Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Time is Here - The Music of the Season

Christmas is upon us and the top 40 stations have been piping the same dozen auto-tuned Christmas songs into our brains since late November. I love the holidays, but if you are like me, I get pretty scroogey when all I hear is "Santa Baby" and "All I want for Christmas is You".

So here is a list of alternative albums for everyone who wants to save their sanity and their love of Christmas this holiday season. You'll find old favorites and discover new loves. As always feel free to share your favorite hidden holiday gems.

A Christmas Together - John Denver and the Muppets

What is better than John Denver sweetly singing Christmas carols? John Denver sweetly singing Christmas carols, accompanied by the Muppets, of course!

This album is both hilarious and heartwarming, and includes old favorites as well as a few songs that you may not consider when attempting to conjure up a list of Christmas songs. Grab a mug of egg nog, start a fire (preferably in a fireplace), and toss this album on the player. This is one of my favorite Christmas albums, and if you love the Muppets, you will surely love this one too.

Someday at Christmas - Stevie Wonder

Everything that Stevie Wonder touches turns to gold, and his 1967 Christmas album is no exception. Wonder brings so much soul and passion with every track he chose for this album. While it may be a little preachy for some, every song brings it back to the true meaning of the season - peace and love.

If you want an album that will make you groove, pop this one in the stereo. There is no way you won't be moved, either physically or emotionally.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - The Vince Guaraldi Trio

Everyone has seen the 1965 Christmas special from Charles Schulz, and the iconic music that scores this animated classic is instantly recognizable. But listening to this album out-of-context makes you realize how great this jazz album really is. The interstitial music that was simply transitional in the film becomes nuanced and beautiful when allowed to take center stage.

A Charlie Brown Christmas will forever be one of my favorite Christmas movies, and the soundtrack has made an equally indelible mark on my heart.

Music in the Heart - Bob Dylan

When this album came out a few years ago, most people laughed at Bob Dylan and what they called his painful attempt to celebrate the season in song. But I view current Bob Dylan style in the same way that I view Tom Waits' style - there is no traditional beauty in his work. Instead it's a quirky and fun music that will make you perk up your ears and tap your toes.

As my friend Brian put it, "This album is like when your weird uncle shows up unannounced to the Christmas party, gets drunk, then sits your little cousins on his knee to recount The Night Before Christmas. You are afraid of what he's going to say, but also curious to hear what comes next." I think that is an apt description. For no other reason than the morbid curiousity, this is an album you should own.

Songs for Christmas - Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens is known for his lofty goal of trying to produce an album for every state in the union. He is also known for the eeriness of songs such as John Wayne Gacy Jr., from his album Come on feel the Illinois. Stevens turns one hundred eighty degrees from Gacy, but continues with the epic proportions with his Songs for Christmas collection. This five disc collection is packed with original Christmas compositions, traditional Christmas tunes, protestant hymns, and beautiful instrumental arrangements. Even the most ardent atheist or Scrooge would stammer in their coolness toward the holidays, upon hearing this body of work.

A Very She and Him Christmas - She and Him

If the only time you've heard Zooey DeSchanel is in the shower scene of the film Elf, then you are doing yourself a deep disservice. Her work with M. Ward as the duo She and Him is always interesting and nontraditional, and this Christmas offering is no different.

Blending classic holiday style with rock-a-billy, jazz, and swing, this is a Christmas album that will make you move your feet.

I'm sure there are countless other Christmas albums that I've missed. Several people have mentioned them on facebook, but I could only listen to so many. So keep giving me suggestions and I'll get them on the list for the next holiday season. If you've posted a suggestion to facebook, post your picks here as well, so I can find it when I compile my next list!



  1. My favorite rendition of 12 days of christmas, I always sing badumbumbum after 5 gold rings

  2. Did you hear The Bebs did a cover of Mariah Carrey all I want for Christmas. Its bad. That could be on a top worse.

  3. Brian Wilcoxon and I are currently having a debate about that song on the "Musings of a Renaissance Man in Training" facebook page. I called it overplayed, he took offense, lashing out at "This Christmas" by Wham!. I see the latter as a clearly better gem of Christmas past.