December is upon us, and so I feel little shame in devoting this week as well as the remainder of the month to discussing all things related to Christmas. With Yuletide approaching, a great deal of the music I listen to leading up to it has been chosen to enhance the accompanying atmosphere. The vast majority of these songs, mainly Christmas carols, have very, very good reasons for being on my iTunes playlist. Others, not nearly as much. This week's piece is about the latter category.
"Hallelujah," by Jeff Buckley
At first listen, the late Jeff Buckley's cover of the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah" seems an ideal song for the holiday season. While it might not be the most upbeat tune you've ever listened to--in fact, it's actually a little haunting--it's perfect for a quiet, snowy night: Christmas mood music if you've ever heard it. Plus, its vaguely religious lyrics make it more appropriate for the holiday than "Jingle Bells" ever was.
Why It's Inappropriate: Because the song, or at least Buckley's interpretation, is basically about fuckin'. Or, to be less blunt, it's about the passionate ups and mournful downs of a collapsing relationship. If lyrics like "There was a time when you let me know/What's really going on below,/But now you never show that to me, do you?" doesn't convince you it might not the best song for cozying up to a partner on a winter's eve, then I don't know what will.
Why It's Still On My Playlist: I like to modulate the tone of a certain playlist. Case in point, the one I prepared this year opens with the subtly chilling American Boychoir rendition of "Carol of the Bells" and ends with Buckley's take on "Hallelujah." Sandwiched between are a lot of holiday standards plus my favourite selections from Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. It's easier playlist to fall asleep to than one with a big finish. Plus, there's something to be said for the power of simple mental association: the song has done more to put me in the Christmas spirit, regardless of its thematic content, than "Deck the Halls" ever did. And so it stays.
"Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)," by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire's debut Funeral is a surprisingly wintry affair and its opening track, subtitled "Tunnels," is the most wintry of all. Describing a massive snowfall blanketing the landscape and effectively shutting down society, it's like a newer, indie "Winter Wonderland."
Why It's Inappropriate: Because nothing says "Christmasey" like "imagining a post-apocalyptic winter hellscape." Oh, wait, no, that's totally the opposite of what's true. As much as I adore the song--and adore it I do--the lines "And since there's no one else around,/We let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know" don't exactly make me appreciative of life after the Fall, Sloosha's Crossin' an' ev'rythin' after (yeah I'm reading Cloud Atlas, what's it to you?). Unless Jesus is supposed to save us? I dunno'.
Why It's Still On My Playlist: I'm a freak and enjoy listening to songs about how cold it is when it's cold outside.
"Nothing Else Matters," by Metallica
Remember how I was talking about the power of mental associations? And how by extension things that have absolutely no connection to Christmas ever can be associated with the Holiday? Yeeaaaahhhh.
Why It's Inappropriate: Because it's Metallica.
Why It's Still On My Playlist: Because it's Metallica.
I CANNOT LIVE I CANNOT DIE