The Ghost Of Christmas Past…

December 15, 2010 at 1:24 am (Music Mixes, Uncategorized)

(2011 Edit:  No, not really.)

(2011 Edit, part deux:  If you’re disappointed beause you were really looking for a dubstep Christmas album…well, seriously?  C’mon.  We’re about 2 weeks from dub drops in Walmart TV ads.  Let it go.  Enjoy some Christmas music from years past.)

So this past year when I moved the blog to a new server because Blogger/Google decided it was time for them to make poor business decisions, I left behind an awful lot of files (which I do have backed up on a variety of external drives and whatnot, but still), some of which included a whole bunch of past Christmas mixes. Sort of gratifying that various folks out there have been requesting them, and so without any further ado, let’s go ahead and at least put up the last five shall we?

2005: “I Got Yer Wassail Right Here, Mac”
2006: “It’s Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas”
2007: “The Christmas Sound Is All Around This Town”
2008: “Listen Up Ebenezer!”
2009: “Christmas Shoes”

2010:  “There’s No Life Like The Snow Life”

2011:  “I Still Believe In Santa Claus (Even If Nobody Else Does)”

2012: “…As Long as We Have Hands to Clasp”
2013: “Mary I’m Tryin’ to Be Cool”
2014: “Peace on Earth”

I’ve got the CD from the 2004 mix floating around here somewhere, and I’ll do a little magic on it and get it uploaded too. In 2003 I had a whirlwind of activity hit me outta the blue (I ended up spending Christmas working in Connecticut, which was fun…but very unexpected), so that year I just sent out Christmas cards, no CD or mix. 2002’s mix, “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” is lost to history now, although most of the songs on it have re-surfaced on one of the past 6 mixes. (And it better be lost to history, since the 2010 mix I just finished–yeah, I said it–has that year’s most prominent track repeated; a few of you 15 folks who got that CD in a Christmas Card or whatnot back then will be disappointed in that repeat…but heck, it’s been 8 years. Give a brotha a break!)

Looking over track lists (and you can find those in the archives, just head for December of whatever year), I’m pretty happy that I haven’t gotten too awfully repeat-happy. Over six years, I’ve got 120 different Christmas or winter-themed songs, very few of which suck, which is a pretty decent track record if I do say so myself…and I just did.

As I was putting together this year’s mix, I was again struck by just how many truly awful Christmas songs become available every holiday. Lots of established artists just mail it in for a quick cash-in with some dreadful, soulless readings of some Christmas chestnut. At least I can understand the financial reasons behind that in a purely cynical way. The holiday tunes that really exasperate me are the gajillion indie artists who think the way to do a Christmas song is to pick some heartfelt standard and re-render it slowed down and dripping with implied irony. I suppose something like that could work in a vacuum…but you stick awful, over-ironic crap like that on a holiday mix next to the Green Pajamas’ “Caroler’s Song” or something from Vince Guaraldi, or especially next to that certain Irish ditty that ends every Christmas mix I do by tradition and all that dripping hipster-ism just collapses in on itself.

So anyway, you’ve got a few hours to wait until I upload the Christmas mix for 2010. Grab one of these older ones and give it a spin. Thanks for reading, I hope your holiday season so far has been as enjoyable as mine!

(Edited to include 2011’s mix to this list for easy all purpose Christmas music grabbing.)

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Just Another Mid-Summer Music Mix.

July 29, 2010 at 5:19 am (cool band alert, Music Mixes, new releases, rock and roll, Uncategorized)

Last week I knew I was going to need some music for a thing, and that said music should be fairly obscure, hopefully fairly good, and finally sort of have a certain mass appeal-ishness to it.  I also regret having a whole ton of music that I’ve been listening to over the last 8-12 months that I’ve not at least given a mild shout out to, so that was also a motivating factor.

The thing of it is, while I try to have some sort of over-arching theme to the mixes I do, the theme for this mix has changed about five or six times since I started it.  Originally I was going to call it “Two Good Songs”, in deference to my ol’ Euclid Records compatriot Steve.  (Back in the day you’d ask Steve if he’d heard a new record, and inevitably, regardless of the album, you were 75% likely to get the response “Yeah…two good songs.”  It became something of his trademark for a while.)  That idea was to collect really terrific songs from albums made up of songs not quite to the standard of the one on the mix.  Then the theme was summer.  And then it wasn’t, because it’s too bloody hot as it is.  Then the theme was “Excuses to put Deanne Iovan’s “Everything” into a mix.”  Then it was “People you might know from other stuff doing new stuff”.

