Playlist of the Month: December isn’t just for holidays

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver posing in a winter wonderland... I think. Photo from D.L. Anderson of Last.fm.

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver posing in a winter wonderland with what appears to be a light fixture behind him. Photo from D.L. Anderson of Last.fm.

‘Tis the season to be burnt out on relentless holiday music. Yes, December is here, and that means businesses and radio stations will be playing nonstop traditional Christmas and seasonal tunes for the next several weeks, all of which we’ve heard at least a couple hundred times in our lifetimes. Despite my groaning over hearing these songs, I still can’t help but feel a little giddy when I begin hearing Christmas music played during this time of year. I have a hidden soft spot for the holiday tunes, but I know how to balance my monthly playlists out with regular jams that are perfect for the first month of winter.

1. Bon Iver

It was pretty much inevitable that this band would end up on a December playlist. Their music is perfect for a winter stroll as the snow peacefully falls and blankets the ground. The band hails from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and is fronted by Justin Vernon, the primary songwriter for the group. Their sound is a type of folk that instantly puts one into a state of tranquility, similar to the effect that snow has on someone watching it softly drift from the sky. Their best known track is probably “Skinny Love,” but other recommended tracks include “Perth,” “The Wolves I & II,” and “Holocene.”

2. Purity Ring

Purity Ring is a synthpop band with a bit of a witch house influence on their sound. The Canadian duo consists of Megan James and Corin Roddick who formed Purity Ring while on tour as part of the group Born Gold, previously known as Gobble Gobble. The two musicians have collaborated and produced with other artists such as rapper Danny Brown. The sound that Purity Ring produces is colorful yet melancholic and blends well with the tones of December. Must listen songs include “Belispeak,” “Obedear,” “Saltkin,” and “Grandloves,” all of which come from their debut album titled “Shrines.”

3. Sufjan Stevens

This is where the holiday music gets added to my playlist. While Sufjan Stevens is a stellar musician to listen to at any time, it’s his ridiculous amounts of Christmas albums that got him on December’s list. Seriously, there are ten volumes worth of Christmas music from this man. As with any artist who covers holiday songs, Sufjan Stevens recreates these famous tunes with his baroque pop sound. He has also written his own holiday music for these albums. I recommend a few of his original seasonal tracks, which are “Christmas Unicorn,” “Sister Winter,” “Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree),” and “Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance!”

4. Sigur Rós

This band hails from Iceland, producing a mesmerizing sound that leaves one wondering if it captures the beauty of the small island as well as life and human emotion through their unique sound. It is certainly great music to listen to while overlooking a wintry landscape. The band has been active since the nineties and have created numerous albums and tracks over the last two decades. A few specific songs that are great for the month of December are “Glósóli,” “Sæglópur,” “Ekki múkk,” and “Varúð.”

5. oOoOO

Chris Dexter Greenspan is the essence behind oOoOO, pronounced as simply “oh”. oOoOO is often regarded as one of the pioneers of the witch house genre, also including a chillwave/synthpop sound to the music as well. This band has a similar effect that Purity Ring has when listening to them in the winter — it’s darker electronic tones that are perfect for listening to on what one might describe as a trippy winter night. oOoOO has three EPs and a debut LP that came out this past summer titled Without Your Love. Some of my favorite songs are “Springs,” “TryTry,” “Without Your Love,” and “Stay Here.”

6. City and Colour

The alias of Dallas Green, former frontman of the band Alexisonfire, City and Colour is a blend of acoustic and alternative folk rock that hits me right in the feels. The guitars in the music practically lull me into either a feel good state of mind or induce heartache. Acoustic music in general is fantastic for the winter season, especially when we’re beginning to adjust to the cold weather. “Comin’ Home,” “The Girl,” “Two Coins,” and “Sorrowing Man” are just a few of City and Colours songs that can be added to a December playlist.

7. Perma

As a huge fan of Say Anything and the marvelous Max Bemis, I’m incredibly happy to add Perma to the list. The band was formed by Max Bemis and his wife Sherri Dupree Bemis of the Texan band Eisley. Perma would probably fall under the categories of indie pop with an acoustic sound. This adorable couple produces an adorable sound that has me just dying from the amount of talent these two musicians have. I recommend the tracks “She Chose You,” “The Bat and the Cave,” “Little Light,” and “Let’s Start a Band.”

On a side note: has anyone seen Sherri’s vines of their baby Lucy? Because the amount of cuteness is ridiculous.

8. Keaton Henson

This English musician is currently my favorite singer-songwriter. Not only is he a musician, but he is also a visual artist and poet. His sound can be classified as folk rock, with music and lyrics that touches the soul (there seems to be a lot of those on this playlist; I guess it’s just the season). The artist suffers from severe stage fright, so unfortunately he doesn’t play very many concerts. Again, great music to listen to while getting caught in the snow. Songs to listen to include “To Your Health,” “Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us,” “If I Don’t Have To,” and “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are.”

9. Brand New

Despite what their name indicates, this band is quite the opposite. Since 2000, this Long Island band has been creating a raw, gritty sound that depicts anger, self-loathing, happiness, and woe. I always catch myself listening to Brand New around this time of year when the days are shorter; I also find that a great time to listen to this band is around the beginnings of spring, when it’s finally starting to warm up but still dreary from all of the rain. Great tracks of course include “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” “Degausser,” “At The Bottom,” and “Seventy Times 7.”

10. First Aid Kit

Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg make up the duo known as First Aid Kit. A mixture of folk and psychedelic pop, these sisters create a sound that encompasses nature within their chords and lyrics. First Aid Kit is great to listen to in both winter and summer. My recommended songs are “Wolf,” “Emmylou,” “Jagadamba, You Might,” and “Winter Is All Over You.”

BONUS SONG: White Christmas – Panic at the Disco

Because this song is sexy and so is this band, just sayin’.

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