2015 Musical Advent Calendar: Yule Shoot Your Eye Out

Today’s selection comes from my friend Joe (who’s already responsible for subjecting you to Justin Bieber): Fall Out Boy’s “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” (2003). Sadly, there’s no video, so please to enjoy a few minutes of the band just staring at you.

Let’s do the numbers.

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? Yes, explicitly as well as via some punnery in the title.
  2. Are there bells in it? Right at the beginning, but then that’s it.
  3. Is it jolly? It’s really not. It’s not sad or angry or anything – it’s Fall Out Boy, so it’s a little wry, a little bitter – but despite the theme, I wouldn’t characterize it as a seasonal song.

This is a strange one for the list. It hits most of its marks, and it’s enjoyable enough, but after a promising start it sounds pretty much like a Fall Out Boy song rather than a Christmas song.

Well so what? Shouldn’t a band sound like itself? Let me explain what I’m getting at here. As I’ve discussed in a few previous entries (e.g., Colbie Caillat and the aforementioned Prince of Darkness), there’s a balancing act at work in a good holiday tune: Like any good gift, it’s got to be from you, but it’s also got to be for them.

Consider Leona Lewis’ “One More Sleep.” DEFINITELY characteristic of the artist, but also undeniably of the season. On another angle, we’ve got Harvey Danger’s “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas,” which tips farther toward the artist musically and yet is solidly of-the-season in tone. It’s not just about lyrics (Fall Out Boy hits that mark), it’s more about what’s being said. That needs to go beyond a good pun.

Getting close to the big day now! As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.

2015 Musical Advent Calendar: It’s Cliched to be Cynical at Christmas

A week between posts? A WEEK?!?

Look, I can explain. I was on-track to keep writing, but … well, this:

HammThis is Hamm. We got him from Pet Helpers in Morgantown. We’d been looking for a dog for a while now – it’s been a few months since losing Bear – but I was pretty certain I didn’t need to do the puppy thing again. Anyway, things happen, puppies are pretty persuasive, and here’s Hamm. Between taking pee trips every hour and cleaning up missed pee trips, not a lot of time for blogging.

(By the way, if you’re wondering, that’s the name he came with. When foster parents get litters, they often name them after groups to help the creative process, and this particular batch wound up with monikers from Toy Story. Thus Hamm. And yes, he does have a brother named Mr. Potato Head.)

(My wife prefers to refer to him as Ham Lushbough, the only man to ever turn down Blanche Devereaux. This may or may not have had something to do with her choosing him.)

Anyway, enough excuses. On to today’s music!

Today I’m going with a good one for these final days before the 25th: “It’s cliched to be cynical at Christmas” (2000 – barely making it!) by Half Man Half Biscuit.

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? It does. It is very much about Christmas.
  2. Are there bells in it? I hear no bells.
  3. Is it jolly? It could not be accused of being anything like jolly, but its heart is clearly in the right place.

Y’know, I like this one pretty well. It’s monotone, even kinda droning, but there’s a scratchy sincerity to it. And that chorus hits the right note. Although not as egregious as Thanksgiving griping, the “Ugh, Christmas” refrain gets fired up around this time every year, and Half Man Half Biscuit sets things straight. A song doesn’t need to be fun to be right.

Back in the sleigh for the rest of the run (I hope)! As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.

2015 Musical Advent Calendar: Snow Day

Time for another recommendation: “Snow Day” (2010) by Matt Pond PA. This one comes from my friend Jan, who offered the caveat that it’s “Not Christmas by definition, but still has some holiday spirit.” Noted, Jan!

And how does “Snow Day” fare?

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? No, but snow receives considerable name checks.
  2. Are there bells in it? Not a one.
  3. Is it jolly? I’m not a follower of Matt Pond PA, but I get the sense from this song that he doesn’t really do jolly.

Look, it’s not really a Christmas song, I’ll grant, but it’s a nice, quiet wintry song, and that’s something. I should note that, if “Snow Day” sounds familiar to you, it may be because it was used in a Starbucks commercial. One weird thing about that is about a third of the YouTube comments talk about how they love the Starbucks commercial. Fans are fans, I guess.

By the way, Matt Pond PA is a band, not a guy, although that band includes a guy named Matt Pond. Just so you don’t look ignorant when you’re talking them up out there.

And on the twelfth day of (pre-)Christmas, I gave to you … well, another blog entry. As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.

2015 Musical Advent Calendar: Christmas is Awesome

Christmas is Awesome, and so is today’s song.

Coming from their 2009 album We Should Have Gone to University, “Christmas is Awesome” by Reuben is metal as hell, and it’s more fun than you deserve. The album itself is a compilation produced after the band went on “indefinite hiatus.” We always lose the good ones too soon.

If the album name didn’t tip you off, this is a British group, but the only way you’ll notice it in-song is via a few word choices in the thoughtfully provided subtitles (complete with a helpful bouncing skull!).

