We Jews often whine about the supposed lack of good Hanukkah music. The Hanukkah songs most Jews learned as kids don’t hold a candle (so to speak) to such memorable tunes as “Little Drummer Boy” or “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Nor do you see Jewish celebrities lining up to make Hanukkah albums, a la the steady stream of Christmas albums by the likes of Regis Philbin and Jethro Tull. Adam Sandler, of course, tried to remedy the situation with “The Hanukkah Song,” a witty ditty that was laugh-out-loud funny the first few times I heard it, but which has now been overplayed to death by radio DJs hoping to inject a little diversity into their month-long marathon of Christmas music. (Personally, I think many traditional Hanukkah songs are as beautiful and meaningful as the best Christmas carols, but since they’re in Hebrew, they’re not about to be played on mainstream radio.)
This Hanukkah, however, how about trying something new? Introducing “The Leevees,” a duo comprised of indie rockers Adam Gardner (Guster) and Dave Schneider (the Zambonis). Their debut album, “Hanukkah Rocks” features original songs all about the Festival of Lights–and has received attention by the likes of RollingStone.com and Entertainment Weekly. In sound and lyrical sensibility, their music is reminiscent of a Judaized Barenaked Ladies, with whom The Leevees have toured. The music is catchy, fun, and, well, good. The words are funny without being self-mocking, good-naturedly presenting a celebration of Hanukkah that is neither secularized nor preachy, accessible while still being traditional, and able to laugh at itself without becoming a Borscht Belt self-parody.
“Applesauce Vs. Sour Cream” tackles the ancient potato-latke condiment debate, while “Latke Clan” paints a portrait of a family Hanukkah celebration as sweet and loving as anything Regis dishes out. “Goyim Friends” pokes fun at Jews’ envy of Christmas gift-giving and scrumptious holiday feasts (“We will march on, with General Tso and egg foo young…”) while also reveling in the abundance of Jewish holidays year round. When was the last time you heard a pop song reference Simchat Torah and Tu Bishvat?
So this Hanukkah, after lighting those candles and frying up those latkes, put away the Adam Sandler, stop whining about how Christmas music is so much better than Hanukkah music, and crank up The Leevees.