Published Dec 24, 20125. White Poppy
Vancouverite Crystal Dorval gathered up a bunch of buds to deliver some experimental sounds on her winter-themed Whiteout, and one of its many gems is her own band White Poppy's mind-expanding take on '80s unit Wham!'s schmaltzy "Last Christmas." White Poppy reinvent the track with gauzy dream-pop sonics, and judging by those echoey-tones, it was recorded in the bowels of the Bumble's lair. We may not have sessioned it last Christmas, but you can count on this being on playlists in the years to come.
Honestly, there's nothing cornier than putting sleigh bells onto your holiday song. Stones Throw signee Jonti skips that whole business by slapping snickety-tickety percussion ticks, tropipop guitar licks, 8-bit Nintendo blips, and Beach Boys-indebted barber shop harmonies onto his tree-trimming "Christmas Worm."
3. Sufjan Stevens
"Mr. Frosty Man"
Does anyone actually have time to sit down and enjoy Sufjan Stevens' latest, five-disc Xmas set Silver & Gold in full? For those of you on a time-crunch, just skip straight to the lo-fi slop-pop number "Mr. Frosty Man." Partially tuned acoustic guitars plunk out chunky riffs behind Stevens' tales of the snow-bred Yo La Tengo fan who occasionally chills with Coolio, Vanilla Ice and Ice Cube. As for its accompanying video, how can you resist a claymation clip where a carrot-nosed hero takes a chainsaw to a team of humbuggin' zombies?
A Charlie Brown Beat Tape
Bay Area producer Wrathmatics upped the awesomeness of Vince Guaraldi's already stellar A Charlie Brown Christmas score by adding some deep boom-bap to the classic collection of smooth piano runs. He manipulates dialogue snippets and the jazzy source material on "O Tannenbaum" and "What Child Is This?" but the finale of the chop job leaves us "loo-loo-looing" along to an untouched stretch of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."
1. Tracey Thorn
Tracey Thorn's Tinsel and Lights is all together excellent, but "Joy," one of two originals on the set, is the strongest song of the bunch. While presented as a weeper, Thorn's mellow, piano-assisted carol asks us to forget the bad times, if only for a moment, in order to celebrate the season. "Joy" indeed.