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10) Mogwai - "Christmas Steps" (1999)
The Scottish post-rock outfit moves a step closer to stylish ambiguity through this impermeable track taken from Come on Die Young. It is a restrained sense of darkness and void, outdone by the pitches and paces it suggests. The reverence from long-time followers is somehow proven right in this unique incursion through slow-moving mayhem. A gift wrapped in lethargic and celestial musical manuscripts, penetrated by compelling and abstractive sound paths.
09) Low - "Just Like Christmas" (1999)
Slow-core ambassadors, Low build their heavenly odes with simplicity and a poignant focus on detail and fragile elements. This one is a sing-along traditional number which features the band at its best, i.e. in its restrained, bittersweet and sluggish paraphernalia. Mimi Parker's voice is tepid and forlorn in a song that unlocks the band's singular cushions of light and hope. Far from being droning, the song is a monochromic wall of sound that will certainly garnish your holiday.
08) Butthole Surfers - "Good King Wenceslas" (1997)
The Inalienable Right to Eat Fred Astaire's Asshole, who most know as the Butthole Surfers, is one of the most decadent and iniquitous bands in American underground. Their compositions are unpleasant allegories and depraved fables based on the assortment of bendable styles - from shock-rock and old-school hardcore to psychedelic resonances and experimental noise. Eventually, the intricate equation led them to this distinctive rendition for 1997's Christmas in Your Year compilation.
07) Bright Eyes - "Blue Christmas" (2002)
Bright Eyes is the most prolific artistic assignment of Conor Oberst, a youngster from Nebraska who fronted Commander Venus when he was only 14. After the band called it quits, the members gave birth to their own record label, the upstart Saddle Creek. 2003's A Christmas Album, which can only be purchased through the label's website, is a comprehensive anthology of conventional holiday nuggets. Oberst refreshes the collective memories bringing this nodding classic back to life.
06) Sonic Youth - "Santa Doesn't Cop Out on Dope" (1996)
Masters of musical turmoil, the members of Sonic Youth deliver a cacophonous Christmas perspective with this number. Just Say Noel is an interesting holiday offering from Geffen Records, one in which Sonic Youth builds an infatuated display of mockery and cynicism. Little silhouettes of sound deeply pierce an irrepressible noise all the way through this overdriven exercise. It's like a draft served as a sonic parade for terminal weirdoes and despicable minds.
05) Grandaddy - "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" (2000)
Grandaddy are one of space-pop slot's greatest achievers, having released their insulated 2000 masterpiece, The Sophtware Slump. In the same year, the band contributed this amusing song to a Christmas compilation. The plot goes like this: in a meadow they build a snowman and pretend that he is Alan Parsons, the soft/prog-rock artist and sound engineer from the 70s through the 90s. It's a delightful seasonal mantra with frozen pianos and verbose strings around charming vocals.
04) Gomo - "Santa Claus Depression" (unreleased radio single)
Paulo Gouveia's project is based on fresh soundscapes that encapsulate little bubbles of air in a silky voice pattern. Gomo is a Portuguese one-man ensemble erupting from the new appeals of modern music. This song, which has been playing on a Portuguese radio station around Christmas time for some time now, will probably be released with the new album coming up in 2004. The track is a humorous, contemplative tale of urban bohemia. A diffused rapture of reverberation and lounge vibes. In a few words, it may well be the case of an irreverent kid trying to figure out the next big departure for his music.
03) Themselves - "Grass Skirt & Fruit Hat" (2000)
Anticon is a label devoted to indie hip hop. Kept under its shield is a dynamic duo called Themselves, which shows a good taste for pagan poetry and striving studio work. This is not a Christmas-related tune in a true sense, but the season's frosty spirit is there through its lyrical content and the devouring nocturnal summits. That's the kind of border-crossing philosophy festive times like these demand. So keep your distinctive ear to the ground because the times they are a-changin'.
02) The Murder City Devils - "364 Days" (2001)
Punk revivalists endorsing a muscular garage flirt, the Devils played a distinctive sound penetrated by Spencer Moody's enormous voice. This folk number is a tribute to St. Nicholas who enters the house, pours a drink and raises his glass at a lonesome holy night. The song, built around minor-chord tapestries, is a seasonal departure from the rough ambience the Devils used to create. It's a Christmas carol infused with hard rock elements and an accurate melodic surface.
01) William S. Burroughs/Kurt Cobain - "The 'Priest' They Called Him" (1993)
William Burroughs, the ultimate outcast, reads a dark Christmas tale whereas Kurt Cobain plays a guitar spree, tuneful backing. The novelist taints his burlesque, beat-generation-influenced writings with an outstanding copy-and-paste aesthetic, while Cobain deepens the sonic apparatus in a cloud of musical violence. It's a greeting card for bohemians and outsiders alike, which tells the story of a suburban junkie and its close-to-death neurotic experience.
Currently living on the south bank of the Tagus river, in Portugal, Helder Gomes is a working class hero. He is a journalist for the local radio station Rádio Nova Anten. In his spare time, he skates and watches many odd movies. He is in love with the French nouvelle vague, and the Danish/Swedish invasion. He writes for a number of publications, on the Internet or otherwise, notably the underground Portuguese magazine Mondo Bizarre, and the Jazz Review website. He is also the news collector and a staff witer for the adorable Lost at Sea. Oh, and there is also the Coffee Breakz radio show that he tries to host every Saturday.
See other articles by Helder Gomes.
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