Christmas season is here, and with it, the usual selection of music… but not today. Let’s take a listen to some of the most unusual Christmas music in the world, by harnessing the power of data and the vast universe of music on Spotify.
Most people know Spotify is home to megastars like Ed Sheeran, the most streamed artist of the year in our Year in Music roundup for 2014, but Spotify is also home to tens of millions of other tracks in thousands of genres.
To identify the Christmas tracks among them, Glenn McDonald, Principal Engineer for The Echo Nest at Spotify, wrote some code to output Christmas-related music in over 1200 of those genres (map view), providing an insanely wide array of Yuletide listening options. You’ll find everything from Swamp Blues to Glam Metal to Speedcore to Steampunk, and plenty of other head-scratchers from the Christmas music fringes.
Based on this massive Christmas music resource and some extra picks from Spotify staffers, here are quite possibly the 12 most amazing/awesome/weird Christmas songs you’ll hear this year, representing a significant departure from what’s playing elsewhere (also available as a playlist):
FilthStep: ‘Jingle Bells’ by Boyinaband
Did you know there’s a genre called Filthstep? Well, there is — it’s a subgenre of Dubstep that sounds even grimier. We found this well-crafted-yet-totally-bonkers version of holiday favorite “Jingle Bells” listed in the Filthstep Xmas section.
FelineStep: ‘Carol of the Meows‘ by Guster
Slowcore: ‘Frosty The Snowman’ by Cocteau Twins
Fans of the Cocteau Twins can’t get enough of its ethereal sound, which stands alone, because nothing else sounds like the Cocteau Twins, so they have a good head start when it comes to crafting unique Christmas music. Their sound tends towards the serious, elegant, and dramatic, making their decision to cover the lighthearted “Frosty The Snowman” even more impressive. They did a fantastic job of it to create another true outlier of the season, which appears in our Slowcore Christmas list.
Speedcore: ‘Christmas Time‘ by R.T.C.
Who knew Christmas music could be so relentlessly intense? From our From Speedcore Christmas genre comes this oddball banger, which will have you shaking your head or jumping around like a mad Santa, depending on how it hits you. Either way, it hits hard. For more of the same, check out all of Hardcore X-Mas Party Vol. 3. The Perpetrator’s version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is another standout.
Steampunk: ‘Meet Me Under The Mistletoe‘ by The Electro Swingers
Steampunk is something of a contradiction, in that it’s an (admittedly inventive) mash-up of past and future. This classic reinterpretation by an artist actually called Steampunk (a.k.a. The Electro Swingers), from our Steampunk Christmas playlist, weds an old-school microphone aesthetic with the perfect dash of futuristic sound effects to spice things up.
Hip Hop: ‘Sleigh Ride‘ by Ying Yang Twins
This one has all the makings of a Yuletide party favorite for the ages, with a big fat beat, solid bass frequencies, and some truly joyous harmonies in that chorus. The whole album is pretty outstanding as well (recommended by Spotify Lead Engineer Bo Williams).
Artificially Intelligent: ‘A Singular Christmas‘ by Brian Whitman
From Brian Whitman, co-founder of The Echo Nest and Principal Scientist at Spotify, comes A Singular Christmas, released 10 Christmases ago. It’s an album, not a song, but it belongs on this list because unlike any other music we know, this album was made by software that listened to hundreds of holiday standards, and then composed some Christmas music on its own.
Japanese Jazztronica: ‘Jingle Bells‘ by Hico The Kid
This peppy, neo-traditionalist number will have you snapping your fingers and tapping your fingers straight through the holiday season — or, if it really takes root, hopping around the mall like a mad jackrabbit. Also, there is a genre called Japanese Jazztronica, and “Jingle Bells” was the first song performed in space.
Sparse & Spacey: ‘Good King Wenceslas‘ by Douglas Leedy
This is the most far-out version of Wenceslas you have ever heard, from Douglas Leedy’s Christmas Album (as recommended by a secret Santa who wishes to remain anonymous). Do not underestimate this.
Aloha Yuletide: ‘White Christmas‘ by The Hawaii Calls Orchestra, Nina Keali`iwahamana
Our Christmas genre finder found way more Hawaiian Christmas music than we’d expected. We chose this one in part due to its slow, majestic pace and also due to the operatic nature of the vocals, and of course the unlikelihood of a real white Christmas in Hawaii.
Belly Dance: ‘Christmas Oud Medley‘ by Naser Musa
This 42-minute grand opus by Baleric mastermind Lindstrøm will leave you entranced. We dare you, in all earnestness, to make it all the way through, because it is truly worthwhile. (No cheating with the five-minute version.)
(Photo: Flickr/Kevin Dooley)