Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Songbook

Music has the ability to evoke emotions and memories. Play me some Dashboard Confessional or Jack Johnson and I am transported back to the summer of 2005, the summer after I graduated from high school. Give me The Cranberries and I am thirteen year old again. Simon and Garfunkel "The 59th Street Bridge Song" harkens back to my early childhood; it was my favorite on a mixed tape of kid's music.

Christmas music has a very important memory association for most people, especially since we revisit our favorite holiday songs every year. I know that without some songs, Christmas just doesn't seem like Christmas. Here I am presenting you with my Christmas playlist developed over my 24 (soon to be 25) years of anticipating and celebrating the holiday. Of course, this list is not to supplant your own traditional playlist and there are sure to be many you have heard before. However, check them out. Finding new music you like is always a treat.

*There will be no "Little Drummer Boy" in this list. I hate this song with a burning passion. It turns me into an almost violent Grinch when it blasts over the mall sound system.*

This list is presented in no particular order. I love them all.

"A Cradle in Bethlehem" by Nat King Cole
"O Tannenbaum" by Nat King Cole

This whole album, The Christmas Song, is wonderful. Someone (me) lost this in our house and nearly got sent to spend Christmas in the barn. I had to get another copy, but I don't think I have been entirely forgiven.

"Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle"
"The Seeds of Love"
all by Lorenna McKennitt

This album, Midwinter Night's Dream, is also a gem. I love Lorenna McKennitt's music in general and this Christmas album feels fresh yet very old world.

"Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" by Bing Crosby

Well, duh to adding Bing Crosby. A Christmas mix without him is sorely lacking. White Christmas is one of my ALL TIME favorite Christmas movies. I love it. I love it. My sister and I used to "be" female characters when we watched movies when we were little. This didn't really entail anything. In fact, I'm not sure why we claimed a character. I always got Judy, the dancer. Judy's body proportions are so absurd that I have never seen their equal. My sister was always Rosemary Clooney's character. Now that I am all grown up, I totally would choose Betty over Judy...but I would still rather kiss Danny Kaye than Bing Crosby. Danny Kaye was adorable, kind of like an old fashioned Jason Segel. Kaye may have cuteness, but Bing can sing. The obvious choice for a Christmas track from this movie is "White Christmas," but I like to throw in "Count Your Blessings" instead. It is overlooked but a truly sweet song about being thankful. Don't even think of adding "Snow." This song is deeply stupid. "I wanna wash my hands, my face, my hair in snow"? Really? The songwriters must have been drunk. And "Sisters," insane-but my sister and I used to sing it all the time, so I can't totally throw this one under the bus.

"Come Thou Font of Every Blessing"
"The Friendly Beasts"
both by Sufjan Stevens

If you can tell me how to pronounce Sufjan correctly, please let me know. In 2006, this indie band put out a five disc set titled Songs for Christmas. I downloaded them all last year and introduced them to my family. They weren't a fan. They are strict traditionalists with Christmas music, however, so I don't give a Christmas figgy pudding. I like the set, and these two aforementioned tunes are so, so wonderful.  So take that, family. Take that.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland

This song was originally featured in the film musical Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland. I really liked this movie as a kid, though I would fast-forward some of the dull sections. Our VHS version had a little documentary section that I would sometimes watch. If my memory is correct, when the writer was developing this song, he had much darker lyrics written (this song happens during a sad section of the movie when the family thinks they have to leave their beloved St. Louis for NYC and the little sister just enacted her grief through a mass snowman massacre). Garland, however, asked that the lyrics be rewritten. She was afraid that America would think she was a "monster" for singing this dark song to calm the snowman killing child. It is still a bittersweet tune, but one I want to hear every Christmas. And only the Garland version, please. Let's keep it classic here.

"Christmas Vacation" by Katie Campbell

This is a weird picture, but the only one I could find for this song on amazon. Christmas Vacation the movie is standard fare in our household. We often quote the movie throughout the year. "It's a beaut, Clark." "That there's an RV." "Shitter was full." All these quotes can be frequently heard. Upon reflection, it seems like we are more obsessed with Cousin Eddie than the movie, in general, but I digress. This song is from the movie and doesn't seem to have much connection from the film. It is featured in the opening credits, but I don't think it is included in the movie itself. I'm not sure how it came about. Maybe someone's cousin needed a music plug. However it came to be used, I am grateful. It is actually a fun song. Check it out if you don't recall.

"Jingle Bell Rock" by Brenda Lee

If you have known me more than a couple hours, you will be able to guess why I like this song. It's all because of Mean Girls. Oh Lindsay, how you have fallen from grace. This movie is awesome. In this classic teen flick, the group of popular girls or "plastics" do a "sexy dance" to this at the talent show. They wear knee high boots and have some provocative, awkward grooves. Gretchen Weiners is falling from Regina George's favor and accidentally kicks the boom box playing this song off the stage. In a moment of brilliance, Kady cements her popularity by continuing the dance and finishing the tune by singing. Tina Fey joins in on the piano. The rest of the audience starts singing too. It's fabulous. If you don't like this song, fine. If you don't like this movie, you can't sit with us.

There are many more Christmas songs I love, except you Little Drummer Boy-you suck. I enjoy adding to the list every year. This coming December, I will be jamming to A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him. This album came out last year, but I missed it somehow. I can't wait to hear Zooey Deschanel croon.

What do you listen to every year? What tunes should I add to my playlist?

*Amendment: The "Little Drummer Boy" mash up by David Bowie and Bing Crosby is acceptable.

1 comment:

  1. Your maternal grandmother loved Away in the Manger. She sang it as a lullaby and to settle active little children. Unfortunately there is not a download of our off kilter voices, but I think a local children's choir or preschool would convey the wonder of such a simple song. Your paternal grandmother loved O Holy Night so much that it was sung by all at her not-Christmas-season funeral.In the Bleak Midwinter is my personal favorite. Loreena McKennitt has a lovely version as do many choirs, local and renowned. Mom