Day 2: Is there any other shared human experience that has produced as much awesome music as Christmas? (I guess there’s the broken heart power ballad, but besides that…)
I love Christmas music, from the hokey (“Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”) to the contemporary (“What Are You Doing New Years Eve?” and “River”) to the religious (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” being my favorite). There’s something about Christmas which inspires great songwriting…or at least overcomes our ability to critically judge artistic merit.
This post really isn’t about those songs so much as how they’re packaged. I am a big fan of covers; I like seeing what different musicians can do with a tune, and there’s no more blatant cover cash-grab than Christmas. For every hackneyed newly written Christmas song (oh man, hold up, I just realized that I don’t love all Christmas music. “The Christmas Shoes.” ::shudder::), there are probably two dozen covers of Christmas standards, provided by everybody from Clay Aiken to Sufjan Stevens to She & Him to Michael Bubble.
But have you ever tried to sit through one artist’s whole Christmas album? I get bored of a particular artist around track 3 or so, especially with songs I’ve heard in some variation a hundred times before.
That’s where the Christmas compilation album comes in: like the Now That’s What I Call A Bunch of Songs You’ll Regret Paying For In Six Months! CDs, Christmas compilation albums are like a glorious grab bag of variety: different artists, different styles, different sounds. It’s great! Often, just when you think you’re approaching a lull and ready to switch albums, a new artist will come on to make things interesting.
A great place to going looking for new holiday CDs is Starbucks, which releases a new compilation CD every year, a mix of old standards by the likes of Dean Martin and Ray Charles, and newer artists like A Fine Frenzy.
My favorite holiday compilation CD, though, is one I found due to my rabid obsession with Brandi Carlile, who sings a track on The Hotel Cafe‘s Winter Songs CD.
I am a giant sucker for angsty female vocalists, so this CD is perfect for me. (“Ugh, this CD makes me want to kill myself,” critiqued Lance, just last night.) All of the tracks are performed by women, including artists like Sara Bareilles, Fiona Apple, and Meiko; my favorite track is Alice Smith’s “Silver Bells.” This album is great to just have playing in the background, a cup of coffee in hand and all the lights off except those on the Christmas tree. It’s mostly slow and soft, asking you to take a little break and breathe in the holiday season. And it’s available on Spotify. Score!
What’s your favorite holiday CD/compilation album? And, dear lord, if you say Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas,” I might stab myself.