It’s time once again for another list, but this time we have one that’s a bit more season-appropriate. Rust Is Just Right is ready to present to you the somewhat-definitive list of the “10 Best Songs That Use Sleigh Bells” that are in no way affiliated with Christmas.
10. Death Cab for Cutie – “You Can Do Better Than Me”. A selection that implies “we needed one more song to fill out this list” in more ways than one.
9. Grizzly Bear – “Ready, Able”. A lot of people love this single off the excellent album Veckatimest, but it always felt a little incomplete for me. But Grizzly Bear gets this spot because they often use a lot of unique percussion to great effect and should get credit for that effort, and I am at least certain that sleigh bells make an appearance (even if it’s a faint one) in this particular song.
8. Wilco – “Outta Mind (Outta Site)”. While the raucous “Outtaside (Outta Mind)” has a nifty video, it’s the stripped-down reprise that’s augmented by the cheerful sound of sleigh bells.
7. The Replacements – “Kiss Me On The Bus”. One of the highlights of the classic album Tim, you can hear the sleigh bells make their appearance on the final chorus, providing an intriguing color to the music.
6. Eric B. and Rakim – “Microphone Fiend”. Built on a sample of Average White Band’s “Schoolboy Crush”, this is one of the landmark singles from the Golden Age of Hip-Hop and still sounds great today. Always good to hear a smooth operator operating correctly.
5. The Walkmen – “Nightingales”. The Walkmen were definitely not strangers to the allure of the sleigh bells, sprinkling their sound throughout their career, most notably on multiple songs from the beloved Bows + Arrows. But we’re going to give the honor to this lovely track from their swan song Heaven, since it includes moments where the sleigh bells are given their time to shine.
4. The Hives – “Walk Idiot Walk”. What should a band do as a follow-up for their huge break into the American charts? If you’re The Hives, you write a single that uses the sleigh bells to keep time in the chorus for no particular reason. If anything, it at least gives some insight to the casual listener that The Hives are willing to look outside the box of traditional garage rock sounds. It’s too bad that Tyrannosaurus Hives has been neglected over the years, since it’s a fantastic album.
3. The Beach Boys – “God Only Knows”. When you fill out your sound with a hundred-piece orchestra, you’re bound to have someone playing sleigh bells for some songs. We’re going to go with one of the most beautiful songs in the deep catalog of the Beach Boys with this one.
2. Radiohead – “Airbag”. Radiohead kicks off one of the defining albums of the 90’s with the sound of sleigh bells over sliced-up drum tracks, adding a touch of humanity to an opus about the haunting alienation of technology. In a song about being miraculously saved from a car wreck, are we to assume that Santa was the savior?
1. The Stooges – “I Wanna Be Your Dog”
I don’t think there’s any argument here with this choice for the top spot. Once you notice that insistent sleigh bells part chugging along with the rest of those buzzsaw guitars and ramshackle drums, it’s hard to get out of your head, and it adds a strange psychedelic element to the entire enterprise.
So there you have it–the greatest non-traditional Christmas song is “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. Be sure to include it in your setlist tonight when you’re out caroling!