christmas compilation album.

Snowden – White Christmas

Probably one of my least favorite holiday tunes (due to too many  forced viewings of the movie when growing up), Snowden‘s rendition of the classic is so beautiful that it has become one of my favorites. Check it out and if you are as impressed as I am, head over to their NoiseTrade page to download their latest EP for free.

Bonus: Have a listen to this “White Christmas” mashup from the Corporal Blossom compilation. You’ll hear Louie Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Diana Ross and The Supremes’ voices seamlessly blended together.

Rosie Thomas – Christmas Time Is Here

Rosie Thomas is one of indie music’s best kept secrets. Her singing voice is beautiful, her speaking voice is… awkward(?) and lends itself well to her comedy routines. She hangs with the cool crowd – Damien Jurado, David Bazan, Sam Bean of Iron and Wine, and Sufjan Stevens (she even fooled Pitchfork into announcing she & Sufjan were having a baby back in ’06) but her humble attitude keeps her out of the limelight.

This track is off her album “A Very Rosie Christmas” (not to be confused with Rosie O’Donnell’s simply “Rosie Christmas”). If you want to learn more about this talented singer/songwriter check out the documentary that came out about her last year entitled, All the Way from Michigan Not Mars.

Arcade Fire – Jingle Bell Rock

I’ll wrap up our holiday playlist with a fun, raucous rendition of Jingle Bell Rock (which is already a bit of a fun, raucous tune). The song was recorded at a Christmas party in 2001 and leaked online as an EP shortly thereafter. Rumors have it the band isn’t too fond of the fact that it made its way to the public because the entire band isn’t represented in the recording and it doesn’t meet the standards of excellence they strive to achieve with the music they release. Personally, I don’t see why they should mind – it is obviously a spur-of-the-moment sing-along with friends and there is no need to apologize for that!
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Next week we’ll treat you to a playlist of traditional Christmas songs sung by some of today’s greatest musicians. Until then, Happy Holidays!