I guess for now the theme is just “This is a mix of songs that I think I have done a haphazard job of representing how good they are.”  Everything in the mix is of very recent vintage, like 2008 or later.  I think these songs are really, really good.  I hope you enjoy this mix, and it brings you as much enjoyment as it’s brought me to both make and listen to.

Without further introduction, here we go:

Two Years Out Of My Mind

(right click and “save as”…one large mp3 file as usual.)

1.  “Artificial Fanfare (Music In My Head)” Happy Chichester
2.  “Pizza-Eater” The Leeds
3.  “Olympic Gardens” The Mystery Numbers
4.  “Queen Of Moods” Jeffrey Novak
5.  “Saturday” The Music Lovers
6.  “Cherry Blossom” Sad Day For Puppets
7.  “Everything” Deanne Iovan
8.  “Those Were The Days” Elvyn
9.  “The Kids” The Bomb
10.”Chemicals” The Comfies
11.”When I’m With You” Best Coast
12.”Begging You” Graham Day & The Gaolers
13.”The Kelly Rose” The Brought Low
14.”Soul School” Cornershop
15.”Alice Marble Gray” Califone
16.”Go Jetsetter” The Postmarks
17.”So Long (Maybe)” Nushu
18.”Golden Hips” Dragoon
19.”These Are the Days” Grand Atlantic
20.”Kaleidoscope Eyes” Painted Hills

First off, don’t read too much into the title I picked here–I just used a lyric from the Music Lovers song because the timeframe for these songs was right; I’ve been fairly in my mind (and certainly not with the cool, sordid tale the dude in Music Lovers has!) over the last two years.  I guess this mix is sort of like me compiling some odds and ends short stories from the past two years or so.

So who are these people?

Happy Chichester might be familiar to you.  He was the bassist, backing vocalist, and one of the main creative forces behind The Royal Crescent Mob back in the day.  Then they broke up and he had his own band, Howlin’ Maggie.  This song is from his 2008 solo disc, which is really good (see also the cool video for “A Man Needs An Airplane” on youtube.)

The Leeds are a band that seems to be a collision of Anglo (singer Pandora Burgess) and Franc0 (the rest of the excellent, Rain Parade-y sounding band).  This song is just totally aces, but the entire Leeds album is fantastic.  This is one expensive-sounding production, so it baffles me that this disc is impossible to find outside of France.  Ah well.  Here’s a taste.

The Mystery Numbers is the new act for The Weather Machines’ (who are no more) frontman Jason Ward.  He’s decamped from Portland back to Rapids City, SD, and making some truly genius music.  Check out this site, where he’s got demos posted from the past few months; these are all very good and worth throwing the guy a few bucks to hear.

Jeffrey Novak is the leader of Cheap Time, a band that at one time also had his then-girlfriend, Jemina Pearl of the late and lamented Be Your Own Pet on bass.  No word on a new Cheap Time album, or a new solo disc; I have a feeling the death of Jay Reatard earlier this year has hit the folks in this scene pretty hard.

If I ever manage to finish the top 20 list of greatest records of 2009, rest assured that The Music Lovers’ amazing album Masculin Feminine is going to be very high in the top ten.  In the meantime, this disc has felt like my little secret, and I can’t contain how great a song “Saturday” is anymore.  Best song about rehab and redemption ever? Oh, and you have GOT to see the incredible video for this song!

Sad Day For Puppets wins the award for “Worst Band Name In This Mix”, but boy did they put out a great album a year or so ago.  They’re from Sweden, and manage to occasionally out-Pain the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.  Think C86, think Lush, think Flatmates, and bliss out.

Of all the tracks on this mix, I think Deanne Iovan’s “Everything” might be the one that gets me the most.  I think it’ll get you too, if you happen to have a heart.  Deanne is the former singer of Detroit’s legendary garage-soul genius band The Come Ons, but this is a total departure of the music she made in that group.  This will just tear your soul to pieces and put it back together again.  Deanne has a really cool blog, too, where right now she’s endeavoring to cover (and upload in mp3 form) every song from The White Album, doing a new song every 9 days (and sort of learning new instruments on the fly).  It’s an incredibly neat undertaking, and worth checking out.

