In the Silence of the Mind: December 13th, 2017
Today is a very special day. Not only is it my birthday (and you can get yourself a little something special in my honor by picking up a copy of my book, here), but it is also the beginning of the 12 Days of Christmas.
Now, I don’t know when you kick the tires on your Holiday music playlist… Some of you are diehard “not until after Thanksgiving” people, while others start mixing in the Jingle Bells sometime around Halloween… but by all accounts, now is the time to deck the proverbial halls.
But, not all Christmas music is created equally. For every classic like “White Christmas,” there are a dozen insert-big-name-artist’s-obligatory-cash-grab Holiday albums (Volume 32!) to sort through. So rather than let Whichever-Band make money off your holiday cheer, allow me to suggest what I believe to be THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS SOUNDTRACK to add to your Applespotpanazon playlist and start jamming right away. Click here to go straight to it on Apple Music.
As always, these are just my personal picks. Feel free to add your favorite Christmas jam in the comment’s section and let the world know when you start listening to Christmas tunes (I see you, middle of July people). By the way, if you dig the featured image, be sure to hit up Project 86 frontman Andrew Schwab before Christmas and have him design your holiday card, wall art, or even your next tattoo!
Song: “I Celebrate the Day”
Artist: Relient K
From Album(s): Happy Christmas Vol. 4; Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand
Look. This is the best Christmas song ever. I get that there are “classics” that some hold a nostalgic candle for, but this is what puts me in the Christmas Spirit every year. The lyrics are just so on point and the passion Matt brings to the track shines through.
Christmas music is ultimately worship music for our King, and no song I know brings a more worshipful Christmas Spirit to me than this song. Hands down, this is my favorite Christmas track.
Song: “The Earth Stood Still”
Artist: Future of Forestry
From the Album: Advent Christmas EP Vol. 2
Speaking of songs I can’t do without during the Holiday season… this one wrecks me every year. I mean, in terms of modern classics, this is at the top of my list. As with “I Celebrate the Day,” FoF bring some of the most inspired Holiday lyrics around and the style of the song is just so fitting to the season and yet so timeless all at once.
Song: “This Christmas”
From the Album: This Christmas EP
Continuing on the trend of songs that just absolutely leave me a mess when I hear them, “This Christmas” has long been my go-to holiday song. While the above two songs have since eclipsed it as my “favorites,” this track always brings a tear to my usually stoic eye every time I hear it. I mean, this should be the plot of a Hallmark movie…
Song: “Mary Did You Know?”
From the Album: Happy Christmas Vol. 4
There are many great versions of this popular song to be found. Pentatonix does a stunning rendition of it that I highly recommend. That said, Matt Baird of Spoken does what is, in my opinion, the single best version of the song available. There’s just something about Matt’s cadence and style that makes this version one of my absolute must listen to songs each Christmas season.
Song: “Little Drummer Boy”
Artist: Jars of Clay
From the Album: Christmas Songs
Speaking of Christmas songs that have a million versions of them… “Little Drummer Boy” is one of those holiday classics that should be a staple every year in every ear. My pick for the preferred version of this song goes to Jars of Clay. While JoC isn’t my usual go-to for preferred style (except that awesome “Flood” song they played every week in youth group growing up), this version is just too good to ignore.
Song: “Away In a Manger”
From the Album: Happy Christmas
Plankeye is one of those bands I just miss sometimes. While I wasn’t a hardcore fan in their hey-day (I did like them), the song of theirs that will forever stick with me is their punk-infused rendition of “Away in a Manger.”
Song: “This is Christmas”
From the Album: O Come All Ye Faithful
In terms of songs where the singer’s distinctive voice makes all the difference, “This is Christmas” benefits greatly from Jon Micah Sumrall’s style. Kutless always had a good sound to them, and this track is definitely a Kutless Holiday song. Been a while since you’ve listened to the boys in Kutless? Give this track a click-y spin and be reminded of the joys of the season by this powerful veteran band.
Song: “Misfit Toys”
Artist: Project 86
From the Album: This Time of The Year EP
The first time I heard that Project 86 was doing a Christmas song, I was absolutely floored. When you listen to P86’s Jam-infused style, you don’t imagine Christmas being a natural fit. But, as one of my top three favorite bands of all-time, I also couldn’t wait. And ‘lo when mine little ears did a-hear that a full length Christmas EP was in store… what joy filled my heart as it grew three sizes that year.
Since then, Project 86 has belted out annual Christmas jams (the most recent available by backing their upcoming 20th Anniversary album). My favorite of these, however, has to be “Misfit Toys.” With an amazing message wrapped in a very wonderful, yet strange sounding homage to a very strange Christmas special, this track just cannot be missed.
Song: “Carol of the Bells”
Artist: August Burns Red
From the Album: X Christmas, August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ Hill
If you’re looking for HEAVY versions of your favorite Christmas jams and Trans-Siberian Orchestra is not your thing, you owe it to yourself to give ABR’s many Christmas tracks a listen. Typically coming out with a new one each year, ABR deserves their own Christmas playlist… but this track is still my favorite.
Song: “Christmas Song”
Artist: Flyleaf (Lacey Sturm)
From the Album: Music as a Weapon EP
One thing this list lacks right now is powerful female representation. No more! Flyleaf (Lacey Sturm era) put out a surprising and powerful Christmas song… called “Christmas Song”… on their Music as a Weapon EP. Mixing in Lacey’s distinct gravely sound and some powerful lyrics, this is another modern-day Christmas miracle for your ears to hear.
Song: “O Come Emmanuel”
Artist: Haste the Day
From the Album: A Santa Cause: It’s a Punk Rock Christmas 2
Perhaps one of the more obscure tracks on this list. I had no idea it even existed until a friend (thanks Chad) pointed it out to me. I have always loved the song “O Come Emmanuel,” and while there are many great versions of the track (Josh Garrels just released a version of it that I am digging), the fact that this is Haste the Day doing a Christmas song automatically gives it a place on this list.
Man… there are just too many amazing Christmas songs to list. If you happen to check out my Apple Music playlist that served as my source for this post, you’ll see many more. So, while I don’t have time to droll on about each, simply allow me to point you to some more great Yule Tide tracks that range from Pop to punk to metal and back again.
The Rest of the List (give a listen at your own peril):
Becoming the Archetype – “O Holy Night” – Midnight Clear: A Solid State Compilation
House of Heroes – “Silent Night” – House of Heroes Presents: The Christmas Classics
Michael Tait – “The Christmas Song” – Lose This Life
Third Day – “Do You Hear What I Hear?” – Wow Christmas
TobyMac feat. Owl City – “The First Noel” – Christmas in Diversecity
Joy Electric – “Walking in A Winter Wonderland” – Happy Christmas
Josh Garrels – “O Come O Come Emmanuel” – The Light Came Down
Wolves At the Gate – “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” – Midnight Clear: A Solid State Compilation
Wolves At The Gate – “The King” – Midnight Clear: A Solid State Compilation
The Ongoing Concept – “Jingle Bell Rock” – Midnight Clear: A Solid State Compilation
Eisley – “The Winter Song” – Happy Christmas Vol. 4
Demon Hunter – “The Wind” – Happy Christmas Vol. 5
So, that’s my Christmas wishlist of Holiday Jams. What’s in yours? Be sure to note any notable omissions in the comments section. While you’re at it, be sure to hit up Andrew Schwab from Project 86 and have him design your Christmas card or your next tattoo!
May your CHRIST-mas be merry and your 2017 whip 2016’s unholy butt.