|DJ Santa by flickr user kjd|
Enjoy, and don't miss the special links section at the end! As always, please tell me in the comments what you're listening to this holiday season, and have a happy New Year and whatever else you're celebrating this month.
UPDATE: Check out all the Wired For Music holiday playlists!
UPDATE 2: Click here to download this year's playlist.
- (Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag (Thunderball Mix) - Kay Starr
The sparse instrumentation during the verses on this remix really lets her voice shine through, and makes the horns seem so much bigger when they do show up in short bursts throughout. As I learned on my first Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck playlist, Kay Starr remixes well.
- O' Come All Ye Faithful - Weezer A nice, straightforward, extremely Weezer-esque version of this song. Hat tip to my friend Greg for alerting me to the existence of Weezer's Christmas album.
- Christmas Time Is Here Again - The Beatles
This is the outtake of the version that was released on the Free As A Bird EP - I'm using this version because it doesn't have a minute of talking at the end like the EP version does. Yes, it's mindlessly repetitive. Yes, it's simplistic. And yes, it's damn catchy - I almost wish they'd done something more with it, but that might spoil its playful innocence. In addition to featuring some classic Ringo fills, this song also features the very poetic line "O-U-T spells OUT." Really makes you think.
- What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? - Ella Fitzgerald
Achingly gorgeous, and a bit heart-wrenching. Poor Ella, won't anyone take her out on New Year's? Keep an eye on this singer, I have a feeling she's going to go far.
- Liz Phair - Winter Wonderland
This narrowly beat out Diana Krall's version of the same song on this year's list. Those descending acoustic guitar lines during the chorus really get me, and the whole thing has a really nice playful vibe I dig. Nice minimalist production here, too.
- Christmas Morning The Rum Had Me Yawning - Lord Beginner
This calypso hit, written in the 1930s and recorded in 1959, is sure to warm you up no matter how low the temperatures get outside.
- Let It Snow! - Jordan Hirsch
Shameless self-promotion on my part, and I really should fix up the vocals a bit in a few places, but I actually think my version is pretty good. You be the judge. (If you like this, check out my version of Frosty The Snowman and my Electric Xmas Medley.)
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - U2
Bono is having so much fun hamming it up on this one that it should win over even the Grinchiest of Scrooges.
- Christmas Is - Run D.M.C.
AKA "Run D.M.C.'s other Christmas song." Though the refrain of "Give up the dough" might make this sound like a Biggie-esque "check out how awesome I am at mugging you" song, I think they're actually imploring all of us to remember the true meaning of Christmas or something.
- Merry Christmas Baby - Bruce Springsteen
When The Boss tells you to have a Merry Christmas, have a Merry f***ing Christmas.
- Christmastime - Smashing Pumpkins
Despite the press reports, Billy Corgan did not, in fact, steal Christmas from the good people of Whoville. In fact, he used his powers for good and wrote this lushly over-produced number which features pretty harmonies and lots of chimes. And possibly a pan flute, I'm not sure what that is (~1:43).
- Santa's Got A Mullet - Nerf Herder
I don't think I've ever heard another song by this band, I pretty much dismissed them out of hand based on their name. Other than this heartwarming and very catchy ditty about a Canadian Santa "jamming to Foghat and drinking Coor's Light," I'm pretty sure I made the right decision. This isn't a "good" song, per se, but it is a lot of fun. (And yes, at the end of the song they are in fact saying "Santa's got...a schlong." No, I don't know why.) UPDATE: I was recently reminded that Nerf Herder recorded the theme song for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, so I have no choice but to give them a pass.
- Frosty The Snowman - Fiona Apple
Another great cut from my super-cool friend Sara's super-cool holiday playlist. I always keep meaning to listen to more Fiona Apple, and I always forget to, but I like everything by her I've heard, including this version of Frosty (which I like almost as much as my own version).
- Suzy Snowflake - Soul Coughing
Originally popularized by Rosemary Clooney, I first heard Soul Coughing's version of this holiday classic (including a verse in Hebrew!) on the "Made Especially For You By Soul Coughing" EP that I got through my friend Mat in 1997. Had I known it would one day be worth $40, I probably wouldn't have sold it for a buck at a yard sale after importing it into my digital collection.
- White Christmas - Corporal Blossom
This is the opening track on "Mutated Christmas," an album available for download on a "pay-what-you-want" basis from Illegal Art (whom you might recognize as the label Girl Talk calls his home). This song, like the whole album, is made from "100s of recordings taken from file sharing, thrift store vinyl, and other sources," according to the liner notes. It's kind of like getting to hear every version of White Christmas all at the same time, but in a good way.
- Jingle Bell Rock - Lost Straitjackets
This makes me want to throw on a Santa hat and go surfing.
- Getting Ready For Christmas Day - Paul Simon
Once again, a Jewish musician dips his beak into the Christmas pond, and comes out with something unique, interesting, and actually pretty good. I mean, it's Paul Simon, of course it's going to be good.
- Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto - James Brown
It just wouldn't be the holidays without James Brown grunting "Uh!" inappropriately after every few lines.
- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - Lou Rawls
I can't get enough of Lou Rawls at the holitimes. Interestingly, the stereo separation in this mix is pretty severe - listen to it with headphones on to see what I mean. The horns are almost exclusively in the left channel while the drums and bass are way over on the right. The whole gang doesn't get together until the end. But none of that's nearly as important as Lou Rawls's wonderful voice, just dripping with Christmas cheer.
- Wonderful Xmas Time - The Brantley Family Band
I had never heard of these guys before one of their tracks was featured on the incredible Christmas music site FaLaLaLaLa.com earlier this month. Apparently they make their own Christmas albums every year which they then pass around to family and friends (a popular model - LINK TO SUFJAN). This year they compiled a bunch of their holiday recordings, old and new, and released them all FOR FREE on Bandcamp. They are obviously having a blast making this music, and I think their version of this song is even more enjoyable (in some ways) than Macca's original.
- If you liked this, be sure to check out all the Wired For Music Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck playlists.
- The Washington Post rips off my idea and makes their own playlist of non-sucking holiday music. The Post also has the scoop on the fascinating story behind the famous Bowie/Crosby collaboration. A team of composers and writers wrote Bowie's part moments before he took the stage!
- Amazon.com is giving away a free holiday-themed MP3 every day for the first 25 of days in December. Not sure how they arrived at that number.
- The aforementioned website FaLaLaLaLa.com is a treasure trove of bizarre, unique, and always interesting Christmas music.
- NPR has a nice big streaming collection of holiday music from stations around the country.
- My friend Sara has a great music blog, including a big ol' downloadable archive of hip indie acts doing holiday music