This holiday season, KCSBfm’s executive committee put their heads together to bring you the best tunes to keep you warm and jolly! We hope these songs will be the soundtrack to your wholesome winter season!
“These Days” – Cat Power
Winter is definitely a reflective time, maybe because of the weather and the earlier sunset time forces us to retreat inside and spend more time with our thoughts. This song perfectly encapsulates the slower-paced rhythm of life in the winter. However, last year my friend showed me that Nico, the person who popularized this song, was a terrible person (more on this here), so I much prefer this version by the wonderful and very talented Cat Power, from her newest album where she covers and reimagines an eclectic selection of songs. The song was actually written by Jackson Browne, and he has a version worth checking out too!
“At The Chime of a City Clock” – Nick Drake
This album by Nick Drake is another one of my go-to’s for this time of year. The steady acoustic guitar playing, combined with the soft tone of his voice, and reflective lyrics, combine to embody the spirit of the season perfectly. When I listen to this song, I can picture a man strolling aimlessly through a snowy London, waiting for the chime of ol’ Big Ben to send him home.
“Mama, You Been On My Mind – Studio Outtake 1” – Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley’s cover of Bob Dylan’s song is especially gut wrenching this time of year. Buckley’s take on the lyrics, the way he takes his time singing each and every word and holds out on each syllable for just the right amount of time, makes the bittersweet lyrics so much more beautiful. I also love the stripped down instrumentals on this track, it seems to capture a raw emotional moment for Buckley rather than carefully produced and fabricated emotion.
“California Holiday” – Kadhja Bonet
With this song, you are immediately drawn in by the beautiful guitar and airy strings that combine that classic winter sound with the sounds of a beautiful R&B ballad. What I love about it, and what she herself so beautifully articulates is that, “It’s a song that [she] wanted to write because it makes no mention of Christmas, or any one holiday. Instead it focuses on a relationship and how the markers of the year can change your perspective on one, whether by revealing stagnation or jumpstarting a change in the quality of care.” For many, the holiday season can be difficult, for you are usually surrounded by loved ones, and you can be reminded of loved ones you have lost connection with that used to be with you during this time of year. This song perfectly encapsulates that feeling of missing someone on a rainy winter day, creating a feeling of reminiscence simply through the ethereal vocals and instrumentals. (And you should read all about the rest of this EP in this month’s Add of the Month blog post 👀)
“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Desmond Dennis & Tone Stith
In this cover of a song by the popular boy band *NSYNC, Desmond Dennis and Tone Stith make it 1000 times better just by using their angelic vocals. Both of these guys are some of the most talented vocalists in R&B today, and this is clearly showcased on this song. If you want a fun, upbeat, poppy Christmas song this holiday season, this is the song for you. (And I highly recommend watching the music video because they hit the woah to this song and it is the funniest thing to see).
“All the Way” – Chance the Rapper, Jeremih, and Hannibal Buress
Lastly, I had to pick this song by THE independent rapper himself, Chance the Rapper. This is really just a funny Christmas song off of the joint Christmas album he made with Jeremih called Merry Christmas Lil Mama: The Gift That Keeps on Giving. It’s a great trap holiday song that has constant double entendres relating common holiday items to girls, with funny one-liners all the way through. It even ends with a talking part bashing on the parts of Christmas we all hate, and making fun of “Travis Scott effects” on vocals, so how could you not listen to this song.
“The Spirits Fall Upon The Wheel To Turn The Spokes With Angel Grace When I Am Gone With Broken Wings The Spirits Fall To Take My Place” – Calm
The spiriiiiiits faaaaaaalll up-on the wheeeeeeeel, to turn the spoooooookes with angel graaaaceee, AND WHEN I’M GOOOOOOOOOOONE WITH BROooOKEN WIIIIIIINGS, THE SPIRITS FAAAAAAALLLL TO TAAAKE MY PLAAAAaaAACE!!!!!!!
The ambient noise you hear at the beginning of this song isn’t static feedback, it’s torrential rain. Apparently the album was recorded in the middle of an anomalous December storm, presumably in San Jose (the band’s hometown) at someone’s house or garage. It’s crazy fitting for an album that sounds as thunderous, cryptic and lo-fi as this to have been recorded at the same time that California experienced its third highest rainfall total in over a hundred years and Titanic sized container ships in the Bay Area were being ripped from piers and casted adrift by 100+ MPH winds.
“Christmas in Suburbia” – The Cleaners From Venus
This song is about me having to spend Christmas with my family in something called “Mountain House, California.” I usually assume any reference to “suburbia” in art and literature is critical but the lyrics seem much more nostalgic than satirical, so I say this is the perfect song to gather up your old high school friends and loiter in the oversized parking lot of a Joann Fabrics.
“Frosty the Snowman” – Bladee
Apparently they named some kid’s cartoon after this Bladee song. Who would have known.
“Stormy Weather” – Fievel is Glauque
Fievel is Glauque is an incredible band. I guess you could call their sound “sophisti-pop.” The secret to truly enjoying this song on a “sophisticated” level is to realize that Ma Clément is not literally talking about stormy weather. It’s a metaphor.
“Le Picadilly” – Erik Satie
“Love Me (Second Rehearsal)” – Elvis Presley
Transportation into an existence wherein the fairy lights never die, the company never gets boring, and the wine never empties. The laughter and chatter in the background invites you into the song, with a warmth and comfort comparable to that which exists in my friends’ invitations to their homes for Christmas festivities.
“Milk White Air” – J. Tillman
Something about Father John Misty’s side solo hustle just…gets me feeling the specific type of sadness that the holidays can invoke.
