If you’ve listened to WWPV at all recently you’ve likely heard a few Christmas tunes mixed in with our usual rotation. This year we made it our quest to find good Christmas music–not the kind that takes over retail stores and mainstream radio stations this time of year, but instead, music that captures holiday cheer without making you want to gouge your ears out. This is what we came up with:
If there’s one Christmas album that everyone in the world can agree on, it’s the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. If these mellow piano jazz classics don’t put you in a festive mood, you might be heartless.
Another Christmas classic is the 1963 compilation album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. 40 years before he was a convicted murderer, Spector was a successful producer and arguably the most influential figure in 1960′s pop music, the driving force behind artists like The Crystals, The Ronettes, and Darlene Love. (He also, of course, produced Let It Be and All Things Must Pass a few years later.) His Christmas Gift album features all of these artists on shamelessly bombastic holiday tunes. Every pop Christmas song since then pales in comparison.
For a slightly more modern take on Christmas classics, there’s the complation album Verve Remixed: Christmas. The Verve Remixed series is a series of albums featuring contemporary electronic and hip-hop producers and DJs remixing classic songs from the Verve Records archives. The Christmas installment features Christmas standards from legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Nina Simone, and Count Basie being remixed by the likes of Brazilian Girls, The Orb, Oh No, and Fink (the English DJ, not the St. Mike’s band).
Do you like Christmas, but prefer warmer climates? Christmas Greetings from Studio One is an album consisting of classic reggae and dub renditions of Christmas songs, from Studio One Records, the powerhouse of reggae music during its 1970s heydey. On this album you’ll hear Bob Marley and the Wailers do “White Christmas,” alongside Christmas songs by Toots and the Maytals, and the Silvertones.
If there’s anyone in modern music who we can trust to make honest, heartfelt, non-tacky Christmas songs, it’s banjo-picking indie-folk heartthrob/noted state enthusiast Sufjan Stevens. His Songs for Christmas album includes 42 (!) Christmas songs he wrote and gave to friends and family over the years before releasing publicly. It includes his take on classic carols like “Away in a Manger” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” as well as Stevens-penned originals with enthusiastic titles like “It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!” and “Come On! Let’s Boogie to the Elf Dance!”
Sufjan’s not the only indie rocker to get in on the Christmas action, even if he is the most prolific. My Morning Jacket‘s Christmas EP consists of a few rocking and reverb-drenched covers and originals. An EP by Yo La Tengo encapsulates the band’s famous sonic diversity in just 3 Christmas songs. (And yes, the band is Jewish, but lots of Christmas songs were written by Jewish composers, so why complain?)
If you’d prefer something a bit more silly, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Adult Swim show Aqua Teen Hunger Force just released an album of holiday tunes called Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas. If you’re not an Aqua Teen fan you should be warned that the album consists is really more about typical ATHF surrealist tomfoolery than it is about music. However, there is one gem of a song, a duet between Meatwad and Vermont’s own alt-country genius Neko Case titled “Santa Left a Booger in My Stocking”. It’s about exactly what it sounds like, and Ms. Case’s beautiful voice singing about boogers is a moment of inspired brilliance.
Similarly weird is an old-school single by Beck called “The Little Drum Machine Boy.” It’s one of Beck’s usual mid-90′s lo-fi hip-hip jams, except that this one’s about Hannukah (we love all holidays of the season here at PV), and it’s even got a beat consisting of a robot chanting a traditional Hebrew prayer hymn.
Also on our playlist is newly-solo Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas delivering a straightfaced cover of the great Saturday Night Live carol “I Wish It Was Christmas Today”, and Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman‘s song “A Higher Power,” which isn’t really a Christmas song but it’s about making out in the back of church and getting drunk and puking at a Christmas party, so we’ll take it.
So there’s a little (or, a long) rundown of some of the holiday music you’ll hear on WWPV. We fully support throwing away your parents’ Amy Grant and Kenny Rogers Christmas albums and replacing them with Sufjan Stevens. It’s the spirit of the season.
You can hear a full 4-hour playlist of holiday tunes on Christmas Eve at 6:00 pm, and a few times throughout the day on Christmas Day (assuming I correctly set up our computer before I left). And, of course, they’ll be sprinkled in our regular music rotation, too. Tune into 88.7 FM on your radio if you’re in the Burlington area, or listen to our webcast at wwpv.org. Here’s the full playlist:
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force & Neko Case – Santa Left a Booger in My Stocking
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force – The Little Drum Machine Boy
- Beck – The Little Drum Machine Boy
- Blitzen Trapper – Christmas is Coming Soon
- Bob Marley and the Wailers – White Christmas
- Death Cab for Cutie – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
- Eek A Mouse – The Night Before Christmas
- Feist – Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming
- Jacob Miller – We Wish You an Irie Christmas
- Jens Lekman – A Higher Power
- Johnny Cash – The Little Drummer Boy
- Julian Casablancas – I Wish It Was Christmas Today
- The Kinks – Father Christmas
- Los Straitjackets – Deck The Halls
- Los Straitjackets – We Three Kings
- Los Straitjackets – Que Verdes Son
- Low – Just Like Christmas
- My Morning Jacket – I Just Wanted To Say
- My Morning Jacket – Xmas Time is Here Again
- My Morning Jacket – Santa Claus is Back in Town
- Phantom Planet – Winter Wonderland
- The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)
- The Ravonettes – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
- Rilo Kiley – Xmas Cake
- Silvertones – Bling Bling Christmas
- Sufjan Stevens – O Come O Come Emmanuel
- Sufjan Stevens – It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!
- Sufjan Stevens – Put The Lights on the Tree
- Sufjan Stevens – Come On! Let’s Boogie to the Elf Dance!
- Sufjan Stevens – O Holy Night
- Sufjan Stevens – That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!
- Sufjan Stevens – Away in a Manger
- Sufjan Stevens – Get Behind Me, Santa!
- Sufjan Stevens – Holy, Holy, Holy
- Toots and the Maytals – Christmas Feeling Ska
- Darlene Love – White Christmas
- The Ronettes – Frosty the Snowman
- Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans – The Bells of St. Mary’s
- The Crystals – Santa Claus is Coming to Town
- The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride
- Darlene Love – Marshmallow World
- The Ronettes – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
- The Crystals – Rudolph the Red Nosed-Reindeer
- Darlene Love – Winter Wonderland
- The Crystals – Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
- Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
- Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans – Here Comes Santa Claus
- Count Basie – Good Morning Blues (The Real Tuesday Clerkenwell Remix)
- Louis Armstrong – Zat You, Santa Claus? (The Heavy Remix)
- Ella Fitzgerald – What Are You Doing New Years Eve? (Mangini vs. Pallin Mix)
- Billie Holiday – I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (Yesking Remix)
- Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World (The ORd Remix)
- Shirley Horn – Winter Wonderland (Christian Prommer Remix)
- Nina Simone – I Am Blessed (Wax Tailor Remix)
- Dinah Washington – Silent Night (Brazilian Girls Remix)
- Mel Torme – The Christmas Song (Sonny J Remix)
- Nina Simone – (Fink Remix)
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – O Tannenbaum
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – What Child is This
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – My Little Drum
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – Linus and Lucy
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time is Here
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – Skating
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- Vince Guaraldi Trio – The Christmas Song
- The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
- The White Stripes – Candy Cane Children
- Yo La Tengo – Rock N Roll Santa
- Yo La Tengo – It’s Christmas Time
- Yo La Tengo – Santa Claus Goes Modern
What are your favorite holiday tunes? We’ll add them to the playlist next year.