A Couple Of Lists Of Christmas Music
December 2, 2021 10:31 PM   Subscribe

15 unconventional Christmas albums from the past 50 years,from KTVZ, Bend, OR. Also, 20 New-ish Christmas Albums That Actually Rule from Esquire. I will admit to ordering an album from one of these lists and expect to be pleased.
posted by hippybear (66 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was a family fave when I was a little kid in Hawaii in the 60's. I still pull it out every year. Calypso Christmas
posted by boilermonster at 11:10 PM on December 2, 2021 [1 favorite]


I've collected over 80 weird and wonderful Christmas songs into an epic Spotify playlist. I'm prepared to bet about 75% of them will be new to you.

I'm also partial to this new Christmas song from Jawbone, a Detroit bluesman: Christmas Eve at the Downtown Thrifty-Thrift Store.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:17 PM on December 2, 2021 [7 favorites]


Jingle Bell Rocks! is a well-reviewed 2013 documentary (trailer) on the world of alternative Christmas music (streamable on Hoopla).
posted by fairmettle at 12:42 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


‘A Heavy Metal Christmas’ (2012) by Christopher Lee

Actor Christopher Lee (as seen in “Lord of the Rings” and “Dracula”) was 90 when he released this two-song heavy metal EP. The classically trained singer loved heavy metal, and the EP, which includes “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night,” reflected his talent for the genre.


This is like a full metal harmonic convergence of all that is good.

And that's just the blurb.
posted by chavenet at 12:51 AM on December 3, 2021 [6 favorites]


I grew up in the US, but have spent the past couple decades in the UK. I mentioned this XKCD comic about how all christmas music seems to be from boomers' childhoods to a music teacher once, and he looked at me like I was mad. I had to stop and realise that the stuff that gets piped in everywhere around here is actually all from the 70s and 80s.

So while the US was beholden to the Bing Crosby Industrial Complex when I was young, the UK is all Slade and Wings and Pogues. You'd never hear a song like Fairy Tale of New York on mainstream radio in the US, but you can't get away from it in the UK at this time of year!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:55 AM on December 3, 2021 [11 favorites]


And let's not forget the stigma that the phrase "Christmas Album" had up through the 90s, as lampooned in this classic moment from Sliders.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:58 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Paul Slade: I've collected over 80 weird and wonderful Christmas songs into an epic Spotify playlist.

Ooh! Are we sharing our Christmas music playlists?

I make a playlist every year of melancholish holiday songs (before that it was mixdiscs). Here are the four I’ve made so far, together in one playlist called Songs Against Enforced Cheer.
posted by Kattullus at 1:14 AM on December 3, 2021 [10 favorites]


I've definitely heard Fairy Tale of New York on mainstream radio in the US. WXRT in Chicago used to play it even back in the early 90s, back when the station was still vaguely "alternative", and it's only gotten more mainstream since then.
posted by xil at 1:17 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


xil, was this some sort of radio edit with all the slurs bleeped out or something?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:31 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


I can also report hearing "Fairytale of New York" on the radio, and no, slurs were not bleeped.

About ten years ago I made up my own Christmas playlist and I've been listening to it pretty steadily - and this year I am finally branching out a bit, to the point that I may make up another playlist with the highlights of the new discoveries this year.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:17 AM on December 3, 2021


Here is Raskasta joulua if you enjoy your melancholy Christmas songs with a touch of heavy metal vibes.
posted by baueri at 3:43 AM on December 3, 2021


Big shout out to Ramsey Lewis's "Sound of Christmas" album, which contains the funkiest rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:01 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Always good to see Eban Schletter's name pop up anywhere -- I discovered him through Paul F Tompkin's "Spontaneanation" podcast as the accompanist, and he just seems like a super hoopy frood.
posted by Shepherd at 4:52 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Who can forget "A John Waters Christmas"?
posted by DJZouke at 5:17 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]


I’m so proud of my old hometown tv station! Back in the day it was the only broadcast station in Central Oregon and it was an NBC and CBS affiliate. Plus my mom worked there in the traffic department, her first job since marriage and kids.

