Christmas

Everyday is Christmas: Album Review

For the last 5 years or so when it comes to Christmas, I’m the Scrooge. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday because I loved Christmas time and everything that came with it – the lights, trees, gifts, music, everything. Now, I lack Christmas spirit. Sure, I still shop for gifts and decorate and just go through the motions, but I lack the enthusiasm I used to have. Another thing I’ve stopped doing is listening to Christmas music. I used to search for Christmas music by bands I liked at the time instead of listening to classics. Although, I would listen to a few like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Dominic the Donkey”. It was something I always used to do until I got over the whole Christmas thing. I thought this year was going to be pretty much the same, but then Sia dropped a Christmas album filled with all original music.

Everyday is Christmas was released on November 17th. The album features 10 original Christmas themed songs. Sia also released a music video for the single “Santa’s Coming For Us” which stars Kristen Bell and her husband Dax Shepherd, Caleb McLaughlin, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Susan Lucci, Henry Winkler, and J.B. Smoove. It was released a few days after the album. The album, as well as several songs from it, have made their way on to music charts throughout the world despite receiving mixed album reviews. I can understand the mixed reviews though.

The sound of the album strays somewhat from Sia’s regular albums solely for the fact that it is a Christmas album. It’s jazzier at times. The lyrics are frivolous and kind of ridiculous (I mean she sings a song about puppies!). However, Sia’s vocals are so powerfully distinct that it saves the album. There’s also several Sia style ballads that stray from a few of the jazzier Christmas jams.

Personally, I love it. I’ve been waiting for a while for an artist I like to release a Christmas album like this. Most times bands or artists just sing Christmas covers or write a new song or two and the rest cover the classics. Not this. It’s all original. So even though, yeah it is ridiculous, it’s also Christmas music and Christmas music is ridiculous. As someone who hasn’t been vibing anything Christmas for a few years, this got me to listen to Christmas music this year. So if you’re up for a change from the regular Christmas stuff, this is a great refresher.

Why Are There No New Christmas Songs?

Christmas time is unique in that it’s the only time of year with designated songs describing the season. I mean I guess you can make a case for Halloween songs, but when it comes to Christmas songs, they can’t really compete. Christmas music is played way more frequently. The thing about Christmas music though is that every year radio stations, stores, malls, and other entities play the same songs on repeat. Unlike music in general, you don’t often hear new songs when it comes to Christmas ones. But why?

It’s not that new songs aren’t being created. Every year there’s probably several new Christmas songs, but apparently it’s difficult to make one popular to the masses. More often you’ll hear modern artists covering traditional Christmas music rather than creating new songs. In fact, the most recent successful Christmas song came out 22 years ago. It was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Most of you know the song too. It’s now a holiday staple. You can make an argument for others though. *NSYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” came out in 1998. Then there’s Britney Spears’s “My Only Wish” which was released in 1995.You might hear the *NSYNC song throughout the holidays, but it’s rare to hear the Britney one. Mariah still beats them both.

There’s been a couple of artists who have tried to put out a modern Christmas song in more recent years like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Trainor. I bet you didn’t know that unless you’re a huge fan of a particular artist because none of their songs were that successful. I honestly don’t know what their holiday songs are called or how they go. Do you? That’s enough proof to show their lack of success.

I had a few Christmas songs that I listened to during high school and college that were original songs. Those songs weren’t by bands or artists you’d hear on mainstream radio though. A lot of the songs had sad themes too, which aren’t people’s favorite thing to listen to around the holidays (take “Christmas Shoes” for example). One of my favorites was “Forget December” by Something Corporate. The songs was released in 2003 as part of the album A Santa Cause: It’s a Punk Rock Christmas, an album that was released to benefit The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in which punk bands created original holiday songs or recorded covers of Christmas classics. The first volume was released in 2003 and a second was released in 2006 to benefit a different charity (Cure Autism Now). A decent portion of those songs were on my Christmas playlist over the years.

Now whether it’s lack of Christmas spirit, a desire for something new, or a combo of both reasons, I don’t listen to Christmas music if I don’t have to (because when you go shopping near the holidays you’re bound to hear it). I haven’t for the last 4-5 years. I haven’t been excited to hear it either, even my old favorite songs. I think the reason for that is because I don’t listen to the same bands that I listened to in high school and college. In general Christmas and its music isn’t as exciting anymore, but especially since modern Christmas music really isn’t a thing. We’re mostly still listening to music that came out decades ago.

