If you’ve seen my Christmas posts on IVM the past few years then you probably think I’m big fan of Christmas music. And might just be right. It seems like the genre has been growing on me more each year. But it hasn’t always been that way for me. There was defiantly a time during my teens and college years where I found Christmas music annoying at best. So what changed? That’s a question I found myself asking this week and I came up with a few thoughts.
The turning point for me was hearing Falling Up‘s Christmas album Silver City. I just enjoyed it. And not because I was a Falling Up fan either (that didn’t happen until their self-titled in 2015). What Silver Cities did is allow me to hear old songs for the first time again. Which brings me the first reason I find myself liking Christmas music again: I’ve found new versions of classic Christmas songs that let me listen with new ears. One of the things I look for every year while creating my Christmas playlists for IVM are songs that take a well worn Christmas carol and reshape it into something new. Sometimes that’s as simple as turning it into a metal song like August Burns Red seem to do every year. Other times changing the lyrics like Kings Kaleidoscope did when they turned “Auld Lang Syne” into “All Glory Be To Christ”. It’s was really discovering new takes on old Christmas songs like these that got me started down a path to liking Christmas music again.
Another thing that really helped me to start enjoying Christmas music was finding original Christmas songs. For all the positive things I wrote above about reimagining Christmas carols, nearly every band does that and only a few of them do it in a way that feels unique. This is where original Christmas songs have helped me to like Christmas music again. And for what it’s worth, writing for IVM the past few years have really helped expose me to a lot of original Christmas songs that I likely wouldn’t have heard otherwise. For example the Christmas Magic EP by Mike Mains. I came across it not long after I started writing for IVM. It’s the original songs on the EP like the title-track and “Happy Holidays, My Dear” that helped set the EP apart from the other Christmas releases that year and made it one that I continue to come back to.
Lastly, something that I’ve really grown to appreciate in just the last couple of years is the history behind many of the well known (and lesser known too!) Christmas songs. A good example would be “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” which caught my attention last year after hearing Mosquito Fleet‘s version of the song. Just learning a little bit about the song’s author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and what was going on to make him write the song brings a lot of meaning to it. Another song I heard last year that made me want to learn more about it’s origin was “Gaudete” covered by Leah. It’s just kind of crazy to think about how this song was written and sung neary 500 years ago. I think learning about the history behind old songs like these has really helped me enjoy them a lot more.
So there you have it, a few of the reasons I’ve found myself liking Christmas again in the last few years. And to be fair, I think some of it could just be chalked to up to just getting older. And I also don’t think the invention of music streaming services can be discredited either. No doubt they’ve played a huge role helping me hear Christmas songs that I never would have heard on my local radio station. Regardless of how you feel about Christmas music though, I just want to wish you and all our readers at IVM a merry Christmas this year!
I don’t really care for Christmas music enough to listen to it often, but there are some notable pieces I come back to. My experience with Falling Up was very much the same. I’d enjoyed songs from them before but wouldn’t consider myself a fan. But the self-titled really changed it all for me (courtesy of the IVM review which enticed me enough to dig in) and the Christmas album listening followed that December. There’s a sense of grandiose wonder from their music and it’s perfect for Christmas songs. A beautiful album. On a slightly less wondrous note, Project 86’s… Read more »
Sleeping at last and of course sufjan Christmas stuff is epic
Silver City is the greatest Christmas album probably of all time (“Song in the Air” alone is worth the price of admission), and Future of Forestry’s three Advent EPs (which they recently dropped on their Bandcamp as an album called “Advent: The Anthology”) are a close second. Cloverton has two EPs out as well which are both decent.
All have been making frequent appearances on my iPod, as well as Theocracy’s Christmas singles (released almost every year) and TSO’s “Christmas Trilogy” of course. It isn’t the holiday season without TSO!
Agree with you here. Christmas music is on an exponential curve the past 5 years. Even the secular Christmas music is pretty good IMHO. I think this is in part due to people focusing more on singles and EPs, more attention on individual songs and a lot of featured artists.
That Future of Forestry “Advent” album is epic.
Agree with and share all your reasons Noah, and also rediscovering the lyrical meaning and depth of many of the classic Christmas Hymns is a big part of it for me. I still can’t stand the cheesy secular/pop Christmas songs tho lol
I really enjoy Christmas music. I think listening to several genres helps with that. The old traditional ones are so meh, when done originally, but when guitars or more energy are put into it becomes new and more enjoyable. I can tell how some songs are just done and others the passion really comes out into them. I too, enjoy the twists and uniqueness put into the songs to make them different.
I never really listened to Christmas music until I learned ESL and tried these old carols in English. However, on this year in particular, I wasn’t counting on listening to Christmas songs much. So I just waited for your playlist. I think either your playlists or learning a third language is going to keep myself interested in the genre (lol).