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Have Yourself an Indie Little Christmas

by Photo of Jennifer Markert

New versions of holiday classics may be just what you need this year.

Have Yourself an Indie Little Christmas

Let's face it: Holiday music can get a little bit redundant, stale, and even annoying after you've been subjected to enough of it, whether intentionally or by happenstance. Though the Christmas musical canon is fairly extensive in comparison to say, Thanksgiving, we've heard it all before, and a person can only take so much before becoming a serious Grinch. If this eventual aversion does not apply to you, you obviously haven't spent enough time shopping this season.

Luckily for everyone, there are musicians brave enough to take otherwise crappy holiday songs and make them their own, putting spins on familiar tunes worthy of at least a listen, allowing us to retain our holiday cheer without having it beaten into our skulls. I call it an indie Christmas, because it's not mainstream enough to have permeated the radios just yet, making you and I cooler than the rest for being hip and in the know.

Example 1 – She & Him “Baby It's Cold”

We all know this song – a soothing and catchy wintery jam that kind of blatantly hints at date rape. Hipster darling Zooey Deschenel, the “she” half of this band, has sung this one before for the “Elf” soundtrack, having played Will Farrell's then-blond and bang-less love interest. But there's a little bit of a twist this time, and it's kind of cool. Not only is the song a bit more upbeat, but the male and female vocals are switched, creating a whole new story dynamic in which it is the lady dropping roofies rather than the dude. Watch the video for a listen, and to see how the whole poison thing pans out.

Example 2 – The xx "Last Christmas"

Holy Buckets, am I sick of the Wham! version of this song. Heck, I'm even sick of the Glee version of this song, which despite being considerably better than the original comes up with equal frequency on my work's Holiday Pandora station. The xx's take on this number is very different, turning the perky tune into a haunting electronic endeavor filled with spacey vocals and echoing guitar riffs. It exemplifies the xx's style perfectly while staying true enough to the original to be a recognizable cover. Listen to their version below.

Example 3 – Sufjan Stevens "Holly Jolly Christmas"

Sufjan Stevens must love Christmas, with his extensive output of Christmas songs on his recently released holiday album, Silver and Gold. Not only this, Stevens is also releasing a Christmas rap mixtape titled Chopped and Scrooged, featuring Kitty Pryde, members of recently-broken-up Das Racist, and more. There is also a video for Holly Jolly Christmas, below. The video is a bit disturbing, featuring a paper cutout man driving a sleigh pulled by zoo animals, then departing from his paper world to emerge under a Christmas tree, which he climbs via a growing candy cane latter; still, despite nightmarish qualities, it has a certain charm to it.

Example 4 – Christopher Lee "A Heavy Metal Christmas"

So, regardless of the indie theme, I find this is to remarkable not to include. Christopher Lee, otherwise known as Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings films, has released a heavy metal Christmas album. Given that one could mistake the actor quite easily for a stern Father Christmas, it only seems appropriate. Listen to his intense version of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night" below. This only goes to show when you are 90 and have been in over 200 movies, you really can do whatever you want. Why they excluded this from The Hobbit soundtrack is beyond me.   

Assuming the world does not end tomorrow, this might be just what you need to survive the holiday season and spice up old traditions. If it is the end of the world, I have a feeling Christopher Lee's "Silent Night" might be a meaningful soundtrack to our demise. 

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