Listening Now: Christmas Unicorns

Real talk: Convicted by Lifetime Christmas movies

So I was recently making my way through some really craptastic Christmas movies when I found myself convicted. In the Netflix/Lifetime Christmas movie “Dear Santa” a 20-something rich girl falls for a dad with a kid who runs a homeless shelter. It’s pretty classic Hallmark/Lifetime style (I couldn’t stop laughing during the serious parts), but there’s a scene in which the main character goes through her whole closet and brings tons of clothes to the homeless shelter and starts giving stuff away. I coincidentally was also going through my closet while watching. I have a policy in which any time I buy something new I get rid of something old. I realized that here I was, mocking this Hallmark girl for her spoiled life while I was honestly just going through my clothes because I selfishly want a sparkly sweater at Target.

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself and others. But there’s also so much junk that I don’t need to buy and that I don’t need in my house. And our city is full of way too many people that could really use that sweater or hat or coat that I never wear anymore. This Christmas I’m moving my spring cleaning up early. I have been blessed beyond measure and I intend to bless others.

I’m looking at what’s already in my life and finding how I can repurpose things for good, some tangible, some not. Things that are just sitting there that could turn into blessings: waning friendships waiting to be restored, mittens hiding in the dusty bottom drawer, chairs sitting empty in corners waiting for a new friend to fill them, words left unsaid, or all that money I spend on lattes that could be repurposed for a recurring donation.

Advent is coming!

So, we’re taking a detour from niche-genre-specific music to celebrate the season. The next four weeks will be focused on the themes of each of the Advent candles: hope, peace, joy, and love.

 


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It’s Sufjan Season, Y’all!

But before we start the Advent series, we’re gonna kick off the Christmas season with a compilation of some of the greatest original Christmas music, namely, Sufjan Stevens’ “Songs for Christmas.” Though I LOVE a classic Christmas song, there is a surprising lack of new, original Christmas music for such an inspiring season. Apparently, all people ever want to cover are the 20 hit songs from like the 1940s. C’mon! What I love about Sufjan’s Christmas albums, which by tradition my family plays on repeat every season, is that they are full of original songs of the season that speak to everything from the craziness of consumerism, to fights on Christmas morning, to fun/weird traditions, to all the memories (good and bad) that we associate with the holidays.

Sufjan Stevens – A Christmas Q & A (article)

Friendship Slay Ride – Pitchfork youtube series in which Sufjan and his friends make fun of his Christmas albums (video) 

The Worst Christmas Ever – Sufjan shares Christmas memories (video) 

The Complete Sufjan Christmas Collection  – Spotify playlist

Songs for Christmas: Five Volumes – Spotify playlist

New Song: Lonely Man of Winter – Listen now on Spotify

 

Funny: Mr. Frosty Man, Christmas Unicorn, I am Santa’s Helper, Happy Karma Christmas

Introspective: Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well You Deserved It), That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!, Christmas in the Room, Christmas in July

Tis the Season: Sister Winter, Hey Guys It’s Christmas Time!, Only at Christmas Time, Put the Lights on the Tree, It’s Christmas Let’s Be Glad

Hymns: Sufjan includes some hymns not always associated with Christmas in his anthology. I love this because there are many hymns that can gain new meaning when sung during Christmas.

Low How a Rose E’er Blooming, Holy Holy etc., Amazing Grace, Once in David’s Royal City, Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

For fans of Andrew Bird, Fleet Foxes, Beirut, Iron & Wine, Neutral Milk Hotel, The National, Mipso

 

 

A brief history of the King of Indie.

Okay, yeah I’m a lilobsessed. The thing is, Sufjan is realimpressive. He plays multiple instruments and often layers himself playing different instruments on the same track. His lyrics often include Christian themes and he writes ballads with such description that you feel you know Sufey. He often writes about family issues, relationships, death, life, belief, doubts, history, the universe. Everything.

His debut album was released in 1999 under Asthmatic Kitty Records, a label he started with his stepfather. Sufjan’s life influences much of his work. He grew up in Michigan and wrote an entire album about the state. He planned to create an album for every state but only got to Michigan and Illinois. But those are still some of my favorite albums. He abandoned the state project and released his rather experimental “Age of Adz” album.

He was raised by his father Rasjid and his stepmother Pat, only occasionally visiting his mother Carrie in Oregon after she married her second husband Lowell Brams. Sufjan and Lowell, his stepfather, started Asthmatic Kitty Records together. Sufjan said he had a strained relationship with his mother, and if you’re a recent fan you’ll know this from his album “Carrie & Lowell” which he released in 2015 following his mother’s death in 2012. Sufjan said his parents were always obsessed with death.

