This is Sound MIXTAPES. Jingling All the Way More than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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By: James Cassar

On Deck This Week: Even Ebenezer Scrooge Can’t Resist This Gnarly Holiday Playlist

When I lived in the Great Lakes State, this ‘lite pop’ standard station 105.1 started playing Christmas (or holiday music, if I’m aiming to be politically correct) the day after Halloween. That’s right, a full month and a half before anyone’s thinking about baking an obscene amount of sugary goods and watching Elf Uncut (what was cut before? Zooey Deschanel’s indie-vixen awkwardness?) on USA while wrapping presents that may or may not be regifted, you can hear Gayla Peevey rant about her wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas. I’m not saying that disappoints me, but hearing Adam Levine flaunting his moves like Jagger one day and getting a listen of ‘Christmas Shoes’ in 48 hours makes for a pretty botched playlist. But I digress, it’s quintessential mood music. Let’s set the mood the right way.
Extremely Alluring James Cassar Returns For His Second MIXTAPES Column With A Playlist That Both Your Grandma Can Knit Hipster Sweaters To And Your Best Friends Can Play Yet Another Round of Modern Warfare 3 To While Cursing the Day You Spent $60 On That Atrocity.
 The Maine: “Santa Stole My Girlfriend”
 I didn’t attend YouthFest like everyone and their Loudoun County    mothers this past summer (I didn’t mosh with the best at the Vans  Warped Tour either, which goes to show how fitting it is that my name rhymes with ‘lame’), but apparently this outfit was the big bad headliner. As much as I’d like to say that acoustic ditty has nothing in common with Taylor Swift‘s entire discography, it’s a shame that it does. However, I absolve the sin. Why? It’s a pretty funny song. Even though they take it pretty seriously, cursing out Saint Nick and talking about the big red fat man being a womanizer is golden.
August Burns Red: “Carol of the Bells”
  “Ding, fries are done.” Family Guy cutaway gag or not,   everyone knows the iconic Ukrainian bell carol. At least, I’m pretty sure; it’s my favorite Christmas song. Why? Because you have bands like ABR who completely interpret the instrumental version of the standard as a backdrop for one of their transcending-space-and-time metalcore songs. And to rephrase what I said about y our grandmother knitting ironic hipster sweaters to this, it gets pretty bass-heavy, but unlike everything after 2005 for Nickelback, it’s tolerable.
 A Day to Remember: “Right Where You Want Me to Be”
There are two types of Christmas songs: standard holiday fare that’s obviously themed around this magical season, and there’s something I call ‘secular Santa’ music that doesn’t sound like Christmas music at all. These broskis from Ocala, Florida issued a B-side collection (see left) around the same time I dropped ship in Virginia with this song on it. It took me about six million listens to realize this was a Christmas song. It is (awkwardly so), but since everything ADTR pummels out on stereo is about as tasty as Five Guys and Avril Lavigne‘s newly-single status, ’tis the freakin’ season regardless.
 John Mayer: “St. Patrick’s Day”
  This is about as close to Burl Ives as Barney is to Adventure Time. However, Jennifer Aniston‘s tweetaholic (@johnmayer) ex-life-partner-in-crime-or-whatnot once deserved all his clout: the last track on his House of Blues essential debut is extremely representative of Christmas. Even though it references other holidays – including one in a different season in a bitter twist of pretentious-songwriter irony, blues-rock takes center stage on this lovelorn, wintry cut from what may be Mayer’s first and last exceptional solo effort.
Bob Seger: “Little Drummer Boy”
 For all those joined in Facebook groups that label them as ‘true 90s kids or asexually-produced fishchildren,’ that stamp on their foreheads is false if their household devoted to old reruns of Action League NOW and Angelica’s Window does not own a copy of any of the A Very Special Christmas anthologies. I mean, come on, dude! Golden yuletide caroling right there! This cover of one of the most timeless holiday standards by one of the reasons Michigan music is still redeemable after all these years is awesome, anthemic, and classic Seger. At 67, he could still kick your butt in anything but Battlefield 3. Then again, maybe he could.
