So has this been as insane a holiday season for you as it’s been for me? Are any of you tired of Christmas music yet? I hope not, because I am finally writing up my holiday entry.
Normally, the Christmas season comes early for me – my parents and I start listening to the holiday classics sometime before Thanksgiving; we put up our trees and decorate them on the earliest weekend free, knowing that the future ones will be full of shopping; we pick the first warm weekend after Thanksgiving to put up our outside lights; and slowly the house becomes more decorated as Christmas gets closer.
And yes, I still eat the candies out of the Advent calender, except nowadays I have more self-control and am able to resist the following day’s chocolate-y treat.
For some reason, though, I just wasn’t able to get into the holiday spirit this year, and I think a lot of it was because I was tired of hearing the same music selection over and over. I’ve already expressed my hatred of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” (sorry, but no), but I also found myself rolling my eyes at the Christmas Canon – a song I had absolutely loved last Christmas.
And so, I began thinking about how Christmas music can’t be about what the radio stations deem to be the Christmas songs, but what songs make you feel spirit of the season the most. If those turn out to be what the radio plays, then cheers to you; your shopping experience must be 1,000x more pleasant than the rest of ours.
I certainly don’t think my selections are in any way better than others, but I’ve created a playlist of Christmas songs that reflects my favorites. I hope you enjoy my holiday tunes – the traditional, and the deviant!
1. “Christmas Canon” -TSO Since I already mentioned this song, I figured it would be a nice place to start. I include it in my favorites because I truly do love this song – the children’s choir that reminds me of the young smiles of the season, the clever lyrics added to the most known/popular classical pieces of all time “Pachelbel’s Canon,” and the musical round that always manages to move me. Just don’t over play it, you’ll hear it enough!
2. “Anmi’s Christmas” – The Cruxshadows This is a band I’ve learned to love recently because of their beautifully written lyrics about classic mythology. Their song “Elissa” pushed me through my thesis on Virgil, and the song itself is lovely modern adaptation to the classic love story of Aeneas and Dido. That aside, I love a band that’s very open with their fans, and the Cruxshadows are a wonderful example. This Christmas song was written for a beautiful little girl, a story revealed here. I hope you like it.
3. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Glee Cast (Darren Criss and Chris Colfer) As a fan of Darren and the Blaine-Kurt relationship, this song is a classic. For those who aren’t familiar with Glee, Blaine and Kurt sing a Christmas duet every year, and this is the song that started the tradition. Before this version came along, I was not a fan of the song. I didn’t like the back and forth of the lyrics, and it did nothing to move me. But seeing two boys, clearly attracted to each other and singing this on live television at an 8:00 time slot was a big thing for American television. And Darren and Chris kill the song and it’s flirty undertones.
4. “Carol of the Bells” – Trace Bundy Self-proclaimed acoustic guitar lover here, but Trace Bundy’s version of this song is a must-listen for anyone who appreciates musical talent.
5. “The Christmas Can-Can” and “12 Days of Christmas”-Straight No Chaser The first for its accuracy, the second for its clever combination of holiday melodies and humor, and both for a cappella awesomesauce. No, seriously, their whole Christmas album is probably amazing, but I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to it yet. It’s on the to-do list.
6. “Little Drummer Boy” This was my favorite Christmas song when I was little because I killed the stop motion animated film when I was younger. I have a few versions that I love or once loved:
- The Three Tenors – Before I knew it was a tradition, this was the first time I heard my favorite song interwoven with the lilting melody of “Peace on Earth.” I am not as into the operatic sounds anymore, but I absolutely loved everything about this version when I was in late middle-early high school.
- Josh Groban – I am totally going to mention his album later, but I have to highlight his version of this song, which includes another of my favorite guitarists, Andy McKee. The guitar adds a wonderful dimension to the normally very percussive song.
- Apocalyptica – A dark arrangement that I like simply because it’s so unexpected. Don’t let the cellos fool you, Apocalyptica is a metal band and their version of the holiday classic is no exception.
- Johnny Cash – My man Johnny. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
7. “Where Are You Christmas?” – Faith Hill Because The Grinch is one of my favorite Christmas movies and Faith Hill reminds me of growing up with country music. And because it’s a very beautiful song.
8. “Everything’s Gonna Be Better Next Year – The Rescues If there’s one band I want you to look up, and I mean this seriously, it’s the Rescues. I can’t emphasize enough how much of their music I’ve listened to and loved this year. I discovered this song on a Noistrade download, and I’ve been listening to it ever since. A New Years song, more than a Christmas song, “Everything’s Gonna Be Better Next Year” is sure to get stuck in your head, but in a good way!
9. Corelli’s Christmas Concerto - Used in the movie, Master and Commander (seriously beautiful soundtrack), the Christmas Concerto is one of my favorites for the season because it’s so relaxing. I do listen to classical or instrumental music a lot in my free time, though, so this isn’t uncommon. Simply, I love string instruments and I love this song.
1. Noel – Josh Groban I really feel like Josh Groban has one of the most gorgeous voices in existence, and it lends itself to Christmas music wonderfully, as if it was made for it. What I really like about his album is that it includes a lot of my favorite carols, but he sings them traditionally with instrumentation being the thing that makes them stand out. There’s nothing I hate more than a cover of a Christmas song in which the melodies are compromised. But Josh does justice to the original melodies, and still manages to showcase his abilities.
2. Spirit of the Season Volumes I and II – The O’Neill Brothers These are piano albums. Sometimes, I don’t want vocals, I just want to hear relaxing tunes that make me feel the season. They’re great background albums, but I don’t think this makes them any less amazing than the others mentons. In fact, I’d argue that no other song or album included in this list makes me feel like it’s Christmas more than the piano kissed version of my favorite songs included here.
3. Christmas – Michael Buble Wouldn’t you know, I jumped on this bandwagon only this year? This was my one Christmas album purchase of the year, and it was such a good choice! There are so many songs I love off the album, and Michael Buble is another singer whose voice lends itself to Christmas carols as if made for them. I was very surprised to hear Shania Twain on the album too, as I remember bouncing around to “Honey I’m Home” when I was like…six. Truly love her.
4. Everything Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) Especially the instrumentals. I don’t really listen to the vocals much, but the albums are still so great. I would love to see them one day.
5. Christmas Extraordinaire and Christmas Celebration – Mannheim Steamroller I do prefer Mannheim Steamroller over TSO simply because I listened to them longer, and these are the two albums that we play all the time in my household. I love their arrangements of my favorite songs. Actually, I distinctly remember a time when I still ice-skated, and the Senior Precision team’s program was to a song from one of the albums. I recognized it immediately and wished, more than anything, that I was on the older team because their music was better than ours.
As always, I’ve made a youtube playlist of the songs I could find, and I added a few others as well. I might add to the list because there are so many more great songs, but we’ll see. I also highly recommend Paste Magazine’s Holiday Sampler (Including the Rescues’ “Everything’s Gonna Be Better Next Year”) which you can download for FREE here, just remember to tip for the album or support the individual artists. Information on the O’Neill Brothers, whose music is not on youtube, can be found here.
And there you have it – and that’s not even going into the vinyl. My mom has tons of holiday records that we play all the time. Unfortunately, it’s the end of the world today and I need to wrap this up, you know?
Seriously, though, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. I appreciate all of you tremendously; my internet family is very special. Please, let me know what your holiday tunes are if you have the time! I’d love to listen.