Nice list! A++ to inclusion of Rudy Ray Moore.

My personal holiday fave is Al Harrington’s “I Want a Daddy for Christmas,” a terrible terrible song that an old editor used to play every December.
I can’t find any links of the song itself—better for you all.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:45 AM on December 3, 2021


Or Ken Plume's "A Brian Blessed Christmas"

COMMENCE CHRIIIIIISTMAS!

SANTAS ALIIIIIIVE!
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:46 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]


A few years back, ActionAid put out a charity album called All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.
posted by whuppy at 5:53 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Chilly Gonzales's A Very Chilly Christmas album reimagines Christmas songs in a minor key, it's a very refreshing antidote to mall jingle-pop.
posted by oulipian at 6:11 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Christmas songs are or were an enormous thing in the UK, well beyond The Pogues. Everyone wanted one at some point because they were gold (and if you did it right, gold again every year). Even a Christmas song that wasn't really supposed to be a Christmas song (The rumour is that that record still comprises much of Jona Lewie's income, all earned in December). Slade, of course, Macca, Cliff fucking Richard. Roy Wood's otherwise unfairly forgotten Wizzard. Even Kate Bush has one.

As I say in the thread every year, my favourite Christmas record is the Cocteau Twins' one.

But, yes, it's really strange to me, a child in the early 70s, to realise I lived through peak Christmas, the Christmasses that all subsequent Christmasses were echoes of.
posted by Grangousier at 6:11 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]


A little goes a long way, but I have to give at least one spin to New Orleans novelty act Benny Grunch and the Bunch.
posted by credulous at 6:38 AM on December 3, 2021


If you need some profoundly melancholy, gothic cabaret style takes on Christmas Classics (and an original), look no further than Jill Tracy's 'Silver Smoke, Star of Night'. A yearly favorite!
posted by FatherDagon at 6:56 AM on December 3, 2021


Hiss Golden Messenger has a new Christmas album out, as well an alternate release with full dub treatment. My own Spotify playlist with Low, The Fall, Singing Loins, John Fahey, Dylan, Donny Hathaway, and more.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 6:58 AM on December 3, 2021


The Pistol Annies' new Christmas album (mentioned in the second link) is delightful indeed.

Sample lyrics:
It's gonna be a hell of a holiday and it's only just begun
The whole world is decorating and it's only November one
They're carving the pumpkins, they're hanging the lights
They're stuffing the turkey, they're pouring the wine
Already singing Auld Lang Syne
It's a hell of a holiday


But also stuff like:
I'm wiping the dust off the mantel
Stuffing the stockings with junk
My mama showed up with a handle
And her boyfriend of the month
It's Christmas Eve and she's drunk


If you are down with the better end of modern country/poppier end of Americana intersection of the spectrum, I highly recommend it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:22 AM on December 3, 2021


Not on this list, but also recent and terrific for the holidays: Nick Lowe's Quality Street (sample track: this amazing cover of Roger Miller's "Old Toy Trains") and Ana Gasteyer's Sugar & Booze (try the title track).

And finally, Phoebe Bridgers put out her annual xmas cover this week. This year, it's Tom waits' "Day After Tomorrow."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:29 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Nobody has mentioned the wonderful A Midwinter Night's Dream by Canada's own Loreena McKennitt. It's a folk-y, Celtic spin on traditional Christmas music, centered around her truly angelic voice.

Here's a link to a YouTube playlist. Standouts for me are the Bring a Torch instrumental, "Noel Nouvelet!" and a wonderfully eerie God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.

I have loved this for years, and all the more now because we saw McKennitt in concerts just right before COVID shut everything down, the last time we were in a crowd and could just enjoy the show without all of the usual worries these days.
posted by fortitude25 at 7:31 AM on December 3, 2021


Grangousier: "Christmas songs are or were an enormous thing in the UK, well beyond The Pogues."

