Yesterday on our Facebook page, we asked the question, What’s your favorite non-traditional Christmas song of all time? We got some great answers and decided to share them. So, here you go:
Have any others to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.
I am not afraid to tell you that I really like Christmas music, have always liked Christmas music, and frankly enjoy the Christmas season. I say this fully understanding the ultra-capitalist implications of my holiday-lust, but whatever; I enjoy nostalgia. That being said, I know many many many people who despise this time of year, and who really really really hate Christmas music.
I get it – Christmas is annoying. It is religious. It is oppressive.
For me though, there is something interesting about the music of the season, and the infinite interpretations that exist of the holiday music canon. Perhaps its appeal lies in its commonality; we all know these songs (like it or not), and these days our culture is sort of lacking in tradition and communal experience, isn’t it? Whatever it is, I humbly submit eight of my favorite Christmas-themed albums. These are just eight though! I have left out a bunch. Feel free to comment on your faves as well.
Various Artists – God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen (Columbia Records, 1981)
An outstanding collection of concise and occasionally weird versions of all the classics; a real mood-setter. Perfect for cookie-baking and general Christmas-related household puttering. Required listening for the Christmas-music enthusiast.
Duke Ellington and his Orchestra – The Nutcracker Suite (CBS, 1960)
This is an often overlooked piece of pure holiday gold. A Christmas miracle, really. Original pressings are hard to find (and typically pricey), but reprints and CD versions are out there. Go get.
Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy Records, 1965 & 2006)
There is not much to say about this expect that it is just the best. The remaster from 2006 sounds really great and includes awesome liner-notes that tell the story of how Guaraldi was hooked-up with the Peanuts gig, and how his music became synonymous with both Schultz’s work and Christmas.
Various – Death Might Be Your Santa Claus (Legacy, 2012)
This was a Black Friday Record Store Day release in 2012 and the most festive thing about it is the cover. The music may not put you in the traditional capitalist Christmas spirit, but it is rad, and spooky, and real-feeling, which is perfect for that particular darkness one can feel during this special time of year.
Various – A Very Special Christmas Volume I (A&M, 1989)
This is perhaps included on this list due to nostalgia – it is one of the first Christmas music albums I can remember listening to with my mom and my brother, and it contains awesome versions of the classics as well as some amazing originals such as Run DMC’s modern classic “Christmas in Hollis”. My favorite track is U2’s impressive rendition of “(Its Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home,” which is full of verve and yearning, like most of pre-Zooropa U2.
John Fahey – The New Possibility & Christmas with John Fahey Vol. II (Takoma, 1968, 1975)
It always blows my mind when someone hasn’t heard The New Possibility, John Fahey’s sort-of famous album of Christmas songs reworked for finger-picked guitar. It is more likely that people have heard that album, but haven’t heard Volume II, which is just great and also features a bizarre psychedelic lion on its cover. These are both (usually) easy to find on vinyl.
The Beatles – The Beatles Christmas Album (Apple, 1970)
The Beatles never released an official collection of Christmas songs, but each year from 1963 to 1969 they released an un-official Christmas-themed EP which was given to members of the Beatles Fan Club as a gift. These flexi-discs featured a Christmas message and a song or two (hastily recorded). In 1970, the year of the band’s demise, they compiled all of these on one 12” LP, as a thank you to their loyal fans. This record is hard to find, and typically expensive. It has never been officially released but bootlegs abound! Happy hunting.
Christmas music, you might have noticed, is a big deal. It’s also, historically, been a bit of a cash cow for record companies. Bing Crosby and Elvis, Susan Boyle and Josh Groban, along with hundreds of other artists, have all tried their hand at singing Christmas songs. Here are the 12 best-selling Christmas albums in the U.S., based on their RIAA certification.
