The holiday season is officially upon us. Trees are alight, bell ringers occupy every corner, and there seems to be a general sense of goodwill abounding. Yet what many don’t realize is that amidst all this twinkling, sugar-coated fuzziness, we are under constant sonic attack.
The perpetrator? Holiday music.
Played in a continuous, mind-melting loop from Thanksgiving until Christmas, holiday music fills the air. It’s enough to make even the jolliest of elves take a blowtorch to the holiday decor garnishing your local Macy’s.
But this is not the case for all holiday music. Friends, fear not—it is indeed possible to revel in the holiday season without being driven insane by music bursting with sleigh bells, reindeer and Santa-knows what else.
Compiled here are 12 songs for your survival this holiday season. Each tune is hand picked to ensure that you don’t go on a slaying spree while riding in Santa’s sleigh. Because, let’s be honest, no one wants to end up on the naughty list.
“Snowblind” – Black Sabbath
Be it the original or the Sleep cover, this song is crucial to any psychedelic winter mix. Dark guitar licks and lyrics about a frozen soul assure the listener that in a time of ugly sweaters and songs about peace on earth, it feels pretty damn good to occasionally let a demonic laugh slip. (Ozzy would do it; why not Santa?) Plus, it’s Sabbath—that’s a present in and of itself.
“Snowflakes” – The Evangelicals
A good song for hazy, dreamy meanderings through a snowstorm, be they lighthearted or not. Don’t let Josh Jones’ ethereal delivery fool you: this song can be interpreted as both a loving tribute to the wonder of a snowstorm, or the absolute torture of a sleepless night in the dead of winter. Whichever version you choose, it’s a great song for a white wonderland.
“364 Days” – Murder City Devils
If a holiday season soaked in whiskey rather than eggnog sounds appealing, then this holiday tune by Spencer Moody and crew provides an appropriately surly backdrop. “An open letter to Saint Nicholas,” this song addresses a drunken fantasy about getting totes tanked with Santa. It’s not nearly as jolly as you would expect, but isn’t that the (hiccup) point?
“Fox in the Snow” – Belle & Sebastian
Even if you aren’t a fan of these indie darlings, this is a catchy, quirky tune that feels appropriate for people-watching on wintry afternoons. While there may be a deeper meaning hidden behind the simple, story-like lyrics, at face value it’s terrific for being a pleasantly composed tune. Don’t sulk or flip your bangs too much about it.
“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes
With cryptic lyrics, booming percussion, and Robin Pecknold’s dreamy voice, this song is glorious any season. What more can we say?
“Two-Headed Boy” – Neutral Milk Hotel
Not the most obvious tune on this list, but appropriate nonetheless. This song’s presence is warranted by the fact that the entire last stanza addresses the holidays in classic NMH convoluted fashion. Do we really know what the hell Jeff Mangum is talking about when addressing “gold silver sleeves, left beneath Christmas trees in the snow”? No, we don’t. But does it really matter?
“The Coldest Rap” – Ice-T
Once upon a time, many winters ago, there was a rapper named Ice-T who dreamt about wearing a three-piece suit and being a stud in the bedroom. That Ice-T of yore may seem as tall a tale as Frosty the Snowman today, but on “The Coldest Rap,” Ice-T proves just how cool he was back in the day.
“This is Going to be a Cold Winter” – Ceremony
Here, an example of Ceremony doing what they do best: Being as angry as a reindeer with sawed-off antlers. (Un)happy holidays.
“Horchata” – Vampire Weekend
A band who have been relentlessly criticized for embodying the stereotype “white” in every possible fashion had to appear somewhere on this list. “Horchata” is a great tune not only for having a wintry feel, but also for making it appropriate to celebrate the holidays by dancing in the sand around a palm tree. Vampire Weekend certainly doesn’t take the winter seriously, but it’s Vampire Weekend. So stop moping and put on a Hawaiian shirt, already.
“Siberian Divide” – Mastodon
Planning on scaling up a snowy mountain to fistfight a Yeti this holiday break? Here is your anthem.
“Beyond the Permafrost” – Skeletonwitch
If Jack Frost had a theme song, one could only hope it would sound as crushing as “Beyond the Permafrost.” This is a man made of ice, after all; a guy who will literally nip at your nose and make it rot off your face. With lyrics like “Curse this cold frozen heart of ice,” and “frozen soul, none so cold,” what better way is there to pay tribute to Old Man Winter than some good ol’ fashioned thrash?
“Death Goes to the Winner” – Harvey Milk
When it comes to warm and fuzzy feelings, there is no better antidote than Harvey Milk. This is a band known for producing soul-crushing songs such as “I Know This Is All My Fault”—not dudes who snuggle around the TV watching “The Simpsons.” With its gloriously disgusting descent into doom metal sludge, “Death Goes To The Winner” is quite simply, a #winning Christmas ‘jingle.’