This week in the Voice I discussed The Little Drummer Boy Challenge, a sort of Frogger pitting your ears against “Christmas creep.” The rules are simple: If you haven’t heard “The Little Drummer Boy” in any form—including Justin Bieber’s recent, Busta Rhymes-assisted update of the song—since midnight struck on Black Friday, you’re in. Once you hear those rum-pa-pum-pums, though, you’re out. It’s a pretty maddening challenge, and Bieber’s entrance into the holiday-album arena (which is only his second studio full-length!) only makes it more difficult. But there are plenty of other new holiday tunes that avoid the manger of “Drummer Boy” entirely. Four standouts below.
Lloyd, “She’s All I Want For Christmas”
The Atlanta-based soul singer Lloyd is definitely channeling Michael Jackson on this frantic ode to a lady who’s far away, but like that’s a bad thing? Put this on at your holiday party if you want to start some seasonally appropriate dancing right away. (Thanks to our pals at County Grind for the tip.)
The Killers, “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball”
In the Killers’ latest seasonally appropriate tune (they’ve been at this for six years now!), the grandiose Vegas act reaches way, way back to the Old West, transforming this traditional cowboy song into something glammier and sillier. Warning: Playing it might result in you having the bright idea to combine do-si-doing and doling out gifts.
Sleeping Bag, “Missing All Your Best Friends”
One of my favorite new bands of 2011 is the Bloomington, Indiana, band Sleeping Bag, whose low-end-heavy rock recalls the time not too long ago when the term “indie” implied at least a little bit of bite in the music it was describing. “Missing All Your Best Friends” is a melancholy, wordless track that’s well-suited to those nights when there’s more than enough egg nog to souse a crowd, but you’re all alone. The comp it’s on, The Holidays Don’t Have To Be So Rotten Volume Two, has 22 other instrumental tracks by the likes of Dirty Beaches and Candy Claws (whose chimey, whimsical “Snow Face” is particularly delightful), and sales of it benefit the Bloomington charity Stepping Stones, which helps homeless teens in the area.
John Zorn with Mike Patton, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
A Dreamers Christmas, the holiday album by John Zorn, is one of the 2011 rush’s most satisfying listens—top-notch players, a reverence for the classic material that never tips over into schmaltz, a couple of original Zorn compositions. That its closing track, a take on “The Christmas Song,” has vocal genius Mike Patton adding his talents at their most sultry is a huge, huge bonus—a star on top of the brightly lit tree, if you will.