Monday, December 6, 2010

'Tis the season . . .

. . . when cheerful holiday music and prescription-lubricated good cheer are once again at our throats. To celebrate, I thought I'd share a playlist of Christmas and seasonal music that isn't completely terrible.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy New Year.


Low: Just Like Christmas (1999)
They got a lot of mileage out of that Gap ad that had their recording of Little Drummer Boy, and deservedly so (Silent Night, also off their Christmas album, is also amazing). But here's another one that I actually like even more.

The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping (1981)
There's more to the Waitresses than this song and I Know What Boys Want. One of the great twee acts--before twee was twee--of all time.

The Raveonettes: The Christmas Song (2008)
Another fun act I managed to catch this year at the 9:30.

The Dandy Warhols: Little Drummer Boy (1997)
There are a lot of really really really terrible renditions of this song that is actually very good and one of my favorite Christmas carols. My other favorites are Low, Sufjan Stevens, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and the incredibly surreal David Bowie/Bing Crosby TV special.

Fiona Apple: Frosty the Snowman (2003)
Kind of like climbing mountains, you just have to listen to this mess because it's there.

James Brown: Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto (1968)
Stop to really listen, and you'll see it's a really good song. Love the heavy downbeat on one that kicks in around 20 seconds in...which is really really interesting because this song is pre-Sex Machine/Collins Brothers. Belle & Sebastian covered it oddly on a John Peel Christmas special a few years ago.
Belle & Sebastian: Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto (2002)

The Killers: Don't Shoot Me, Santa (2007)
I'm glad I'm not the only one creeped out by the thought of a guy in a crazy red suit climbing down my chimney. Glad I live in a state that respects Second Amendment rights.

OK Go: Father Christmas (2006)
OK Go, quite perplexing. If they spent half the time they do on their videos actually writing songs, they'd be a great band. Anyway, the Kinks original from '77 is so great, thought I'd add a slightly obscure cover. It's almost note for note perfect, so you know OK Go have some chops, and there's certainly something interesting going on in their brains, based on their videos. So why are their albums all so meh? As Pitchfork put it, they try to toe the line between indie cred and commercial viability, but they've clearly chosen to make some money. Oh well, good for them, kind of disappointing for me. Anyway, the Kink's Father Christmas is a really great song.

Matisyahu: Miracle (2010)
This was the only good Hannukah song I could think of or find. Most of them are stupid novelty jokey songs like Adam Sandler's Hannukah Song (Neil Diamond version). But anyway, Matisyahu, who I really like, put out this one that doesn't resort to trite Borscht belt banalities.

Shonen Knife: Space Christmas (1991)
Love Shonen Knife! They keep coming to DC and I miss them every time. They are cho beri beri kooru.

Sufjan Stevens: Once in David's Royal City (2002)
Sufjan's Christmas albums are so ridiculously good. They've pretty much destroyed all other Christmas music for me; from traditional carols like this one to more novelty song's like Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance.  They've also got incredible recordings of hymns like Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Amazing Grace, and Holy Holy Holy. Anyway, this carol is probably my favorite of all the carols on the albums. Do I sense the presence of an English horn? That alone makes this song awesome.

White Stripes: Candy Cane Children (1999)
I love how the internets make all those "hard to find" rarities so easy to find. 15 years ago you would have paid hundreds of dollars for this (if you could find it) on some fan club only vinyl EP. It's got that super stripped down early White Stripes sound.

The Pogues: Fairytale of New York (1987)
My all time favorite Christmas song, and yours. Gotta say, Shane's actually looking pretty good here. Shane et al keep recycling and licensing the thing by letting others cover it, and no one ever comes close to the original with Kirsty MacColl. I'm tired of the watered-down, censored, saccharine versions that downplay the insane codependency. Anyway, Shane needs money to buy booze and teeth, so buy a copy.