“Days of Wine and Roses” – Wes Montgomery
Stellar background music to good, bad, and ugly conversations.
“I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Alone” – Margo Guryan
This would be playing in the background if I was starring in a Hallmark movie where I’m a headstrong career woman who has to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas through a montage where I right all my wrongs and build a hometown romance.
“I’m Beginning To See The Light” – The Ink Spots
For imagining a nuclear fallout winter.
“Singin’ In The Snow” – Mikiko Noda
Festive city pop filled a winter time void that I never knew existed. Mikiko Noda was called the “velvet voice” during her debut in the late 80s. It borders on nauseating how pleasant and cheery it is, with the album cover displaying the words “I Like Happy Ending.” But it really is a happy ending song for the closing out of a year. She alternates between Japanese and English, but the warmth is understood and felt either way.
“Christmas Waltz” – Stanley Turrentine
One of the 1960’s foremost tenor saxophonists, Stanley Turrentine is a pioneer of the soul-jazz genre. Christmas Waltz adheres to this aforementioned sound: it is as festive as it is warm. Sugary jazz undertones and gentle rhythms come together to create such a cozy, homely piece. This track, unlike other holiday songs, captures both the jazzy milieu of the Charles/Coltrane era and the Christmas spirit that defrosts itself every late November. I guess you can have your [Christmas] cake and eat it, too.
“Snowed In” – Mndsgn
Gently romantic and very festive— what more could you ask from a holiday song?
“A6 on_foot w. pink siifu” – Ahwlee
While not particularly Christmassy by name or by nature, on_foot expresses a degree of warmth that’s necessary when the temperatures get low. The mellow instrumental and the ambient tones are pretty Siifu/Ahwlee-esque, but this track in particular brings out the intimate, sensual side of Christmas without being lewd. Also it’s ½ of the sampled basis of one of my favorite B. Cool-Aid songs, Nothn2free.
“If in Winter (100 Lovers)” – Vashti Bunyan
A heartbreaking heartbreak song from the queen of hushed folk. Perfect for making some tea, wrapping yourself in a blanket, looking out the window at the grey skies, & leaning into the ennui.
“Snowqueen of Texas” – The Mamas & The Papas
Super fun groovy track with great vocal harmonies & storytelling. Molly Burch also came out with a great, slightly sadder cover with slide-ier guitar. I’ll never get tired of hearing “snowqueen, save a cold kiss for me” !!
“Flowers In December” – Mazzy Star
Winter would simply not be the same without some swoon-worthy Hope Sandoval vocals…talking about not talking, mutual disappointment, etc. etc. Also, huge day for harmonicas when this song dropped.
“The Grinch” – Hus Kingpin ft. Killer Ben
“This how The Grinch stole your girlfriend.” It’s only fitting that New York rapper Hus Kingpin included an homage to the classic Dr. Seuss holiday story on his own seasonal album, Holiday Hus: XXXmas. Beyond the quoted bar, there isn’t much in the way of Christmas content, but the spooky orchestral beat evokes feelings of cold weather, and the rapping is top notch.
“Anderson .Paak” – Linus & Lucy recorded at Spotify Studios NYC
In my opinion, no Christmas playlist is complete without Vince Guaraldi’s classic holiday bop Linus & Lucy, made famous on the soundtrack to A Very Charlie Brown Christmas. Although there are many great versions, a particular favorite of mine was recorded in a live session by Anderson .Paak a few years ago. The arrangement and energy are terrific, and it’s a great chance to hear .Paak’s drumming ability showcased front and center.
“polar bear” – sugar plant
Winter is my favorite season. The air is different, for the most part. But even when it’s not, I like to put on songs that remind me of winter time. This song makes it feel like the air outside is cold and I am wearing the coolest, winter jacket while sipping on some tea.
“Neu years” – boris
Asobi Seksu is a winter essential, and this track is particularly cool and perfect for the end of the year. The Boris cover of the song “New Years” is harsh and immersive and will definitely be playing as I drive around during the holidays. Also fun fact, I’m on the album cover of this. yep.
“Winter pageant” – the softies
The Softies kill it when it comes to creating nostalgic scenes in their songs. This is a bittersweet song about longing and I love it. I may be the #1 softies lover. If anyone has a softies cd hmu. Sike.
“Sweet sunday snow” – pia fraus
Christmas lands on a Sunday this year btw. In case you didn’t know.
“I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun” – Beach House
Some Jingle Bells and super chill indie rock feeling on this track really set me up for a cozy and relaxing winter season. I especially love when the bells drop out and the piano takes over the instrumental, with only Victoria Legrand’s soothing voice carrying the song to the end. Definitely a vibe when you’re chilling by the fireplace.
“When Gloves Come Off (feat. Ryan Beatty)” – Tyler, the Creator
I was trying really hard to not include Tyler on this since I always fall back to him, but especially around the Holiday Season, Tyler and his “Music Inspired by Illumination & Dr Seuss’ The Grinch” and all of the works he utilized for the OST of that movie are such an eccentric, out there, and Christmassy-feel. When Gloves Come Off has such ethereal instrumentation and Ryan Beatty’s voice only adds to this atmosphere. Highly recommend going through this entire album over the Holidays!
“Merry Muthaf*ckin’ Xmas” – Eazy E
Lastly but definitely not least, I had to throw on this parody of many classic Christmas songs by the godfather of gangsta rap. While not the most family oriented song by any means, Eazy E & all of the features on this song are perfect for when everyone’s feeling tipsy after all that egg nog or whatever people drink on the Holidaze, and you should definitely have taken your walk w the cousins before this song comes on 😉