Off-beat holiday songs to fight sappiness overdose

Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, Sandler

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Sufjan Stevens

Winter-haters be damned: life in the “snow belt” has its benefits.

The chilly temperatures make that hot cup of coffee feel extra soothing. The too-soon snow flurries outside make the hours spent in the warm confines of Weldon more enjoyable, and as we move toward colder weather and the end of another semester, there’s something worth looking forward to: holiday music feels less tacky and more nostalgic.

Still, like Wham’s “Last Christmas,” some holiday music will always be tacky. When you start to overdose on the sickly sweetness of lame holiday songs, you can look to this list of atypical winter offerings for an alternative.

Radiohead
“Winter Wonderland”
This live cut is a gem for a few reasons. The novelty of Radiohead performing a Christmas song is reason enough to celebrate. But this track is special for one thing in particular: Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is obviously pisseddrunk as he sings. He begins the song by posing the question (to whom is unclear), “Isn’t this the Smurfs? This is the Smurfs, innit?”

Then Yorke ends the track by singing “Walking in a wonderland” in different pitches, all the way from baritone to falsetto. Who said Radiohead doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Sufjan Stevens
“That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!”
Detroit native Stevens records a Christmas album every year for his family. Recently, he decided to release a collection of the albums " five whole discs’ worth " titled Songs for Christmas.

Many of the songs on the compilation are hauntingly beautiful with titles typical of Stevens’ sense of humour (“Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” and “Get Behind Me, Santa!”) and this song fits that bill.

But the song “ . . . Worst Christmas Ever” combines nostalgic lyrics about a small child who runs away on Christmas it is a standout on the album.

Adam Sandler
“The Chanukah Song” (Part One)
Alright, this may not be an under-the-radar holiday song, but you’re not likely to hear it on an easy listening radio station’s holiday playlist, and for those of us raised during Sandler’s golden days, it’s a classic.

Sandler’s comedic attempts to find words that rhyme with Chanukah and Menorah still hold up 13 years after he first sung them. Kudos also go to Sandler for repping Judaism " there’s no reason why Christmas songs should get all of the winter holiday airtime.

Death Cab for Cutie
“The New Year”
Aside from “Auld Lang Syne,” songs about New Year’s Day are few and far between " and Death Cab’s take on the festivities is light-years away from that song. Its heavy drums and guitar serve as the backdrop for the detached boredom at the song’s centre.

“So this is the New Year,” sings Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard. “And I don’t feel any different.” For those that don’t make New Year’s resolutions, the sentiment rings true.

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