Still More Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck

SK Holiday Open House by flickr user vastateparksstaff
"Christmas music."  "Holiday tunes."  "Mind-numbing winter-themed muzak pabulum."  Call it what you will, our ears are subjected to a lot of crap every winter.  Well, Wired For Music is here to help, with yet another edition of our patented "Holiday Music That Doesn't Suck" playlist.

This year's playlist has some songs that a lot of you will probably already know, but I've had enough people ask me about them in the past that I finally decided to put them on.  Hopefully there'll be some surprises on here too for more "advanced" listeners, whatever that means.  And it even features one song I swore I would never, ever include (it grew on me).

Enjoy, and be sure to check out the playlists from previous years!

  1. Dean Martin - A Marshmallow World
    "The King of Cool" gives us his take on this sugary classic.  Dean's version was never as popular as Bing Crosby's, but it does feature some of his trademark near-drunken slurring, particularly on the last verse's "take a walk-with-yourfav-or-itegirl."  This song makes me wish it was snowing right now.
  2. Gruff Rhys - Slashed Wrists This Christmas
    This is the first track of the Super Furry Animals' frontman's brilliantly titled "Atheist Xmas EP."  It's a bit repetitive, but then, so this this whole season, isn't it?
  3. The Futureheads - Christmas Was Better In The 80s
    Not entirely sure why these guys are so nostalgic given that I think they're younger than I am, but it's still a great song.  Apparently it's a big deal in the UK to release a single at Christmas time, which explains the existence of a few tracks on this playlist.  Some of them work out great, and others...don't make it to this playlist.
  4. The Gasoline Brothers - Hungover Boxing Day
    This Dutch band really nails that feeling of waking up on Boxing Day and realizing - wait, what the hell is Boxing Day?  Europe is weird.
  5. Badly Drawn Boy - Donna and Blitzen
    This song definitely sounds like it was written a few days before the deadline for getting on the Xmas single charts or something like that.  The lyrics read like he was doing a holiday-themed Mad Libs and just plugged in words like "sleigh ride" and "reindeer" here and there.  But the music saves it, especially those massive timpanis.
  6. Marvin Gaye - Purple Snowflakes
    Nothing says Christmas like (a presumably high) Marvin Gaye singing about "purple snowflakes" while his backup singers sprinkle phrases like "chestnuts roasting" and "tootsies toasting" all over the place.  This song is ridiculously good, and his voice is just angelic.
  7. Okkervil River - Listening To Otis Redding At Home During Christmas
    I can't decide if this is more depressing than Tom Waits's "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis" (featured on 2008's playlist), but it's damn depressing regardless.  Seriously, go read the lyrics, I'll wait.  Can you imagine if Jeff Tweedy still wrote songs like this?  Wow, that would be awesome.
  8. Morphine - Sexy Christmas Baby Mine
    Still not depressed?  Listen to a dead man croon "Merry for you. Not too merry for me./I want you here with me. Misery loves company."  You're welcome.
  9. The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York
    I resisted this song for the past 5 years - in fact, I really hated it until late last year when it suddenly just clicked for me.  I don't know if it's living in New York or what, but one of my most-hated Christmas songs ever has finally wormed its way into my heart.  This one's a classic that I'm sure you've heard a million times, but it still belongs on this playlist.  
  10. Barenaked Ladies - I Saw Three Ships
    Just a pretty little palate cleanser.  They really should have let Steven sing first, but that's being nitpicky.
  11. Lord Nelson - A Party For Santa Claus
    Feeling chilly?  Let the hot island rhythms of Tobago (by way of Brooklyn) of this little ditty warm you up (or go drink some cocoa, I don't care).  I like the message of this song - how come no one ever gets presents for Santa?
  12. The Beach Boys - Little Saint Nick
    Of course The Beach Boys would write a song about Santa's sled.  This song is stupid, but I love it.  And it features the brilliant line: "Christmas comes this time each year."  Deep.
  13. Aimee Mann - I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas
    A happy little song about getting off the ol' drugs for Christmastime.  Isn't that sweet?
  14. Ella Fitzgerald - Good Morning Blues
    Leave it to Ella to have a bad time at Christmas.  "Don't send me nothing for Christmas but my baby back to me" - it's a great time of the year to be alone, isn't it?
  15. dj BC - Waltz Of The Flowers (reflower)
    An interesting mix of a classic, from dj BC's "A Very Re:Composition Christmas."  Lots of interesting stuff on that album, it's really worth checking out if you like classical music, remixes, or both.
  16. The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight)
    A message of love and peace for the holidays from Joey Ramone.  [Presumably he and the person to whom he was singing were allowed to resume fighting on Boxing Day.]
  17. Kanye West ft. CyHi Da Prynce & Teyana Taylor - Christmas In Harlem
    Despite famously being from Chicago, which does not include Harlem, Kanye does a serviceable job with this sequel to Louis Armstrong's "Christmas Night in Harlem" (featured in 2008's playlist).  I think the best verse here belongs to CyHi Da Prynce, who raps in character as Santa Claus.  This song gets extra credit for the part at the end when Teyana Taylor starts singing the melody of "Strawberry Letter 23."
  18. Milly & Silly - Getting Down For Xmas
    Looking at Santa's outfit, I'd say that playing funk music at this time of year is pretty much a no-brainer.
  19. Frightened Rabbit - It's Christmas So We'll Stop
    These guys really do a great job with the whole "suicidal but catchy" thing.  Sample lyric: "Oh it's Christmas so we'll stop/'Cause the wine on our breath puts the love in our tongues/So forget the names/I called you on Christmas Eve/In fact forget the entire year/Don't reflect just pretend and you won't feel scared."  Yikes.
  20. David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
    For a song that was conceived of, written, rehearsed, and performed in a little over an hour, this is pretty amazing.  If you haven't heard this before, you're probably going to like it.  I think it's all the more incredible considering the backstory (see link above).
  21. Lovebyte - Auld Lang Syne
    I actually cut another electronic instrumental song off this list, but I just had to give a nod to the robot inside me with this overly upbeat, bizarre version of the New Year's classic.
  22. Sarah McLachlan - Song For A Winter's Night
    Sarah McLachlan's take on Gordon Lightfoot's beautiful little song is spare and beautiful, and I find it really evokes the feeling of a cold winter's night effectively.  Great harmonies, too.
Like the list?  Download it!  [you can now download previous years' lists, too!]

Hungry for more?  Check out some of these awesome holiday playlists:
What are you listening to this holiday season?  Tell me in the comments, and have a happy December!

1 comment:

99 said...

pogues!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it's about damn time.