1. Elvis Presley – Elvis’ Christmas (1970 reissue of 1957 album, Diamond certified)
2. Kenny G – Miracles: the Holiday Album (1994, 8x Platinum)
3. Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Christmas Music! (2001, 6x Platinum)
4. Mannheim Steamroller – A Fresh Aire Christmas (1998, 6x Platinum)
5. Mannheim Steamroller – Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (1984, 6x Platinum)
6. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (1963, 6x Platinum, Originally released as The Magic of Christmas)
7. Josh Groban – Noel (2007, 5x Platinum)
8. Celene Dion – These Are Special Times (1998, 5x Platinum)
9. Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas (1994, 5x Platinum)
10. Barbra Streisand – A Christmas Album (1967, 5x Platinum)
11. Johnny Mathis – Merry Christmas (1958, 5x Platinum)
12. Bing Crosby – White Christmas (1945, 4x Platinum, Originally titled Merry Christmas)
Bonus: The best-selling Christmas single of all-time, selling over 50 million copies worldwide, is…you guessed it, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
by Mat Weir
Ask any horror movie nerds worth their weight in government patented popcorn butter about their favorite horror flick and you’re going to have an eclectic list. That’s one of the things we love about horror: it’s a genre-bending genre unto its own; the axe-wielding tranny of movie types. While this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone reading the Streetlight blog (and if it does, really brah? really?), if you don’t believe me, just look at the Alien series (Sci-Fi/Horror), Silence of the Lambs (Thriller/Horror) and even Black Swan (weird- ass-Aronofsky-tom-foolery). For my second installment of the 10 Day of Helloween Horror, I will submit, for your approval (always wanted to say that), one of the best in genre-bending horror, as well as one of my personal favorite movies of all-time, Cube.
Five strangers –-Quentin, Worth, Leaven, Rennes, and Holloway– separately wake-up inside a giant, metal cube. Their clothes have been taken and replaced with jumpsuits signifying only their last name. Each side of the room, (ceiling and floor included), has a door leading into a new room, identical to the last; but only one room is “clean.” The other rooms have been rigged with elaborate booby-traps that make you wonder if the Saw guy was watching Cube for tips. An idiot savant by the name of Kazan is soon discovered in another room and the group begins to realize each person holds a unique key to their freedom.
****SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200!!!****
What is there not to love about this film? Cube has it all: great acting, sharp dialogue, grotesque deaths. Plus a ruthless, psycho-analytic dissection of modern society needed to make any horror film complete. So bear with me and I’ll try to keep this short and simple. First, let’s start with the obvious horror-film defining elements: fear and gruesome deaths.
From the opening scene, the viewer is thrust into a room that is cold, sterile and isolated, leaving you with that uneasy pit in the bottom of your stomach. Within minutes the first death occurs as razor wire rips through the character on screen. The character stops with a gasp and blood begins to trickle down his body in a grid pattern. He takes a step forward and crumbles to tiny cubed pieces. If that isn’t enough to make the evil twin inside you squeal with fun, then you just don’t know how to party.
Another factor that makes this movie better than pictures of your newborn baby is the number system the cube operates by. Early on in the movie, the character of Leaven (a 20-something college student with a knack for numbers and the sarcastic personality of every jaded post-teen ala Daria) discovers each doorway has a set of numbers and the room with prime numbers is the safe one. As a nerd, I find this to be a cool tool to throw into the mix. Don’t know your math? Bam! You just got sliced and diced.
But the reason why Cube has been on my top 5 list ever since I first saw it, has to be the fact that it is an exercise in existentialism. It is a psycho-philosophical breakdown of society on a micro–and macro–cosmic level. The script itself is basically a sci-fi/psycho-horror version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s one-room play, No Exit (in fact, Cube only used one set with different lighting to trick the viewer). Sartre’s famous closing line, “Hell is—other people!” is the main theme in this nightmarish movie.
At the beginning of the film, Rennes ominously warns the others in Grecian-style foreshadowing, “You’ve gotta save yourselves from yourselves.” The characters soon realize what he meant as fatigue, stress and starvation set in, stripping away their social masks and revealing their more “pure” state. For example, Quentin, the leader/hero cop who takes charge, quickly deteriorates. As time passes, he deteriorates into a rage-filled monster, angry at being trapped, angry at his wife for taking the kid and leaving him, angry at the world. He quickly snaps and the group realizes they have a predator in their midst.