In the hit movie "About a Boy" Hugh Grant's cynically rakish loaf-able with a secretly big heart character is living off the proceeds of a perennial Christmas hit his father wrote (and which he can't bear to hear).
posted by chavenet at 7:36 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


I mentioned this XKCD comic about how all christmas music seems to be from boomers' childhoods to a music teacher once, and he looked at me like I was mad.

I don't know why he would. That was merely the period of revelation for the truth of Christmas. Why that era specifically? Who knows, Santa works in mysterious ways.
posted by star gentle uterus at 7:36 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


I also recommend investigating some of John Peel's old Christmas shows, the more recent of which were hosted from his home at Peel Acres. This 2014 show with live guests Laura Cantrell and Ballboy is a particular favourite of mine.

Also, as someone mentioned Nick Lowe, don't forget his Christmas at the Airport.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:42 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


It may not be unconventional enough for this thread, but if you haven't yet, you gotta listen to Duke Ellington and his Orchestra playing the Nutcracker Suite.

You'd never hear a song like Fairy Tale of New York on mainstream radio in the US, but you can't get away from it in the UK at this time of year!

Depends on where you live, maybe? Or maybe this is true primarily of non-rock stations? I only know Fairy Tale of New York from the radio.
posted by Lyme Drop at 7:50 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Every year I exhort people to listen to Pearlie Mae’s holiday request. It may not be recent, but it swings! And if Santa were real, I’d make the same request myself, OK?
posted by droplet at 7:52 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


And if Santa were real

Sorry, I don't follow. What are you implying here?
posted by star gentle uterus at 8:16 AM on December 3, 2021 [6 favorites]


i had forgotten all about the annual xmas sux playlist until yesterday. so i am now cherry-picking from among your tracks for vol.xv. thanks. in return, here is Babs Gonzales' The Be-Bob Santa Claus.
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2021


I make a playlist every year of melancholish holiday songs (before that it was mixdiscs). Here are the four I’ve made so far, together in one playlist called Songs Against Enforced Cheer.

May need more Dark Mark Does Christmas, from Mark Lanegan, the erstwhile Screaming Trees singer. These are the songs from the original 2012 EP, though the 2020 version has a bunch more songs added.
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 8:34 AM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]


A good recent one is Lucy Dacus' cover of Last Christmas.

Not a Christmas song per se, but last December I fell in love with the song Rónán Ó Snodaigh came up with during lockdown: Tá'n t'Ádh Liom (Lucky Is Me). A really good sentiment for this time of year.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


My favorite Christmas song from the last 10 years is Carry Me Home by Hey Rosetta!
posted by eckeric at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2021


A few years back AskMe made a melancholy Christmas music list. There's a Spotify playlist.
posted by sevenless at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Just going to drop a plug in here for Sia's Everyday is Christmas, at the end of the Esquire list. It's not just for Christmas! Good for any day you would enjoy listening to superior pop.

"...he looked at me like I was mad." I don't know why he would.

In the UK the golden age of Christmas songs was Gen Xers' and Millennials' childhoods, roughly 1970-2000; "Do They Know It's Christmas" was smack in the middle of it. The USA's beloved 1950s crooners and even Phil Spector's Christmas album aren't such a big deal here. Wizzard's 1973 "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" is the song you can't escape here in December, rather than "White Christmas" or "Santa Baby"—although it's closely followed nowadays by Mariah Carey's 1994 "All I Want for Christmas is You", which seems to have transcended national and generational boundaries.

