The 12 Tracks of Christmas

This year, I've pulled back a bit from writing here. It's a combination of time and such and such. There are numerous reasons. None of them excuses, but each excusing me from one post or another. Now, it is the holidays, and since I didn't get around to a Best of 2012 list just yet, I have just this simple gift to bring (parum pum pum pum). In a world where malls and stores and offices have been churning out Christmas and Holiday classics since the week after Thanksgiving, we need a good list, comprising the less-schmaltzy (though I did include Paul McCartney), the less classical (although "Christmastime is Here" is so good it made the list. The holidays in a minor key!? Fuck yes.) and the less irritating (but Kylie Minogue's "Santa Baby" manages to carefully mitigate that weird "little girl" aesthetic normally ascribed to the song so it made the list).

With those exceptions, and more, I present to you The 12 Tracks of Christmas. I hope to have provided you with a delicate, intelligent journey from the brightest childlike aspects of the holiday, to the deeper, sadder implications of a world that's made bright once a year as a tradition, but never kept bright all year long. Also, there's some Jesus stuff in there too. Poor pagans. They were partying on the Winter Solstice for generations and then post-Jesus scribes just had to F with their shit by claiming the Christian savior's b-day was right around then.

Happy holidays and tons of love from me and Gas Lantern Media. Listen to the list, embedded below, or hit the Spotify link.

Love, Nate


Image by epiclectic via Flickr. Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.
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Sufjan Stevens + Various Artists - Chopped & Scrooged

Tired of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and trying to live on the holiday edge through the tired strains of "Jingle Bell Rock"? I know I am. I know a very special person who'd back me up on it too. In the past, indie musicians have provided us with some delightful Christmas albums. She & Him put out one that relies on nostalgia as much as invention. Some of my favorite tracks of all came from Saturday Looks Good to Me, including a great cover of the classic "Blue Christmas." And then there's Sufjan Stevens. His recent 5-disc Christmas release Silver & Gold bounds artistically from melodic beauty to utter drug-trip chaos. Turns out though, Sufjan wasn't done there. Though any fan of Stevens' sprawling career know that he doesn't go long without recording, creating, dramatizing and philosophizing. So, as an early Christmas gift (perhaps a Hanukkah present to Stevens' mensch fanbase?) he has released Chopped & Scrooged, an epically enjoyable mixtape of Christmas themed hip-hop and rap.

The album features the likes of Heems, The Pro Letarians, Kitty Pryde, Electric iLL and DMA and Oreo Jones. What comes to pass are 9 inventive, fucking excellent rap tracks that sometimes related directly to the coming Winter Solstice-turned-Christian-turned-Retail-turned-Tree-related-Sex-Pose holiday. Track 2, The Pro Letarians "Dreamcatcher" is a phenomenal track. And the album hits another powerful high point with "Black Christmas" a song that seems to be half-irony and half-bold statement of the difference between the holiday for the races. The fast-paced "Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling" is a brutal treatise on the shopping season, the economy, and occasionally doing things to Santa with one's balls. "Xmas In The Room" is a playful, boastful sex call to Olde St. Nick featuring a synth-repeated refrain of "come" by New Orleans based rapper Nicky Da B. Kitty Pryde's "Implants and Yankee Candles" is delightfully lo-fi, quippy and quirky. And the beautiful "Blue Baktun" features Stevens most prominently with synthy down beats and slow rhymes by Electric iLL. The closer "Xmas Woes" is excellent too.

If you are tired of the traditional Christmas. If you are tired of the '70s and '80s rock-Christmas of Paul McCartney's "Christmastime" and that shit that Geldof and Band Aid put out there back when it was cool to thank the maker that Ethiopians were starving instead of you, then Chopped & Scrooged is, in fact, for you. Check it out below. Or just download it here. It's free... the way joy and cheer are supposed to be.

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