We’re descending into the last days before Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the last nights of Hanukkah. You’re either sleeping in your uncomfortable childhood bedroom this week or a bunch of relatives are descending upon your already-cramped house to celebrate. On top of that, you probably didn’t get a single, thoughtful gift for them yet, which you need despite them insisting you “don’t have to get us anything, we don’t want anything else except you home.” They don’t mean it. Everyone wants something. Joy to the world.
In these tense times, most people are trying to win back relationships or deal with the fact that living at home can kind of suck. Dad just wants to drink spiked eggnog and make snide remarks about your choice of major. Mom is running on two hours of sleep and will not fall asleep until after Christmas morning. Your siblings plotted a secret bathroom schedule that directly interferes with whenever you need to use the bathroom. And old relatives are just popping out of sofa cushions to debate your youthful opinions on “that damn Obamacare bill.” To be clear, what I’m about to present to you isn’t a holiday gift guide; it is a studied list of records that will be sure to disarm your family and, for the few days you’re home, make living with your insane relatives slightly more bearable. Happy holidays. Hope you make it out alive.
How To Survive With Your Dad – There are, as far as I know, two types of dad a college student can have: dads that listened to Bruce Springsteen in the ‘70s and dads that listened to Bruce Springsteen in the ‘80s. ‘70s Bruce dads have at least two framed photos of them feeding you tallboys as an infant, are still convinced they can crush a 12 pack in two hours even though two shots of Goldschläger wreck them, and yearn for either meaty rock they can practice their Neil Peart air-drumming to or the good ol’ heartland sound. ‘80s Bruce dads on the other hand are more sensitive creatures, the kind that hide behind an impressively ambiguous craft beer at the block parties. They’ll watch The Voice with your mom because, hey, it can be kind of interesting sometimes, but they’re just hoping Blake Shelton lays off the country and makes a contestant cover Van Halen’s “Jump”. He tolerates pop, but his heart is screaming for more Duran Duran.
Two different dads deserve two very different records to make amends with. That is why ‘70s Bruce dad gets Ex Hex’s Rips and a six pack while ‘80s Bruce dad gets Bleachers’ Strange Desire and some alone time. Rips was practically invented for privileged Philosophy undergrads to feel like crust punks sipping their light beers, but that’s just because it’s a great party record. And to be honest, your dad has never listened to a single thing in his life for the sake of irony, so he will use Ex Hex to their full partying extent. Which unfortunately does involves him going shirtless for most of the holidays and trying to get you to drink from his beer funnel. But he’s on your side now!
‘80s Bruce dad, meanwhile, will come gingerly to Strange Desire. “Hmm, this sounds pretty retro, kiddo”, he’ll say at the first sign of uplifting synths, telling his heart not to go aflutter too soon. I mean, this Jack Antonoff boy looks kinda like some cool, younger stepdad, but he’s too young to understand the intricacies of a ‘80s rock chorus, right? Until “Rollercoaster” happens. The “woah-oh” callbacks, that “Dancing in the Dark”-esque synth work…nirvana has been met. Dad’s gonna be relieving the magical night in 1983 when he slept with your mom’s roommate at a keger, then met your future mom in the morning. Just leave him in his study for a while. He loves your mom, he swears.
How To Survive With Your Mom – The intricacies of mothers are far too complex and wide for me to generalize them into two classes like dads, but suburban moms are dead easy with music. They have time for Adele. They like Stevie Nicks. And odds are, they’re going to love you for handing them Hozier’s self-titled debut album. They, like the rest of moms cruising meetings and Starbucks runs will know the seemingly omnipresent single, “Take Me To Church”. It’s playing in every store, on every pop radio station, and implanted in every brain that’s listening. He’s got little bits of Jeff Buckley’s ghost flecked with the Black Keys’ poppy blues getup and he’s Irish (which is the first thing your mom will say to her book club buddies when she puts on the album)
Look, even if you’re moved out of the house, Mom’s still running herself tired. She kept the momentum she had going when you and your siblings were younger, so she has no time to put up with your “what’s relevant” lectures. Tuck a copy of Hozier in her purse, she’ll put it on mindlessly while searching for chapstick, and for fifty three minutes, that great woman will finally have some damn peace while picking up your sister’s medication and dinner for tonight.
