Turn on, tune in and drop that old winter break mixtape
By Daniel Johanson
Spice up that old winter break mixtape and check out these holiday tunes.
What it is: “Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs for Christmas”
Where to find it: music.sufjan.com
Sufjan Stevens, a musician working in the genre of indie-folk, is known by his fans for his love of the holiday season. Over the years he has even recorded a few Christmas classics, both traditional and original. The entire collection, spanning a decade, is split into two albums that encapsulates his work as a musician.
The first “Songs for Christmas” album is a collection of songs released by the artist in the early 2000s in five installments that are now available on one album.
Last holiday season, Stevens released another five installments entitled “Silver and Gold” that are, again, available as one album. These two albums each have a very specific style, as they represent two periods in Stevens’ music. The first comes when he was starting to release music. Fans of the independent film “Little Miss Sunshine” may remember “Chicago,” a song that comes from a large, unfinished project Stevens attempted to undertake in this stylistic period, which was to create an album for each state. He has completed two thus far: Illinois and Michigan.
The second album, released in 2012, does seem to have a few elements of his very specific second style period. It would seem that with the push in most musical genres to use more synthesized and electronic-based tones, Stevens was able to bring these electronic elements to his “All Delighted People” EP and his album “Age of Adz.” Although this would seem quite alien for an indie-folk collection of holiday songs, it is really worth a listen.
What it is: George Frideric Händel’s “Messiah”
Where to find it: Multiple recordings on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify
Anyone looking to explore the realm of music written more than 100 years ago would gain a lot from a musical tradition that many classical musicians deeply appreciate.
Händel’s oratorio “The Messiah” is performed quite frequently, arguably the most of any work across any genre similar to it, and really marks the holiday season for those who know it.
Oratorio is a very specific musical genre that was actually brought to English-speaking people by Händel from the Italian tradition, hence the Italianate name. It is a close cousin to the genre of opera, the main difference being that oratorio is not a staged form, nor is it acted out.
The source material is also usually biblical in nature. This oratorio is the lore of Christ’s birth. The music itself is gorgeous, so much so that it is considered a landmark work in all of classical music history.
A wintertime tradition to many, it is truly an experience worth having, and it is recommended to see it in person if possible.
What it is: Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet”
Where to find it: childishgambino.com
As for new music being released this season, “Because the Internet” by Childish Gambino is the writer/actor/comedian-turned-rapper’s sophomore album. Meant to speak to college-age people on break for the winter, the album is set to be released December 10.
Childish Gambino is the stage name of Donald Glover, who any fan of NBC programming may recognize as Troy from the show “Community.”
Glover, as a person, is particularly drawn to the idea of leading not only a versatile life, but to strive to excel in each venture that he pursues. This is clear in Glover’s work as a hip-hop artist. “Because the Internet” pulls from many different styles, and each track is different from the last.
The opening track, “The Crawl,” is the type of track where the bass hits you deep in the spine and doesn’t leave you until it’s over.
One of the album’s singles, “Telegraph Ave.,” is truly immersive in its style, in a way that seems to be meant to bring the listener into the scene being depicted. A song about a long distance relationship from Los Angeles to Oakland, the track opens with a car door opening and the radio kicking on. L.A.’s Power 106 plays the hit of the week, which is the hook to Gambino’s track, fictitiously “Oakland” by Lloyd.
We then hear Glover singing along to the track, but in a way very familiar to anyone who partakes in the activity of singing along to songs they don’t really know on the radio, only remembering the last couple words of a phrase.
It’s brilliant in its simplicity, and the album as a whole speaks to a generation that has been shaped by the internet, hence the title, “Because the Internet.”