On this note, it has also occurred to me that each character can represent a basic human psyche (Worth represents cynicism, Leaven: logic, Holloway: compassion, Quentin: anger, Rennes: ration, Kazan: childlike innocence) and the cube itself can represent the human mind. In this light, the film turns in on itself and becomes the struggle of one person’s conflicting emotions, or possibly even a schizophrenic episode. While this may be my own interpretation, the macro-cosmic societal analysis is much less subtle.
A little over halfway through the film, it is revealed that Worth knows more about their prison. In this pivotal scene (and a superb one for acting and dialogue), Quentin is chewing out Worth for his cynicism, saying they will never find an exit with dead weight like Worth hanging around. With that, Worth snaps, shouting, “There is no way out of here!” and the realization drops upon every character’s face. Worth admits that he was hired to draw plans for the outer shell of the cube. “Who hired you?” Quentin asks. “I didn’t ask, I didn’t even leave my office,” he responds. “I talked to some guys on the phone, other guys like me; specialists working on small details. Nobody knew what it was, nobody cared.”
“That’s how they stay in,” chimes in the conspiracy-liberal Holloway in her breakdown moment. “You keep everyone separated so the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. The brain never comes out in the open…It’s all the same machine, right? Pentagon, multi-national corporations, the police! You do one little job, you build a widget in Saskatoon, and the next thing you know it’s two miles under the desert, the essential component of a death machine. (It’s here that actress really let’s go) I WAS RIGHT! All along, my whole life I KNEW IT! I told you, Quentin! Nobody is going to call ME paranoid again!” With a giant sigh she looks around the quiet room, four other faces staring at her. And with a shit-eating grin, with the smile of someone who has just played a massive joke, Worth softly but firmly explains. “Holloway, you don’t get it. This may be hard for you to understand, but there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan. Can you grasp that? Big Brother is not watching you.” BAM!!!! And the hammer of Truth pounds into you without mercy. Life is just one giant coincidence under the guise that someone is steering the ship.
Worth dives further into the existential breakdown of human society (at this point it is imperative that the author copy & pastes the dialogue. Not only is it easier, but it’s damn good writing and really you should be thankful. I have also added my own twist in the paranthesis):
QUENTIN: Somebody had to say yes to this thing. (thing = life/human society)
WORTH: What thing? Only we know what it is.
QUENTIN: We have no idea, what it is.
WORTH: We know more than anybody else. I mean somebody might have known sometime, before they got fired or voted out or sold it. But if this place ever had a purpose, then it got mis-communicated or lost in the shuffle. This is an accident, a forgotten perpetual, public works project. Do you think anybody wants to ask questions? All they want is a clear conscience and a fat paycheck. I mean, I leaned on my shovel for months. This was a great job!
QUENTIN: Why put people in it?
WORTH: Because it’s here. You have to use it or admit it’s pointless.
QUENTIN: But it is pointless!
WORTH: Quentin… That’s my point.
HOLLOWAY: What have we come to? It’s so much worse than I thought.
WORTH: Not really, just more pathetic.
QUENTIN: You make me sick, Worth!
WORTH: I make me sick too. We´re both part of the system. I drew a box – you walk a beat. It’s like you said Quentin is: Keep your head down, keep it simple, just look at what’s in front of you! I mean nobody wants to see the big picture. Life’s too complicated. I mean, let’s face it. The reason we’re here is it’s out of control.
[Quentin turns around.]
HOLLOWAY: Is that how we’re ruining the world?
LEAVEN: Daah! Have you been on glue all of your life. I felt guilty for ruining the world since I was like… seven. God! If you need someone to blame, throw a rock.
And in that beautifully crafted scene, the great nut of Existentialism has been cracked and my inner-cynical-nerd laughs with delight. Life is a joke and it’s on us. We think that there must be some great answer, some higher purpose, some deeper meaning for our presence on this planet, but the truth of the matter is, the entire thing is out of our control. We try to gain whatever control we think we have by giving life a higher purpose, but that just perpetuates our own confinement, whether it’s intellectual, spiritual or other. Life is a giant prison, filled with traps that we think must have some greater meaning. But in reality we’re all just running around, constantly turning on the people we are supposed to be cooperating with, as we try to find a way out.