Friday, December 20, 2013

Set the Mood (for Christmas)

So I'm sitting here right now, finishing a re-watch of Star Trek, contemplating baking pumpkin muffins before we leave for the in-laws' house for the holiday, and getting ready to turn my Christmas playlist back on in iTunes. And I've just realised that I haven't shared some of my favourite Christmas songs this year! Highly remiss of me. Anyway: let's take a look at my top 10 picks for this year...because with the end of the working week, it's officially Christmastime, people.

1) Fun. Sleigh Ride. I freaking love this song. The ascending baseline after the second line of the second verse is possibly my favourite part. It makes the music nerd in me get all giddy everytime. Plus, it's a lovely updating of this song. To be honest, for me it's right up there with Ella Fitzgerald's version of the tune. Seriously: get on that.

2) Jona Lewie. Stop the Cavalry. Yes, this song is weird. And very 80s. But I only discovered it after moving to the UK, and so now, it doesn't feel like Christmas over here without this song. Plus, I defy you to get that 'dubba dubba dum dum dubba dubba dum' lick out of your head after listening to it.

3) Pentatonix. Carol of the Bells. Having sung in an a cappella group in university, I'm definitely something of a fangirl for awesome part harmony, sans instruments. Plus, I love anything that showcases an awesome bass singer. It's the deep voice that does it for me, people: it's just too awesome to hear someone drop the other shoe like that. And these guys do an impressive job with only 5 people. Props.

4) The Lower Lights. I Saw Three Ships. Really, I recommend the whole of their album, Come Let Us Adore Him. It's awesome. Yes, it feels a bit hipster to go in for something so folksy, but I do love this. The feel of it captures all the warm, rustic, sheepskin, flannel plaid, straw goat, wooden ornament decorating that is how I do Christmas. I mean, the angel on my tree wears a beanie, for crying out loud! I have to own my hipster tendencies.

5) Michael Buble. It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas. This just feels slick. Like, minimalist studio flat, mid-century modern cocktail dress, martinis under the mistletoe kind of slick. Or snazzy office Christmas party slick. It's just effortless and chill and ought to be on in the background while you bake dozens of Christmas cookies in a black angora jumper without breaking a sweat or getting flour on your sleeves.

6) Bing Crosby & David Bowie. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy. It IS NOT Christmas without some Bing Crosby on. I'm sure that's somewhere in the Nicean Creed. I simply repeat: it IS NOT Christmas unless you listen to Bing Crosby. So make that happen.

7) Maroon 5. Happy Xmas (War Is Over). Usually, I'm a purist and generally detest most covers of anything originally written or performed by The Beatles: either as a group or individually. That said, Adam Levine works this minimalist recording of John & Yoko's original. And to be honest, I think the track benefits from the exclusion of Yoko and the warbling children. This song is one of my faves, and I think the update definitely serves it well.

8) The Fray. Oh Come All Ye Faithful. I've been digging my acoustic Christmas songs this year, and The Fray really deliver on their version of this traditional carol. Sometimes it's just nice to hear the usual carols and hymns without a 500-voice choir, clanging tubular bells, and a pounding pipe organ. This way, you really get to hear the music and the lyrics without getting overwhelmed.

9) Folk Angel. Deck the Halls. I had to hunt this one down on Grooveshark, but it's well worth the extra search. This carol gets a more relaxed feel and let me tell you, the 'fa la la la las' really benefit from it. The whole song still feels very Christmasy, but without the need to wonder how seriously you ought to take it if you're singing along. I recommend putting this on a playlist if you have a ways to travel to visit family this weekend.

10) I had some serious internal debate going on as to which song needed to make it onto this list in the #10 spot. There were two heavyweight contenders, and they both have a special place in my heart as Christmas songs whose loveliness is entirely contingent upon their cheesiness. But, in the end, the 'Bad Grandpa of Christmas' as Marcus Bridgestock's character named him, won out, and #10 simply had to be:
Bill Nighy as Billy Mack. Christmas Is All Around from Love Actually. Can you feel it in your fingers? Can you feel it in your toes? If not, I suggest listening to this on repeat...or just go and watch Love Actually: there's never a bad time to do that. Maybe then, Christmas really will feel like it's all around.

Have a wonderful and fun-filled holiday everybody! Oh! And if you're not music'd out by my post already, I highly suggest wasting some time on this lovely corner of the interwebz:

E and I had loads of fun making our own Christmas jam on this interactive player. It's definitely worth 5 minutes of your day if you're looking for time to kill.

Merry Christmas!

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