02 December 2013

Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck (Part I)

Look, it's not that I hate Christmas music.

It's just that I've worked in retail.

In the fifteen years between 1995 and 2010, I spent eleven working in retail, restaurants, cafes, and other Christmas-music-mandatory jobs. And of course that Christmas-music-mandatory playlist comprises about thirty songs. Thirty songs on constant repeat. Eight hours a day. Five days a week. FOR A MONTH. It's enough to make anyone stabby.

But to make matters worse, those thirty songs include -- among others -- a song that's not only smugly colonialist, but also factually incorrect (why yes, Band Aid, Africa does have rivers! Perhaps you've heard of the NILE), a song that's -- let's face it -- real rapey, and a song SUNG BY CHIPMUNKS.

No adult should have to listen to chipmunks singing against her will.  

On the other hand, I love music. I always have music playing: at work, in the car, while I write, while I read, while I clean the house, always. I believe in and rely on music's ability to evoke a mood, to change the setting, to pick you up, to calm you down. And I believe very strongly in matching the music to the occasion. There are certain bands, albums, and even genres that I only listen to at certain times of year. I have playlists for every season of the year, for St. Patrick's Day, for Mardi Gras, for the early weeks of winter, for Saturday mornings in summer.

I want to love Christmas music. I really do. I want to deck the halls and trim the tree and have a merry little Christmas with a fabulous seasonal playlist. I can't help it if Burl Ives makes me break out in hives.

So. For the last few years, I've been collecting non-standard Christmas songs -- some jazzy, some bluesy, some emo indie folk rocky, some flat out drag-queeny -- and making myself Alt Christmas playlists. Last year I burned some mixes for friends and family, and when I pulled them out over the weekend (No Christmas music until after Thanksgiving! That is the rule!), I was charmed anew, and figured I should share.

Merry Christmas. :-)

Holiday Cheer (2012 Mix)

Merry Christmas, Baby | CeeLo Green (feat. Rod Stewart)

It Really Is (A Wonderful Life) | The Indigo Girls

I Hear the Bells | Mike Doughty

Even Santa Claus Gets the Blues | Marty Stuart

Please Come Home for Christmas | Aaron Neville

Shakana Santa Shake It | Bo Dollis & Wild Magnolias

Santa Lost a Ho | Christmas Jug Band
* file under So Wrong It's Right: "But there ain't no joy / Cause just one toy / Is missing from Santa's shack. / He never had a doll go AWOL / once he got her in the sack."

All I Want for Christmas | Puppini Sisters
* old-fashionedy Andrews Sisters style cover of Mariah's song. ADORABLE.

Christmas Lights | Coldplay

Mary | Heart

Joseph, Who Understood | The New Pornographers

All My Bells Are Ringing | Lenka

Someday at Christmas | Stevie Wonder

Christmas Island | Leon Redbone

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings | Barenaked Ladies (feat. Sarah McLachlan)

Wish You Well | A Fine Frenzy

Oklahoma Christmas | Blake Shelton & Reba McEntire 
* I make no apologies.

Your Holiday Song | The Indigo Girls

Auld Lang Syne | Andrew Bird

(for a sadder -- er, quieter -- mix, see Part II)

ps. Obviously I'm a sucker for a great cover. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments!


Tony said...

Well, since you mentioned Barenaked Ladies... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM9Wi4ie2no

Tony said...

Well, since you mentioned BNL...

Sara W. said...

Love this list!
I always enjoy getting indie Christmas music from NoiseTrade and, indirectly, Paste Magazine (each usually puts out a holiday mix-tape every year).
One of my favorites from last year is "Snow" by Sleeping at Last: . Over the Rhine had a really nice Christmas/winter album up on NoiseTrade last year, too.

Unknown said...

We are fond of this one in our household:

Kirsty MacColl & the Pogues - Fairy Tale of NY


And the Pretenders - 2000 Miles


Erasure just put out an ENTIRE CHRISTMAS ALBUM:


Last year Tracy Thorn (of Everything But the Girl) put out a wonderful album called "Tinsel & Lights", and I'd recommend anything from that, but here's a taste.


Marianne said...

Try Macy Gray's Winter Wonderland.