I’ve no idea who Elvyn is, but they’ve cooked up the best rewrite of Teenage Fanclub’s “God Knows It’s True” of all time, so good in fact that, along with the lyrical sentiment that “these are actually the good ol’ days”, (and yes, these are; if your life motto isn’t being in love with these times I feel kinda sorry for you.) I can’t hardly resist it.

You might not know who The Bomb are when the song “The Kids” starts up, but as soon as the vocals come in you’re gonna start figuring it out (and if the “whoooaaaah’s” on the chorus don’t do it, you didn’t listen to enough Chicago punk growing up.)  Yep, The Bomb is Jeff Pezzati–Naked Raygun, Pegboy–on vocals, and a crew of Chicago punk mainstays filling out the band.  If you dig the old school postpunk punk, The Bomb is, well, the bomb.

Dunno who The Comfies are, but they’ve got a couple of EP’s out that scratch that “remember when Spoon was interesting?” itch.

Best Coast is a boy-girl duo featuring a former actress doing songs that sound like odes to 1960’s girl-pop culture.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, but unlike Miss Deschanel’s project, Best Coast has a great fizzy, shoegazy sound and Bethany Cosentino doesn’t rely so much on autotuning here, preferring to let her earnest vocals sit buried in an echo-chamber mix that totally works.  Here’s a  story from ABC News (no, not kidding) on the group that recently aired.

Graham Day is to the UK what Greg Cartwright/Oblivian is to the US:  an underground icon who shouldn’t be unknown, a guy who writes ingenious songs and who can out-sing damn near anyone you’ll hear on the radio.  Graham is an old school member of the Medway Sound (think Billy Childish and all his gajillion bands) that seems newly resurgent with him, The Len Price 3, and The Stabilisers carrying the flag forward.  The Gaolers are a bit of a trans-atlantic partnership, with the other members of the band being legendary Georgia garage band The Woggles.

The Brought Low deserve to be household names among all those who hold hard-rocking southern FM radio from the 70’s in high esteem.  Sounding like nothing so much as Molly Hatchet with a Van Zant brother on lead vocals, this Florida three-piece just totally brings it.  Oh, and just to be clear, their whole album from this year, 3 is utterly excellent.

Speaking of excellent, I’m gonna guess that if you’re reading this, you know who Cornershop is.  I’m also gonna guess that a lot of folks reading this know “Brimful Of Asha” and not a whole lot else.  The new Cornershop album, Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast is a little uneven, but when it gets it right (like on “Soul School”) it sure sounds aces.

…and probably guessing that if you know me, you’re at least familiar with my Califone obsession.  It might seem like the band has been in hibernation for a while, but not true:  last year they recorded a bunch of songs for a film project called All My Friends Are Funeral Singers and the album that resulted by the same title is pretty awesome; it definitely is the most “song oriented” record Califone’s done, as you can hear by this song.

I haven’t much info on the band The Postmarks, other than I believe them to be from the UK.  What I do know is that their album Memoirs At The End Of The World has one or two songs that just don’t work…and then about 5 or 6 tunes that sound like Ennio Morricone or Henry Mancini wrote them for films in the 1960’s.  Totally worth checking out for those songs (especially “No One Said This Would Be Easy”, which sounds like what you’d get if Morricone did a Bond theme).

Nushu is a SoCal two piece consisting of Lisa Mychols and Hillary Burton, who write and perform everything here including handling all the instrumental chores.  Their new album, Hula is one of the best discs of 2010, folks, and absolutely worth seeking out.  The band veer from ’90’s indie chick pop (there are a lot of songs that sound like something Veruca Salt would’ve killed for), but also a lot of nods to some very classic wall of Spector 1960’s production and songwriting.

Dragoon probably needs little introduction to a lot of my friends:  this is Tripp and Stanley from The Grifters, along with Bobby Matthews (DC hardcore legend of Trusty fame) on guitars and vocals.  What’s fascinating here is that Dragoon sounds a LOT like The Grifters.  In fact, the Dragoon record suggests to me that it came out of some alternate dimension that took that band down a different path after the Eureka IV ep than the one they actually took.

Grand Atlantic hail from Australia, and they’re a favorite of mine; their debut made my top 20 of 2006.  This is a tune from their new record, which doesn’t hit quite the highs of the debut, but which still is worth checking out.

