Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Record Store Day (RSD) has become an audiophile’s Christmas since its inception in 2008, celebrating independently owned record stores with exclusive titles and limited-edition releases from everyone from The Beatles to Arcade Fire.
I’m uncertain about the hit found-footage film, but the soundtrack for
“Chronicle” pops with energy from the start, courtesy of Blonde Acid
While that name — and arguably, most of the acts on the 12-track compilation — screams “off-putting teen band,” that’s not the case. The disc holds wide appeal, from tweens to their middle-aged parents. (Just don’t tell the tweens.)
Manchester trio The Longcut could also describe its six-minute-plus contribution, “Told You So,” whose uptempo darkness is brightened with a drum-fueled break at the middle that continues willy nilly for the rest of the cut. A B & The Sea’s "Bone Dry," rides high on both vocals and optimism, while The Shaded Forests’ "Deastro" bubbles with pop friendliness.
At nearly the album’s halfway point, Simian Mobile Disco’s edit of “Sweetbread,” the soundtrack grows more electronic — mostly for good, not evil. “Flash Back” by Capsule is more aggressive than memorable, and the Congorock/Alle Benassi collaboration, “Sirius,” is too clubby for my tastes (I can smell the sweat and obnoxious cologne), but Strfkr gets back on track with “Bury Us Alive,” whose melodies fly with Phoenix-like grandeur.
Class Actress femmes things up with “Keep You,” complete with synth hand claps. Meanwhile, Bikini is one of the true finds; its “American Mourning” fills out a buoyant sound with wispy vocals and earthly touches. Finally, and not surprisingly, M83 knocks it out of the park with the appropriately titled "This Bright Flash," another soaring instrumental of anthemic ambition. —Rod Lott