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Sleigh Bells: Not Just For Christmas Anymore

Christmastime: A time for family, for giving, and much to the displeasure of many, a time for incessantly grating holiday music. Christmas spirit frozen in cheesy songs monopolizes radio stations and relentlessly stalks our every step.

A key component of much holiday music is often the percussive addition of ever-festive sleigh bells, which, while they may be annoying in Christmas' myriad songs of winter wonderlands, are actually pretty cool when heard in non-holiday tunes. Just when we thought jingle bells were exclusive to Christmas songs, we dug up a whole sleigh-full of non-holiday tracks that incorporate commonly yuletide bells.

Not on the list? Noise-pop darlings Sleigh Bells - but not to worry, you're bound to see them topping innumerable 2010 Best-of lists. Here are some of our favorite sleigh-bell tunes.

10. The Stills, "Animals + Insects": Sleigh bells, which enter this song at the 40-second mark, counteract a miserably brooding "Oh my God" chorus and the singer's promise to "throw grenades at a Christmas choir."

9. Best Coast, "Our Deal": The use of sleigh bells is quite the contrast to the otherwise sunny garage-pop tune, but works effortlessly, making their entrance at the 33-second mark.

8. Björk, "Fúsi Hreindýr": This one's for the Björk superfans. The singer's 1993 album Debut actually came sixteen years after her first official self-titled release, recorded in her native Icelandic when she was just eleven years old. Though an undoubtedly precocious feat for such a tender age, Björk's naïveté is hinted via the instant incorporation of sleigh bells at the 10-second mark.

7. Grizzly Bear, "Ready Able": Amidst a sea of artistic gloom, sleigh bells ring around the 1:48 mark. Grizzly Bear is known in part for their tasteful use of experimental percussive instruments, and this Veckatimest track is no exception.

6. The Stooges, "I Wanna Be Your Dog": Sleigh bells enter this song at the 23-second mark and linger as its main percussive complement throughout the song's entirety, a converse addition to the song's proto-punk attitude.

5. The Bangles, "Hazy Shade of Winter": The Bangles covered the Simon & Garfunkel song in 1987 for the Less Than Zero soundtrack. You don't have to wait long for to hear the sleigh bells; they appear before the song even begins, a festive touch to an otherwise dark tune. Also making an appearance on "Hazy" is the ever-popular (thanks to SNL) cowbell.

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4. Radiohead, "Airbag": Sleigh bells immediately kick off this OK Computer track. Accompanied by grainy electric guitar, the curious addition of such percussion reminds us of one of the reasons we adore Radiohead--they mix and match unsuspecting tones, maintaining a novel quality to their music.

3. The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows": The surf-pop legends were no strangers to the use of sleigh bells in their songs. The classic Pet Sounds track incorporates jingle bells at the 10-second mark. Of course, those embracing the holiday spirit should remember to include the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" on their Christmas mixes.

2. Liz Phair, "Fuck and Run": Who would expect jingle bells in Liz Phair's signature lo-fi sound? It's such diminutive details that helped make her early work so classically appealing. Listen for the sleigh bells at the 1:50 mark, and again at 2:40 - you know, wedged between "letters and sodas" and "fuck and run... even when I was 12."

1. The Replacements, "Kiss Me On the Bus": Merry sleigh bells ring at the 2:15 mark in this track from a band otherwise known for their gritty garage rock.The 1986 performance of this particular song (and "Bastards of Young") was responsible for the band being banned from Saturday Night Live, thanks to front man Paul Westerberg's flair for foul language.

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