Last year, LCD Soundsystem released an original Christmas song, “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. I listened to it, but I wished it was more upbeat like the songs “Dance Yrself Clean” or “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”. It sounded more like “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” and I just wasn’t feeling it at the time (I do like the song “New York I Love You….” though). I listened to it again last month and I liked it a little better probably due to my renewed love of LCD. That’s the only band I can think of that I like that released an original Christmas song in the past few years.

If more indie pop/rock bands released some Christmas songs, I might actually find a renewed taste for Christmas music. It would also be pretty sweet if an electronic artist did one too. I can imagine that would create an energetic Christmas vibe. I doubt any of those songs would make it to mainstream listeners though (not that I’d be complaining) so take that as you will.

Maybe one of the closest things to a Christmas song I’ve enjoyed in the last 4-5 years was a combination of a classic Christmas song and a modern day hit that debuted on the TV show The Real O’Neals last Tuesday. They performed O Holy Night and mashed it with Sia’s “The Greatest”. It was the coolest Christmas related musical piece I’ve heard in a while. It blended an old religious holiday ballad and a newly released non-Christmas single perfectly. It got me so hyped last week when they cut into the carol and started singing Sia. I’ve been promoting it ever since and I wish they recorded a full version.

Something like that gives me hope that maybe soon enough we’ll have more modern Christmas songs so we can stop listening to Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, or even Mariah Carey. I know many people may not want to, but I’ve never been part of the majority. Here’s a few newer-ish original Christmas songs to listen to if you’re looking for something more modern:

  1. Forget December -Something Corporate (2003)
  2. Yule Shoot Your Eye Out -Fall Out Boy (2003)
  3. I Won’t Be Home For Christmas -Blink-182 (2003)
  4. This Time of Year -The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (2003)
  5. Icicles -Punchline (2003)
  6. City Trucks -Paper Route (2006)
  7. My Christmas List -Simple Plan (2001)
  8. Right Where You Want Me To Be -A Day to Remember (2010)
  9. Christmas Will Break Your Heart -LCD Soundsystem (2015)
  10. Not Giving In -Rediscover (2006)
  11. The Christmas Song -Owl City (2008)
  12. Christmas Gifts -Foxes (2009)
  13. Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass -All Time Low (2011)
  14. The Lights and Buzz -Jack’s Mannequin (2005)
  15. Merry Frickin’ Christmas -Frickin’ A (2004)

Also here is the O Holy Night/Sia Mashup from The Real O’Neals.

The Soft Glow of Electric Sex Gleaming in the Window

Christmas is deeply rooted in tradition. From the tree, to Santa, to gift exchanges, each holiday tradition spans years and cultures. Year after year families engage in the same practices surrounding the holiday and holiday season. They might eat certain foods or partake in certain activities. One of those activities might be a tradition that started in 1997 thanks to the Turner Broadcasting Company. Every year since 1997 at least one of the company’s television networks have aired A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight, starting on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas Day.

The film, which was released in 1983, has become a Christmas classic and a favorite among many. It was based on Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash and written by Shepherd along with director Bob Clark and Leigh Brown (Jean Shepherd is also the movie’s narrator). It stars a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a nine year old boy who dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. The story takes the audience through the Christmas season with Ralphie’s family and friends set in 1940’s Indiana and focuses on Ralphie’s quest for the greatest Christmas present ever despite warning from multiple sources that he’ll undoubtedly “shoot his eye out”.

The movie is family fun comedy all the way. I’m sure if you ask fans of the film, everyone will respond with a different answer for what their favorite part is because there are so many great scenes to choose from. Mine involves the infamous Leg Lamp, the “Major Award” that Ralphie’s father receives for winning a contest (the title of this post is a phrase from the film used to described the lamp). In the scene where it is speculated that Ralphie’s mom breaks the lamp out of her displeasure for it, the father and mother have a an argument that ends with Ralphie’s father deciding to glue it back together. On his way out the door to get glue he yells the phrase, “Not a finger!” and I laugh every single time. It’s the way actor Darren McGavin (Ralphie’s father) delivers the line that gets me, but it’s also because the statement seems indirect and unfinished. He clearly means not to touch the lamp, but instead of saying “Don’t lay a finger on it!”, he says the phrase “Not a finger!”. I love it.