The Painted Hills feature folks from Beechwood Sparks and The Tyde.  This, one of the first albums to appear on Ric Menck’s new Bird Songs label, sounds less Gram Parsons and more Paisley Underground than the band’s roots.

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Music Mixes To Barbecue To

July 2, 2010 at 1:28 pm (Music Mixes)

I love having friends who do music mixes, especially when they’re friends as creative and interesting and funny and sweet as Dan Lehr and Rob Morton, two people who have never met one another or know of one another’s existence, but who share the same sense of humor enough that they could be brothers.

At any rate, Dan-O and Rob have both done, independent of one another, music mixes with a summer/4th Of July Theme, and both of them sound great and both are worthy of your time.   You’ll love ’em both, trust me.

First up, Rob’s mix:


Rob Morton's summer music mix

Click the pic to download!

Then there’s Dan’s mix:


Dan Lehr's summer music mix

Again with the click the pic to download!

Do yourselves a favor and give ’em both a listen without being spoiled by a tracklist, but I’ll post them in the comments section.

Happy Independence Day (or as my old Mancunian buddy Simon Rose calls it, “Good riddance day”)!

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Top Five All Time Derby Mix Tape Moments.

May 9, 2008 at 5:56 am (dull real life stuff, Music Mixes)

I was going to post about what was so important/special/kick ass about Derby Mix Tapes, but couldn’t seem to wrap it all up in a reasonably coherent ramble. Instead, I’ll give you my five favorite all time Derby Mix Tape Moments:

5. “One Mint Julep”, which I think was on Bill & Lisa’s Derby AM mix back in 2003 or so. They had the good sense to pick the lesser-known version by The Clovers because it has the vocals on it (The Clovers had a hit with it, but if you hear the song now it is almost a certainty you hear Ray Charles wonderful instrumental version). That song came on just as we pulled into the place we were doing pre-Derby breakfast buffet, and it was absolutely perfect. I believe I was in the back of the rental van swigging Korbel right out of the bottle.

4. An perfectly buzzed Johnny Bourbon punching the (padded, thankfully) roof of a rental van after the Dylan show we went to in ’04 in perfect rhythm to the riff on Guided By Voices “Back To The Lake”. Whitey’s mixtape, I sort of think.

3. A salute and shout-out to horse-related but non Derby mixes. Belmont, 1996, and we’re driving out to see fireworks at the beach on Long Island while standing in the surf, and whoever’s mix we were listening to (Marc? Bill? Whitey?) comes up with Teenage Fanclub’s “God Knows It’s True”. A whole van full of people blasted out of their minds forgetting the disappointment of Silver Charm’s near-miss all singing at top volume “God knows it’s true but the devil knows it too” over and over. Bill was able to stay sober and sane enough to drive the van that day. Small miracle. Honorable mention here: Marc’s Saratoga drive mix in 2002 with Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel” on it; driving through the mountains of upstate New York at sunset with this playing before my first trip to The Spa…utterly perfect.

2. The first CD Dan/Marc mix I can remember, possibly from 2001? Whichever, it was a tour de force with trackside calls for Jerry Bailey interspersed with Radiohead’s “National Anthem” and The Clinic’s “Second Line”.

1. Dan’s mix–on a tape–from 1998. We listened to it on the way to visit Affirmed and Holy Bull at Jonabell Farm, and the whole mix was spectacular, from Simply Saucer’s “Bulletproof Nothing” segued into Tribe Called Quest’s “Excursions” to the use of The Bangtails on side 2. Weird superstition of mine born that afternoon: Tim was driving behind us in his Honda Accord, and during the Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock And Roll”, a huge truck sideswiped Tim while we all watched in horror. Thankfully the car was only dented up a little, but it could’ve been much worse. Since then, whenever I hear that song in the car, I have to change the channel or skip to something else.

The best part of Dan’s mix was a part that we missed that afternoon. I guess we never got to the end of the tape, and that’s always a mix tape bummer, because there’s really no time to listen to them all again during the weekend–other mixes are scheduled and suchlike. So, that weekend I’m driving home on Sunday afternoon, back to St. Louis for the last month I’d live there (I’d accepted a management job and transfer to Chicago about 4 hours before I left for the Derby that weekend), getting really wistful and nostalgic about a Derby Weekend that was officially only a handful of hours in the past. The sun was starting to go down in front of me (sunglasses and eyeshades time, driving towards a setting sun on I-64), and I lost whatever radio station I was listening to…so I grabbed the first cassette I could find…which happened to be the remainder of Dan’s mix tape. Before too long we were at the end of it, and Dan had chosen to finish with Gram Parsons’ “Wild Horses”. I’ll just leave it at saying “perfect”, and not go too much further down that path for fear of getting even more mawkish and overly-sentimental than I already have here. But…yeah. You wanna know what song I want played at my funeral? “Wild Horses” works for me–make it Gram’s version, too.

