Saturday, December 24, 2011

My favorite (Christmas music) things of 2011

With the arrival of Christmastime comes a flood of new Yuletide music. Most of it is crap, but there are some gems to be found. The following are the songs and albums that monopolized my iPod this season.

She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas Remember what you thought when you first heard that Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were putting out a Christmas album? It sounds exactly like that. For me, that's a good thing. While they get points for doing a little role reversal on the holiday date rape anthem "Baby, It's Cold Outside", I think they sped up the tempo just a little too much. My other gripe is that I would've loved to have heard Zooey's angelic pipes tackle a carol or two, but they stay strictly secular on this set. Other than those two (minor) beefs, it's a fun, twee time at the ski lodge.

Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler - This Is Christmas Going into the season, I was absolutely sure that She & Him' Christmas album would be my favorite. Funny how things don't turn out how you expect. This dark horse has been my most listened album for the past month. There's a little bit of everything on here: a bit of pop, a little surf rock, a pinch of doo wap, and a whole lot of "indie" spirit (jeez, I hate that term). It even has a song about the Yuletide zombie apocalypse! This album contains my favorite new Christmas classic - "Home for the Holidays" - the video for which just fills me with a stocking full of warm fuzzies.

Summer Fiction - Christmas Eve for Two I had never heard this band before, but I was instantly smitten with their free single. Just listening to it brings out the gooey romantic in me. Rather than embarrass myself further, here's how the band sums up the song: "There's a wink-wink going on here but also something sincere and beautiful in the come-on. Especially when the snow starts falling on the song's bridge. She shows up around 2AM, maybe a little drunk from the party she came from." And all is right with the world.

The Plimptons - "Christmas All Over This Town" I am powerless to resist a rock song sung in a thick Scottish brogue and this one about keeping Christmas drinking with friends in your heart all year round is no exception. Grab it (and two other Christmas songs from them) for free while you can.

How To Throw a Christmas Party - "Beautiful Star of the East" In a word: beautiful. This tale of the wise men's journey to the Christ child (and His redemption of us all) is a real winner. Bummed that Sufjan Stevens hasn't put out any new Christmas music in a few years? This is the next best thing.

Julie Roberts - Who Needs Mistletoe The title track is a sultry number with just the right combination of naughty and nice. (I was hesitant to include it on this year's mix, but she personally convinced me.) The rest of the EP is a nice combination of standards and carols, though far less sexy. Not that that's a bad thing, but my Christmas wish for next year is that she will release a full-fledged country Christmas quiet storm album.

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