How To Survive With Your Old Family Members – Let’s get something straight. If your relatives are staying over and are under the age of 80, they only care about things that begin with the letter S: sweaters, slippers, stock market updates, sensationalized political news, and sleep. If Grandma and Grandpa are over 80, that’s where things get interesting. At this point, your grandma doesn’t care about many things on this earth anymore. Grandpa’s seen some dark stuff most younger men wouldn’t bounce back from. And sure, they’re still angry about “the youths”, but they’ve given up on verbalizing those battles against your generation. The best way to make them happy while they’re visiting is by leaving them asleep on the couch with some white noise in the background. This is why I recommend Pallbearer’s Foundations of Burden at a semi-low volume. Maybe they won’t appreciate their nostalgic-sounding doom metal stylings or question whether they belong to true metalheads or hipster scum, but this is a couple that lived through moon landings and the Cold War. They will most likely find relaxation at the world’s most shredding guitar solos at this point. And they appreciate any kind gesture from a youngster at this point since we’re all demons to them.
How To Survive With Your Brother – Your brother probably does five things if he’s between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four while still living at home: sleep, eat, get high in the back shed, listen to records, and look at old Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues under his covers. Your brother is a gross, despicable human and you should leave him alone, but he deserves an icon in his life. Enter Mac DeMarco. Good ol’ Macky is like a dirty pile of flannel button-ups with a gap-toothed smile of gold. He’s made two psychedelic yacht rock albums and a glammy lo-fi debut LP before he found his calling, but it’s all so effortlessly relaxing and feel-good. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but Salad Days is definitely a great initiation to Mac’s world. Acts like Tame Impala or Foxygen scream “I smoke an illegal substance and I want you to know about it” to any parent listening in, which will cause unnecessary drama, so go with the guy that’ll leisurely croon it to them. Buy a value pack of Visine bottles for your brother and you can call that relationship saved.
How To Survive With Your Sister – I feel like everyone wants a cool little sister. I’ve never had a sister personally, but I know if I had one, I’d be heaping records onto her that’d shape her into the girl at school that worships Lou Reed and beats up dumb boys that suck. Unfortunately, the little sisters I’ve witnessed are mostly mean and like One Direction or country music, which are two realms of music listening I just can’t grasp onto. But all it takes to uproot a sister from pop is a tiny push and Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again could be that. It’s very pop punky (less All Time Low, more Jawbreaker), but definitely with an emphasis on the catchy choruses with angsty lyricism. Likeable, but edgy for a younger kid. I also know that, at the root of little sister meanness, there’s myriad social problems and preteen issues that make her feel like no one can relate, even though every person that’s ever been twelve years old knows how much it sucks to be twelve.
Be a good sibling here. Sit her down, put on Hungover, and let her talk it out. She probably won’t budge at first, but initiate a story about your own struggles and she’ll be cutting you off within seconds to elaborate on how pointless her suburban existence feels, the mere thought of holding hands with a crush, and other after-school special topics. It will be brutal. Repressed memories from your early teens will come to light again as your sister complains. But, with a couple sage one-liners and a mention that she can always stay at your apartment for a night if things get bad (even though you hope like hell she’ll ever take you up on that), you’re suddenly the cool, older sibling. Plus, with Hangover playing as she unloads her angst onto you, it’ll subconsciously start weaving into her brain and cancel out listening to Harry Styles and co. when she’s feeling upset.
Have fun mind-controlling your family and winning their love back by showing them records you like. You’ll be an evil genius, but what are the holidays for, other than giving loved ones presents they don’t know they want yet?