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Give It Up For Whitey!

May 6, 2008 at 2:04 pm (Horse Racing, Music Mixes)

I’ve been terribly tardy at getting the remaining two Derby mixes posted; Saturday/Sunday were a whirlwind of work, dinner with some visiting friends, Cardinals over Cubs, etc. etc.

I still have a post about the importance and significance of the Derby mixes I owe y’all. For now though, on with the music: This is the Chris White (a/k/a CW, a/k/a Whitey) Derby AM mix. Taking the Saturday morning mix is dicey: people are tired, hungover, and bleary-eyed from Derby Eve/Oaks Day celebrations. Everyone is dressed to the nines, piled into a rental car/van and headed towards Churchill Downs for the race. Depending on traffic, that trip can be 20 minutes or, if you get in the wrong line, an hour.

The logistics are clear then, right? To make the Saturday Morning Derby mix, you’ve got the possibility that anything past the 20-minute mark will never be heard (or at least not heard until days later), the threat of violence (or worse, someone hitting the skip button) if you program a song that doesn’t work to a car or cars full of cranky, nap-needing friends.

The opportunity of the Derby Morning Mix is better than any other time slot in the entire race weekend, however. On Saturday morning every horse has a chance to win, no one’s picks are absurd (ok, make that “too absurd”–I’ll cop to Vicar; how did I not see that disaster coming? I think he’s still out there on the backstretch somewhere…), and we all have a chance to see history made and to crush an exacta or two. Everyone in the cars going to the Derby is amped up, the audience almost too captive…including Marc who responds to his excited anticipation by endearingly calling out things like “I like the paired entry in the La Troienne today” and “That omelet this morning was pretty amazing, right?” from the front seat. Don’t know how he always gets shotgun, but he does.

And so after about a half-dozen listens, allow me to state for the record that the 2008 Derby AM Mix is one for the ages, a brilliant bit of mashing and sampling and silly insanity from Whitey (the shout-outs actually get funnier and funnier on repeated listens.) Inspired, this is:


(click that title for music, Stephen Foster.)

Track listing:

1. “Good Morning Starshine”
2. “High”
3. “The Drinking Song”
4. “Crazy Train”
5. “Good Clothes”
6. “Wild In The Streets”
7. “Ride Your Pony”
8. (They Still Play That Song)
9. “The Gold It’s In The…”
10. “Get Ur Freak On”
11. “Those Were The Days”
12. “Fresh Air”
13. “Thundering Hearts”
14. “D. A. N. C. E”

(Thanks to Tim for getting that file all stitched together, working his computer magic and all.)

Enjoy! One more mix coming your way very soon: Renard’s staggeringly good all-purpose Derby throwdown mix.

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Fated To Pretend.

April 19, 2008 at 7:53 am (Music Mixes)

I’ve been listening to a mix I made last week for the past few days. Always wanted to do a mix that suggested springtime and some of the happy nostalgia I have for this time of year. Thing is, most of the songs on it are fairly personal memories; I could hardly explain to you why “Here’s Where The Story Ends” reminds me of unseasonably warm spring afternoons, or why “Blue Thunder” makes me think about sitting on a park bench on a quadrangle. So yeah, I think it’s my mix, and probably best suited for the one person in the world (me, namely) who knows why it all ties together.

But absent anything particularly pithy to observe tonight, I figured I’d at least share a mix that Rob Morton made a week or so ago. It’s called “Fated To Pretend”, and it is a nice collection of fairly recent musics that not only sounds great taken as individual songs, but also flows together masterfully.

Enjoy! (Click me for music, yo.)