 Bob Dylan: “It Must Be Santa”
 After reading the Steve Jobs biography and learning about how much he resembled Ebenezer Scrooge in a lot of ways other than his epic beard, I also took away that his favorite artist was Dylan. I could see why. The man has been at it for almost half-a-century, he writes a full-blown Christmas album for charity, and includes this ditty that puts Irish-pub-punkers the Dropkick Murphys to shame for three minutes. Even though this is one of the more playful songs in Dylan’s catalog, it’s definitely one that’s memorable. Trust me, it caught me off guard; I’m used to Dylan’s signature stories.
Coldplay: ‘2000 Miles”
  Itself a cover of a 1984 single by The Pretenders, Britain’s sad-pop soldiers released this way prior to their explosion onto everything from The Simpsons to space-shuttle transmissions. This version is trademark Coldplay with a melodic piano riff that carries throughout the whole thing. I’m not embarrassed to admit that this song puts me to sleep sometimes on my iPod. Don’t laugh. You think you’re cooler than me. (cue Mike Posner)
New Found Glory: “Ex-Miss”
 A review of this album on Amazon.com called it “horrible  music for families and parents.” Okay, not to be the bearer of bad news, naïve customer, but right on the blasted packaging it calls for ‘A Punk Rock Christmas.’ Of course you’re bound to have standard Christmas tunes (including a rather awesome cover of ‘War Is Over’ by Acceptance), but snot-nosed brats bent on shaking the fruitcake out of you in the frosty mosh pit are sure to be a little wisecracking and cynical. Take a play from the finest example of pop-punk’s pioneers. “Everything that could have went wrong went wrong this year.” Cool story, you negative Nancy. Shut up and eat some gingerbread.
 The Dave Matthews Band: “Christmas Song”
 This colossal coffee-shop band is known for two monumental things: their increasing popularity of their live shows which last eight hours or more, and the illegal bootleg tapes of those performances. Despite the piracy, the DMB has steadily embraced this, releasing more live albums than “Weird Al” Yankovic (thankfully). Before their independent and out-of-print LP Remember Two Things was repackaged after they got big, this holiday track was played at pretty much every show – December or not. One of the few songs on this mix that capture the true essence of the season, it’s easily the most thoughtful.
The Goo Goo Dolls: “Better Days”
 This was one of the first songs I bought on iTunes. It’s odd that the band (with one of the worst names in music history) chose this as the first single from their 2006 followup to the excessively-hyped Gutterflower, but nevertheless, it’s a landmark holiday song that doesn’t get played on the radio. Shame. Target releases these Christmas compilations for about three bucks every year. It’s been on the last four or five, and with good reason. In a time where solid-rock bands are fading out faster than the ozone layer, it’s good that one of mainstream music’s most marketable ones has their head in the right place when talking about Christmas.
 Relient k: “In Like A Lion (Always Winter)”
I know I overuse the poorly-placed pop culture reference more than your average episode of South Park, but before this band had (well-deserved) MTV airplay with their breakthrough record Mmhmm, they were kings of that. Although the song title derives itself from a saying in the flippin’ Farmer’s Almanac, it’s still premium. Driven by the same mood as Mmhmm (and most subsequent releases), this downtempo song is reminiscent of a frozen version of Phantom Planet, which isn’t bad if you like the music on One Tree Hill…ahem, I mean The O.C. Same thing.
 Taking Back Sunday: “Christmas is For the Birds”
After American Online stole away my grandparents’ Internet with endless 90 Free Hours discs, they tried to become MTV Unplugged with the – you guessed it – online-only series [email protected]. Long Island natives TBS recorded ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ with more commentary than Bomani Jones (and I bet you don’t know who that is, do you?) and more random acts of yuletide than Santa himself. Just kidding, but it’s a nice diversion from the band’s brand of new-age emo. Oh yeah, these kids also reference your favorite rapper Weezy. And Slipknot. They’ve covered all the bases.
 Explosions in the Sky: “Your Hand In Mine”
 I’m concluding this playlist with a song that’s blatantly not seasonal on the basis that it can be a holiday track if you really think about it. Imagine standing outside in the snow. It’s coming down from the sky in blankets. This song is reaching its powerful crescendo in your ears. Taking the scene in is what the holiday is, right? Appreciating everything around you – the family, the friends, the food – not just the presents you unwrap on that fateful Sunday or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever Pastafarians celebrate. Just remember, it’s a time to think. From us at ThiS is SOUND (that’s James Cassar), happy holidays.