Beyond the subtitles, they seem quite polite in general:

2000 years ago

A little boy was born

To save the human race

Well it’s your birthday

So have a party!

We’re sorry about all of that “nailed to a cross” business

See? Polite.

Even holiday metal must stand before THE TEST.

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? Hell yes!
  2. Are there bells in it? Yes, but I think only at the beginning.
  3. Is it jolly? Well … no, but it will get you AMPED to open presents, or just about anything, really.

This song needs to be part of your regular holiday rotation, although you won’t have much throat left after if you sing along.

I don’t have a good joke about eleven days. As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.

2015 Musical Advent Calendar: One More Sleep

I’ve been wanting to do this one for a while, but I hadn’t sat down to give it a chance, so you got Coldplay and Colbie instead. But no more! Today’s tiny little musical door opens up on Leona Lewis and her 2013 song “One More Sleep.”

This song is delightful. It’s immediately Christmassy (seriously, there’s a reason why I include “does it have bells” among my criteria), but it’s clearly her song. My only conscious exposure to Lewis’ work is “Bleeding Love,” a good song that suffered from unfortunate overplay back in 2007, but her distinctive style is brought to bear quite well here. That’s a balance contemporary performers seem to have trouble with, but Lewis nails it.

This song is a curative for the dead-eyed, seemingly mandatory Christmas offerings we so frequently have to suffer through. It’s well aware of its influences while still being a fresh thing – there’s clear indebtedness to Mariah (whose own song autoplayed after this on YouTube), and the refrain …

I’ve got 5 more nights of sleeping on my own
4 more days until you’re coming home
3 more dreams of you and mistletoe
2 more reasons why I love you so

… feels like a callback to “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The video itself is all scarves and sweaters and wood paneling, and that’s as it should be. This is a song that’s well aware of classic Christmas elements – there’s a snowball fight, for God’s sake – while not being a checklist. It’s referential, not cliched, and that’s the sweet spot for this kind of thing.

Wasn’t that just great? But how does it stack up?

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? “My baby’s coming home for Christmas … one more sleep until it’s Christmas.” It’s kind of the point.
  2. Are there bells in it? Yes. In addition to the sleigh bells, there’s this great repeated bong-bong-bong in the chorus that feels like a callback to churchier holiday music.
  3. Is it jolly? Well, truthfully it’s more “festive” than “jolly,” but that’s close enough that I’ll allow it.

Ten days in, and we’re back to good musical territory. As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.

2015 Musical Advent Calendar: Christmas in the Sand

As penance for leaving this until the last minute TWO DAYS IN A ROW, I have to listen to Colbie Caillat’s “Christmas in the Sand” (2012) today. I know her exclusively from that song about the stars in her nose or something. This video involves a blonde in oversized sunglasses gesturing coquettishly. Enjoy.

Look at that screenshot. It’s like she’s posting pictures from the trip she and her sorority sisters took to Cabo. This isn’t really a Christmas song, it’s just her other song with “Christmas” in it, something that seems like an unfortunate trend. Anyway, between this and Coldplay, I am reminded that getting on these earlier allows me to emphasize songs I like and want to devote time to. No more slacking off!

Something something criteria…

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? Yes, as well as the repeated refrain “I saw Santa in his bathing suit.”
  2. Are there bells in it? Yes, but they seem like they’re trying not to be noticed.
  3. Is it jolly? No. Jolliness, to my mind, is about a kind of shared good cheer that comes from an elevated spirit. This song is about a lady who wants to go to the beach.

Ugh, I wasn’t paying attention for a moment and I looked up and she’s stocked the video with little people. You, know, like elves! They’re all there for her amusement. I’m done with you, Colbie Caillat.

Well, after nine days of presents, you have to expect the odd pair of socks. As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.

2015 Musical Advent Calendar: Christmas Lights

I’m pretty late today, and I don’t want to use anything interesting or recommended on a rush job, so here’s Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights” (2010).

Eh, it’s Coldplay.

  1. Does it mention Christmas by name? Yes, but mostly to talk about how it doesn’t feel like Christmas because this couple had a fight.
  2. Are there bells in it? No. I don’t think Coldplay does bells.
  3. Is it jolly? No. I don’t think Coldplay does jolly, either.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this song is it has the longest Wikipedia entry of any song I’ve done so far, one that includes the vital information that the song “was released to very positive reviews.” Actually, the more of it I read, the more hilariously in-depth it becomes. For example:

It was originally thought that “Christmas Lights” would be a song from the band’s fifth studio album Mylo Xyloto, but this was confirmed not to be the case by Coldplay’s official fan-question answer system The Oracle on two separate occasions.

I’m just envisioning some superfan eagerly tuning in to The Oracle (and who has an official fan question answer system?) and doing the Coldplay equivalent of a spit take upon learning that no, “Christmas Lights” would NOT be a song from Mylo Xyloto. I mean, what the FUCK, right?

Eight maids a-milking, just under the wire! As always, you can check out the full list here, and feel free to hit me up with your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter at @thebobthe.