1. MGMT – Time to Pretend
2. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – Bag of Hammers
3. The Mabuses – Seasider
4. Army Navy – Saints
5. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Modern Mystery
6. Arthur & Yu – Lion’s Mouth
7. Hayden – In Field & Town
8. Tyler Ramsey – A Long Dream
9. Fleet Foxes – English House
10. The Breeders – Night of Joy
11. British Sea Power – Open the Door
12. Bon Iver – For Emma
13. Ai Phoenix – Mountains and Castles
14. Nada Surf – Here Goes Something
15. Okkervil River – Unless It’s Kicks
16. Guillemots – Trains to Brazil
17. Sarabeth Tucek – Here’s Something For You

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The Christmas Music Liner Notes.

December 13, 2007 at 7:04 am (Music Mixes)

Bowing to the pressure of years past, I’ve decided to finally make the individual tracks of the Christmas Mix available for download from here. I’ll leave these up until Christmas, so if’n you want ’em, get ’em now.

You’re going to have to take some medicine with your spoonful of sugar, though. I’m going to also use this as a chance to add some comments about the various songs–so there. You’re stuck with my obsessive music prattling along with the songs. Deal with it! Just click on the song title to download, yo.

1. “Imagine Santa”-DJ BC. This is a groovy little mashup to kick things off, opening obviously with the piano line from Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. (Kidding!) The opening line is from the Beatles 1963 Fan Club Christmas “single”, and then “Imagine”‘s piano line takes over, while a young Michael Jackson works out his pipes on “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”.

2. “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”-Art Carney. Yep, that Art Carney–Norton from “The Honeymooners” and well-respected actor, Carney recorded this jazzy rap back in 1954 or so, pre-dating Kanye West by half a century. Dig that craaaazy beat, daddy-o!

3. “Christmastime All Over Again”-Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. A true oddity here, in that we have a mainstream popular rock Christmas song and…it doesn’t suck! Credit Petty for writing a killer melody and then tossing in a ton of Phil Spector Christmas production touches.

4. “I Know What You Want For Christmas”-Kay Martin & Her Body Guards. No other song on this mix caused me the consternation that this did. Wait, what? You thought this song was about what?? I resent that! This goofy, jazzy gem from 1962 (dig the hockey rink organ!) is a perfectly innocent song about getting the perfect gift from the girl of your dreams, and nothing else. Perverts.

5. “The Christmas Sound”-The Swimmers. I know diddly squat about The Swimmers other than they’re a Philadelphia band, and that this song is a brand new 2007 holiday tune…and that it might be my favorite new Christmas song on the mix. Lyrically imagining a Who-ville where a blackout may have put a damper on Christmas, instead we find that just the opposite happens. “Jumping out of cars/Emptying the bars/Coming for to hear that Christmas sound, it’s all around this town,” the town is swaying in the square to the music of the holiday. Where is all that holiday noise and music coming from? Best couplet of the season: “In the end they found/The source of Christmas sound/It was neighbors, friends and family all around”. If the lyrics don’t get you, the Motown backbeat of the chorus and Beach Boys harmonies are certain to.

6. “Super Sunny Christmas”-Redd Kross. I love this song, but I’ve always left it off the mix because for me an essential part of Christmas is bundling up against the cold, the chance of snow at any time, and your breath turning to vapor in front of your face. I figured we’d let the MacDonald brothers duel it out with the Drifters this time though…

7. “White Christmas”-Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters.
…and The Drifters take exception to Redd Kross. Nope, give us a White Christmas, please! Clyde’s gorgeous alto/tenor voice is on full display here, soaring to reach high notes that should be two octaves out of his range.

8. “Kiss Me Beneath The Christmas Tree”-Caspar & The Cookies. Accurately described by one wag as “The Royal Tenenbaums rolled into a band”, these disarmingly charming pop geeks come on like the louder, goofier cousins of folks like the Shins and Apples In Stereo and offer up a rather PG-rated version of an Archies Christmas song.

9. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”-Brian Setzer Orchestra.
I’ll let you in on a secret–every year, the Christmas mix is guaranteed to contain at least three of the following songs: this one, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, and “Winter Wonderland”….those are just my favorite “pop standard” Christmas songs. What I dig about Setzer’s version here is that it sounds the closer to his Stray Cats days than a lot of other stuff he’s doing nowadays.

10. “Skating” The Vince Guaraldi Trio. Another secret: every year there’s going to be a song from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special soundtrack. It greatly saddens me that Vince Guaraldi–who by all accounts would’ve been thrilled immensely by it–never lived long enough to see these songs become the popular icons they have.