When the film was released a week before Thanksgiving in 1983, it didn’t receive much success. Its popularity grew through television specials and home video release. The success of the film even allowed for a museum to be created in its honor. The house where the exterior scenes were shot for the film was purchased by an entrepreneur/fan of the film and converted into a museum comprised of re-created sets and props from the movie. It’s located in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, the city where portions of the movie were filmed. It opened in 2006. Also, as of 2012, A Christmas Story is a part of the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, which preserves U.S. film heritage making its classic status pretty legit.

If you’ve never seen A Christmas Story, it’s about time you do. It airs for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on Christmas day. The start of the marathon begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on TBS. If it’s part of your Christmas traditions, then I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If it’s not feel free to add it in there along with baking Christmas cookies and decorating your tree. Or don’t make it a tradition at all and just watch it once or watch it randomly next June (To be honest, I’m sick of traditions and created a tradition where I try to do something new each Christmas). It’s funny and enjoyable regardless of its classic appeal so go check it out. I triple dog dare you.

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Every year for the last 50 years A Charlie Brown Christmas has aired on television during the holiday season. A few weeks ago, a special celebrating the annual Christmas show aired on ABC. I guess I should have written about A Charlie Brown Christmas that week, but I figured since Christmas in is in a few days it might be nice to get in the spirit this week.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is based on the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz. It first debuted on December 9, 1965 on CBS. It was produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez. In the show, the main character, Charlie Brown, is very depressed during the Christmas season. When fellow Peanut and friend Lucy suggests that he should direct the annual school Christmas play, Charlie Brown decides to go for it since it might be a good way to help him combat his holiday blues. Upon taking the directing role, Charlie Brown finds himself disrespected and ignored by his peers. It takes a little reminder from his friend Linus to get into the spirit of Christmas and remember the true meaning of the season.

The special was created in only six months on a very small budget and was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. They also cast child actors to voice the characters in a move that was seemingly unconventional at the time. Another unconventional move by the creators was having a jazz score performed by Vince Guaraldi and an absence of a laugh track (the standard for animated programs at the time). Although it was unsure how the special would be received by the public, A Charlie Brown Christmas had much success. Along with the annual airing of the show, it also received both an Emmy and a Peabody Award. The soundtrack has gone triple platinum in the U.S. as well.

I can’t really remember when I was introduced to the Peanuts and A Charlie Brown Christmas in particular because I always watched it growing up. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had the special on a VHS tape to watch whenever I wanted to. My mother was and still is a big Peanuts fan, so much so, that she owns plenty of Peanuts merchandise and watches the Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween specials every year. This is why it seems that all of the Peanuts holiday specials have been a staple in my life for a very long time.

I tuned in a few weeks ago to watch the 50th Anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC and I learned a lot about the show. Most, if not all, of what I wrote in the blog today was info I learned from the special. I’m sure many others learned a lot about A Charlie Brown Christmas that day as well. For a lot people, watching the show is a holiday tradition. Families gather around the TV every year to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and subsequently, pass it on future generations. I actually just watched it with my four year old cousin over the weekend. The jazz score more commonly know as “Linus & Lucy” plays on radio stations and playlists throughout the Christmas season as well. There’s no doubt in my mind that most people can hum the famous tune if asked. Though Charlie Brown complains of the commercialization of Christmas in the famed Christmas show, it is much more commercialized today. A Charlie Brown Christmas reminds us every year through all the hustle and bustle that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and promotes peace on earth and goodwill towards men (and women!). And that’s what Christmas is about Charlie Brown! *cue “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”*

California Here We Come

I’ve been such a slacker in the last week and half by not updating this blog. I’ve been busy though. It’s a busy time of the year. You know, Christmas time, when everyone does at least one thousand and one extra things besides all the things they do on a normal basis. Secondly, I haven’t been able to come up with a good subject matter for the next post (obviously I finally have but we’ll get to that).

I guess I could’ve taken the easy way out and wrote about Christmas music or Christmas movies, but I’ve been lacking Christmas spirit for the past 2 years. I’ve had no desire to watch A Christmas Story or listen to Bayside’s cover of Angels We Have Heard On High or anything like that. In fact I haven’t really had any desire to involve myself with anything Christmas-y until last night when I was wrapping gifts (I consider gift wrapping as something you have to do..it’s not really a choice unless you want your loved ones to hate you) and realized it was the first night of Hanukkah. Then I knew exactly what to write about. Christmas episodes. More specifically Chrismukkah. But even more specific than that, The OC.

