Beyond Jingle Bells: 5 Experimental Holiday Songs

Author: Henry Hawking

Every December, holiday music rears its head, and once again becomes the default soundtrack of every restaurant, shopping center, and uncomfortable work party. Although this genre is beloved by some, others dismiss it as generic, formulaic and commercial. Indeed, psychologists have suggested that repeat exposure to holiday music can decrease one’s concentration, as the brain begins to devote energy to block out the noise. For those of you currently feeling vindicated in your hatred of mainstream holiday hits, I bring you this list of festive tunes so non-generic you’ll be back to listening to “All I Want for Christmas is You” in no time.

1. Silver Bells by Katie Pipal

“Silver Bells” by New York-based musician Katie Pipal certainly breaks outside the conventions of normal holiday music. Although little information about Pipal is available online, she seems to focus on experimental composition. “Silver Bells” attests to this, as the nearly 7-minute track makes heavy use of droning synths and rhythmic patterns more commonly found in basement noise shows than mainstream holiday music. Aside from the name, the only apparent connection to the holiday season is the sound of footsteps in fresh snow, which continues for much of the song.

2. Me and Santa by Bugs and Rats

Punk covers of holiday classics are almost as old as punk itself, and high profile groups like The Ramones, The Misfits, and Bad Religion have all released their own takes on the genre. However, many of these songs have become just as overplayed and cliche as the songs they were made to mock. “Me and Santa,” by Massachusetts punk group Bugs and Rats, displays a more abrasive side of punk, one with more aggression and fewer catchy riffs.

3. A Rat Faced Christmas by Dungeon Broads

“A Rat Faced Christmas” by Dungeon Broads falls somewhere between the low-fi aggression of “Me and Santa” and the experimental deconstruction of “Silver Bells.” Lasting just two minutes and six seconds, the track neither builds nor resolves, but instead stumbles forwards to an abrupt end. Although one can hear the influence of avant-garde genres like post-hardcore and no wave, the song still sounds unlike any other holiday song I’ve come across.

4. Have a merzy burzy xmas (how Count Griznach stole Christmas) by Narwal

“Have a merzy burzy xmas (how Count Griznach stole Christmas)” has more sonic similarities with a broken radio than with mainstream holiday music. Better described as a soundscape than a song, the track is made up of almost 9 minutes of undulating static. Although it lacks enough structure to be described as catchy, the track is close enough to white noise to almost be relaxing, if not for the random fluctuations in volume and bursts of feedback.

5. Hazardous Holidays by Hazardous Guadalupe

The final track on our list, “Hazardous Holidays”, by Hazardous Guadalupe, takes experimentation to the extreme, so much so that I’m struggling to find the words to describe it. The six and a half minute track makes up for what it lacks in melody or rhythm with a healthy dose of absurdity. The band makes their music with a child’s drum kit, and broken guitar, resulting in detuned chaos that could not be further from the holiday tunes pumped out at your local mall.

So there you have it; 5 holiday songs unlike any you’ve heard before. For those looking for something outside the box, these songs may provide a sharp reminder that holiday music doesn’t have to be cliche. Although they may not be a fitting soundtrack for winter festivities with the family, nor romantic sleigh rides in the snow, these songs provide a glimpse at music in its most experimental form.

Henry Hawking | reporting live from my mother’s basement | KXSU Music Reporter

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