My New-ish Christmas Album tip: William Shatner's Shatner Claus. It's a blast!
posted by rory at 9:15 AM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Not sure if it quite counts as a Christmas song, but Run the Jewels - A Christmas Fucking Miracle is a bop.
posted by explosion at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Meowy Christmas (Spotify) is a list of 20 traditional Christmas songs performed by Jingle Cats (with the occasional assist from Jingle Dogs). It was released as a CD in 1993 and I've been listening to it in December every year since.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:47 AM on December 3, 2021


One for all us homesick Covid-stranded Aussies. Gets to me every time I listen to it.
posted by rory at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2021


I can recommend Xmas in Frisco. A streaming radio channel on Soma FM. It plays a wide* variety of Xmas and Hanukkah songs at this time of year.
* Varies between cutesy but off-beat seasonal songs from the 50s to wildly NSFW ones. Some haven't aged well, but I can pretty much guarantee you'll hear at least one Xmas song you've never heard before.
posted by faceplantingcheetah at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2021


I admit that, as a US-based elder millennial, I'm part of the boomer Christmas continuity committee: my ~8 hour Spotify playlist is heavy on doo-wop, Phil Spector, the Beach Boys and Brenda Lee and Bing. I blame most of it (as with my general love of oldies) on WCBS-FM back in the day, but the Home Alone soundtrack drilled a lot of those songs into memory, too*.

And now, of course, we're as distant from that era now as we were from the early 60s. I feel like we're due for an update at some point, but I can't imagine ever letting some of these versions fade into the night. Then again, how many people these days are even listening to Bing Crosby unless they're watching the movie?

*The Drifters' original "White Christmas" is the best version of that song, fight me.
posted by thecaddy at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2021


*The Drifters' original "White Christmas" is the best version of that song, fight me.

Only when paired with Flash animation.
posted by credulous at 11:24 AM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


The 20 New-ish Christmas Albums That Actually Rule includes a Youtube video by Andrew Bird. Maybe I've just lived a sheltered life, but that's the first time I've seen a violin played like a guitar. It works surprisingly well.
posted by eye of newt at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2021


When my kids are adults, they will talk about their parents' Christmas music and 90% of it is just going to be Sufjan's Christmas albums.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:54 AM on December 3, 2021


If you're looking for holiday albums, I recommend Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings It's a Holiday Soul Party. I'm kinda grinchy about holiday music, but I'll listen to this anytime.
posted by jzb at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2021 [4 favorites]


My favorite: Christmas with the Ghostly Trio. Out of print, but on Youtube (for now).
posted by foonly at 12:39 PM on December 3, 2021


Christmas Boogie, by the Davis Sisters.

"He's been eatin' regular, I said to myself"
posted by blob at 1:28 PM on December 3, 2021


thecaddy: “The Drifters' original "White Christmas" is the best version of that song, fight me.”
Otis Redding sends his regards.

Happy to see Jacob Miller mentioned, as it's not really Christmas until I hear “We Wish You a Irie Christmas.” Sadly my old favorite Natty and Nice: A Reggae Christmas appears to no longer be extant due to rights chicanery.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:50 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Been jamming today to the holiday album from the cast of Hadestown. Noting that here for other Broadway nerds who might be unaware, as I was until was until just now!
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 2:13 PM on December 3, 2021


My Happy Holidays Spotify playlist.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:30 PM on December 3, 2021


In the pre-pandemic holiday season, I volunteered to craft a YouTube playlist for the video wall at the work holiday lunch.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Trombone Shorty O Holy Night

Dropkick Murphys The Season's Upon Us

Earl Scruggs and Bluegrass All-Stars Jingle Bells (totally worth it for Scruggs' unchanging, slightly dour facial expression)

Sting Soul Cake (a huge and varied group of musicians)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Wizards In Winter

Tom Petty Christmas All Over Again

Imelda May Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Kaskade Christmas Is Here

Dude York Break Up Holiday
posted by JDC8 at 2:40 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Are we leaving out the MeFi masterpiece 'Jingle Rock Bell'?
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


I you can't post Jingle Rock Bell without posting the video.
posted by hippybear at 6:04 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


How did I miss Jingle Rock Bell the first dozen times?
posted by mollweide at 6:12 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Ah hah! Snagged a new one!
posted by hippybear at 6:15 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Make that two. My 17 year old just said, "That sounds like something I'd listen to."
posted by mollweide at 6:24 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


So, I'm not SUPER up to date on Xmas albums, and I've posted about these before but the Annie Lennox album is really good, as is Carla's Christmas Carols from Carla Bley. I also really like Ancient And Modern from Anne Dudley which isn't strictly a holiday album except that it is. Honorable mentions are Ringo Starr, Cyndi Lauper, and Tori Amos.