His planetarium album (latest) is rather interesting. Maybe not for everyone but worth a listen to.

In January 2018, Stevens’s track “Mystery of Love” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. So hopefully the world will soon catch on to how great he is.

Here’s a hilarious video of Sufjan talking about his childhood pets being reincarnated.

 


Relient K’s “Let it Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer”

Leave it to Relient K to create both a reverent and ridiculous Christmas album. This album was actually a re-release of their EP “Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand.” Those Matts write such cheeky titles.

Funny: Santa Claus is Thumbin to Town

Introspective: In Like a Lion (Always Winter), I Celebrate the Day, I Hate Christmas Parties, Merry Christmas Here’s to Many More.

For fans of classic Christmas rock songs, Gungor, Jon Foreman, Fiction Family, the 2000s just in general.

 


Over the Rhine’s “Snow Angels”

I grew up listening to a lot of Over the Rhine, but now they’re mostly on my Christmas playlists just for this album. I played “Here it is” so much when this album came out that my roommates asked me to stop.

I just love the lyrics and the spirit of heartbreak and vulnerability in the midst of the season. There are so many feelings that come with the holidays, and this album does a great way of exploring the joys and the sorrows.

Intro: Here it is, Darlin Christmas is Coming, We’re Gonna Pull Through

For fans of The Civil Wars, Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins, Brandi Carlile, Josh Ritter

 

 


Isn’t This World Enough? A Nettwerk Christmas

This is a gem of a Christmas compilation album I stumbled upon a while ago and it is GOLDEN. Full of original Christmas songs from some great folk indie artists like Current Swell, Family of the Year, Sixpence None the Richer, Great Lake Swimmers and even fun. (the band).

Intro: OMG it’s Christmas, Hang a String of Lights

 

 


Best Singles

“Brick,” Ben Folds Five

Depressing, but it’s Ben, so it hits ya right in the gut while you also can’t help but sing along.

“Christmas TV,” Slow Club

On repeat. Probably my favorite Christmas duet. Yep, I actually like it better than “Baby it’s cold outside.” (Because isn’t that song a *little* creepy?!)

“Same Old Lang Syne,” Dan Fogelberg

Classic. Also I found this REALLY bad dramatic music video that you need to watch. It’s Celine Dion level.

 

Playlists 

OG XMAS  – my ultimate list of original or well-done covers of Christmas songs

Indie Christmas

Folk Christmas Songs

Christmas Hits (feat Mariah Carey)

Christmas Classics (feat Bing Crosby)

 

Hey KC! It’s the BEST time of the year! 

Things to do in Kansas City over the holidays

Things to listen to 
KC Symphony (Ps you can get cheaper symphony tix if you bring your school ID. Or if you sign up for their email, they often have leftover seats and you can get discounted ones because they just wanna sell out. Bring your student ID for discounts too!)
KC Streetcar Jam: Live music on the streetcar, sponsored by The Bridge – till Dec 15
KC Jazz Orchestra: Winter Wonderland – Dec 4
The Night the Buzz Stole Christmas – feat CHVRCHES – Dec 4
Handel’s Messiah @ Kauffman – Dec 7-9
KC Symphony Christmas Festival @ Kauffman – Dec 17-22
It’s a Wonderful Life in Concert @ Kauffman – Dec 21-22
Trans Siberian Orchestra @ Sprint Center – Dec 26
Holiday Swing – Dec 1-2 (Holiday craft fair by the Strawberry Swing)
Kansas City Ballet: The Nutcracker @ the Kauffman

Things to do/see
Plaza Lights
Union Station Lights
Crown Center Ice Skating Rink
The Ice Rink @ Park Place
A Christmas Celebration @ Missouri Town 1855
Silver Dollar City
The Nativity at The Nelson Atkins Museum (just a cute little nativity in the Nelson main marble gallery under the HUGE tree)
Christmas in the Park – Lee’s Summit
Holiday Luminary Walk – Overland Park Arboretum (till Dec 8)

 

Upcoming Concerts 

Dec 4 – CHVRCHES (Mid)

Dec 19 – Harry Connick JR (MID) $65

Dec 29 – Samantha Fish (Knuckleheads)

Jan 12 – Live from Here with Chris Thile

Jan 19 – Trampled by Turtles

Jan 25 – Hippo Campus

Feb 27 – I’m With Her with Mipso (Folly)

March 27 – St Paul & the Broken Bones (Mid)

Apr 5 – John Crist

 

 

Wishing you hope, peace, joy and love in Christ our King this holiday season.

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