Like any TV show I have fallen absolutely in love with, I started watching The OC during it’s second season. The first episode of Season 1 aired back in August of 2003, but I started watching it in 2004 and it’s been one of my all time favorite television shows ever since. I just made it sound like it’s still on, but it’s not. It lasted a total of four seasons ending in 2007. In my opinion and I’m sure other viewers can agree, the show really died after Season 3 along with one of its main characters (no spoilers…promise).

The OC was a drama set in Newport Beach, CA and followed the fictional lives of teenagers, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), and their affluent families through their interesting and eventful life challenges. That’s kind of a poor description of what the show’s about, but if I told you the show begins when lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) decides to help his teenage client who lived a pretty tough life growing up in Chino, CA (Ryan) by taking the boy in to live with him and his family in his huge home in Newport Beach then maybe you’d have a slightly better idea of the show. But maybe not, cause I really didn’t mention much about Seth, Marissa, and Summer.

Seth is Sandy’s nerdy, comic book/indie music loving son and eventually becomes like a brother to Ryan as he helps him adjust to his new school, with girls, and all the other fun that comes along with living with a well-off family in the OC. Marissa aka “Coop” (Summer’s nickname for her) lives next to the Cohens and becomes the love interest of Ryan shortly into the series, but she also has a multitude of issues in her own life which play a factor in their roller coaster of a relationship. Summer is the long-time crush of Seth and also Marissa’s best friend.

Now you’ve got a better idea of the whole thing, but if not you can always watch to find out more (wink wink). In general though the show covered all sorts of teen and life issues in it’s 4 seasons of existence, but it also had a yearly tradition of including what fans would look forward to around the holidays, a Chrismukkah episode. Chrismukkah was a hybrid holiday created by Seth that combined both  Christmas and Hanukkah and involved both sides of his family’s’ holiday traditions (Sandy was Jewish and Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), Seth’s mom, was Christian). To quote Seth’s description Chrismukkah is “eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents,” and it left fans, myself included, wanting to take part in this epic celebration. It was so epic that even though it’s been 8 years since the last Chrismukkah episode aired, I still wished I had another one to watch last night (first glimmer of any Christmas spirit this year for me). In fact, if I have time, I may even try to watch a Chrismukkah episode in the next few days.

Besides Chrismukkah, the OC was incredibly important to the indie music scene of the early 00’s. Along with soundtracks for each season which had indie songs that were featured on the show, it also included episodes where bands like, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, The Subways, etc. played a few “live” sets at the local hangout/venue, The Bait Shop, which debuted in the second season. Plus, Seth was the coolest, nerdy, indie kid you’d ever want to meet, and I don’t think Phantom Planet ever had a better or more well-known song than “California” (the theme song for The OC). The show really did a lot for those bands and indie music from the exposure it gave. Although this post isn’t really about music, I do recommend checking out the track listing for The OC soundtracks and giving some of those songs a listen, especially “California” if you can’t already hum those all too familiar opening notes.

Along with Laguna Beach, The OC was one of my favorite television shows while in high school. It was actually one of the first shows I would watch religiously as new episodes came out every Thursday on Fox. And like Laguna Beach, it played a role in creating my desire to visit Southern California. It was the show that initially made me want to visit SoCal and then watching Laguna just added to it (naturally I visited Newport Beach on my trip to California last year as well).

It really is unfortunate that The OC ended when it did. To me it feels like something that was gone too soon, but I guess if you saw the 4th season you knew it was inevitable. Luckily I received the 4 seasons of The OC as Christmas gifts every year as they came out from my grandpa and I can watch the old episodes any time. I think they’re available on Netflix as well for anyone wanting to check it out. If not there, then I’m sure you can find them online somewhere. Since it’s one of my all time favorite shows I’m gonna have to say that you should check it out no matter what, but especially if you’re in the mood for some Christmas and Hanukkah themed entertainment in the next week or so (watch one of the Chrismukkah eps!). Captain Oats would want you to (if you don’t know who that is then you better watch the show). Anyway, Merry Chrismukkah from me and the Cohens and I’ll leave you with a wonderful description of the holiday from Season 1 by the man himself, Seth Cohen.