I really like holiday albums. Many of them are so... maybe ONE track is truly good? But those I list above are all exceptional.
posted by hippybear at 10:00 PM on December 3, 2021


Missing the GOAT of "unconventional" Xmas albums: Horny Holidays.
posted by Token Meme at 10:22 AM on December 4, 2021


Two unconventional Christmas albums not on the list: Christmas by Mary Margaret O'Hara and Tinsel and Lights by Tracey Thorn. With the M2OH, I think you have to be into what she's doing to appreciate it; I love her voice and her music, but she's a very singular artist. The Tracey Thorn album is a pleasant, slightly melancholy Christmas album that goes over well with those who might not normally listen to Christmas music, as well as fans of more traditional Christmas albums.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:27 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]


Missing the GOAT of "unconventional" Xmas albums: Horny Holidays.

Available on Soundcloud. Because why not link the actual thing to listen to?
posted by hippybear at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2021


Back in the old hippie years of the '70s there was a holiday album with a song about what Santa was smoking in his pipe. I thought it was by Rotary Connection, but can't find any reference through them. Anyone have any ideas what this might have been?
Thanks!
posted by Mesaverdian at 12:11 PM on December 5, 2021


Back in the old hippie years of the '70s there was a holiday album with a song about what Santa was smoking in his pipe. I thought it was by Rotary Connection, but can't find any reference through them.

Based on your description I'd guess it's the Rotary Connection's "Peace at Least" (lyrics) from their 1968 album Peace, which has a (possibly?) stoned Santa smoking his pipe on the cover. From an exhaustive track-by-track review:
["Peace at Least" is] completely ridiculous, and I am going to have a *blast* describing it to you. The music's very straight late 60s Motown with a dash of Spector, big-sound but still down-home. The lyrics, on the other hand, are about Santa being stoned because he smokes mistletoe. They're sung 100% seriously and sincerely, over 100% serious and sincere music. I was sure I wasn't hearing them right the first time. Two choruses later and I'm howling with laughter. Mistletoe is toxic, y'know. If you were stupid enough to eat a bunch of it, you run the risk of going into cardiac arrest. At the very least you'd be puking and shitting your guts out. But according to the Rotary Connection, it gets Santa "stoned out of his mind," and I put that in quotation marks because it's verbatim from the lyrics. Also includes a middle eight with the lyrics "He's an institution, we like him like he is, what would ever happen, if he gave some to the kiiiiiiiids?"
Available on MP3 and CD from Amazon.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:23 PM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]


pxe2000, thx for the MMO'H recommendation, I've been a fan since Miss America.
posted by Lyme Drop at 8:58 AM on December 8, 2021


If melancholy yet uplifting is more your speed, I will always recommend Frightened Rabbit's "It's Christmas So We'll Stop"

Sample lyrics:
It's Christmas so we'll stop
It's on with the lights to warm the dark
It can cloak elsewhere
As the rot stops for today
Let the rot stop just for one day
Only good red eyes, red suits, and faces will radiate
And the cold will hide its face
Now the cold has turned away
We can be best friends with the people we hate
'Cause we've all got blood
And it's warmer than you'd think
Yeah it is warm and it is thick
We all breathe out clouds
And are built to give at least once each year
And that's better than never I guess
And life might never get better than this
It's the perfect excuse for our natures to change
And wear shiny clothes
Oh it's Christmas so press pause on the remote

posted by Atom Eyes at 9:27 AM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


Today, someone alerted me to the existence of Shatner Claus.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2021


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