11. “Winter Wonderland”-Phantom Planet. Otherwise known as “the band Jason Schwartzman plays drums in”, I really dig this almost Pavement-y take on the holiday classic.

12. “Calling On Mary”-Aimee Mann. Every holiday mix needs a downer moment, a song or two for cryin’ in the beer. This year that duty falls to Aimee Mann, who put out a kick-ass Christmas record last year which this track is lifted from. (Aimee, what I want for Christmas is for you to release that duets album you and Scott Miller recorded a bunch of years ago. Please?)

13. “Christmas With The Snow”-Marah Featuring Felicia Navidad.
…and we’re back to happy, with the giddiest, goofiest, silliest, most-wonderful Christmas song in recent memory. Yeah, this song starts off sounding like a total lazy, drunken goof-off…but there’s just a palpable joy, an utter, stupid happiness bordering on rapture that carries this track. If it annoys you the first time (it annoyed me!) listen again and again, and you’ll hear that these folks have managed to tap into that feeling you had when you were 8 and school had let out for the holidays and maybe there was snow on the ground and sledding and presents and family in a day or two…this song gets all that nostalgia exactly right. And listen to the verses, too–as stupid as the chorus is, the verses are just glorious, exuberant fun: “I just want a castle made of snow/I hope it never thaws/I wanna marry Santa Claus!” This isn’t a song; this is a force of nature. Just give in and enjoy the ride!

14. “Valley Winter Song”-Fountains Of Wayne. It really is a shame that for most folks, FoW are known for salacious fare like “Stacey’s Mom”, because Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood know their way around a classic pop tune and are able to toss off gorgeous, touching songs like this one almost effortlessly.

15. “Waking For Winter”-Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. If there was a band in this mix that I’d hope hearing them would inspire folks to check out more music from, it’s the Gorks. Although they’ve disbanded now (lead singer Euros Childs has a wonderfully prolific solo career going), these Welsh folk-rockers are one of the most wonderfully winning music enterprises of the last 20 years. With a large number of songs written in their native language (Childs was raised in a household where Welsh was spoken), the Gorkys manage to always sound both whimsical and wise, joyful and melancholy, just like they do on this song. When the whole band comes in after the quiet middle eight, it reminds me of Schroeder banging away on his toy piano while the rest of the Peanuts gang dances around heedless of Charlie Brown’s attempts to direct the Christmas Play…

16. “Merry Christmas My Darling”-Jason Ringenberg. Mr. Ringenberg made his name as the eponymous leader of Jason & The Scorchers, a band who was marrying country music to punk a few years before Uncle Tupelo or Wilco or Son Volt happened along. Possessing an amazing voice that sounds as dry and forlorn as the Texas prairie (and which leaves jackasses like Toby Keith sounding like the country frauds they are), Ringenberg sings this plaintive and hopeful Christmas song from a soldier’s point of view in heart-tugging earnestness. You can tell this dates from 2000 or so–if Ringenberg would update the “jungle” in the lyrics to “desert”, I think he’d have a Yuletide hit on his hands.

17. “Christmastime Is Here Again”-The Flirtations. Written and performed in 1970 or so, this song sounds as if it should’ve been on Phil Spector’s Christmas Album–walls of sound are everywhere, and that backbeat is just killer. The Flirtations had a minor hit back in the day, and this song has largely been forgotten…until now, anyway. I love this tune to death.

18. “Merry Xmas Everyone”-Slade. I guess Slade figured their best bet for misspelling the title of this song was in using “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”, this is still a great beerhall singalong for the scousers in the audience.

19. “I Saw Three Ships”-Don Dixon. Yeah, that Don Dixon–the guy who produced the first three REM albums with Mitch Easter back in the day, and the guy who had the minor hit in 1987 with the sublimely soulful “Praying Mantis”, he does a nice job of giving this traditional English Christmas carol a jazzy, swinging update.

20. “Sometimes You Have To Work On Christmas”-Harvey Danger. First off, I love this song–just clever and winsome as hell, with a killer hook in the chorus. Secondly, though, for those of you who don’t think about the folks who work their asses off on the holidays (yeah, I’m one of ’em, sue me) so much, please remember them a little, huh? Be nice to these folks. Smile. Wish them a happy holiday. Don’t be the asshole type-A personality who never learned not to throw a temper tantrum when they couldn’t get their way. Yes, lady who couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get a reservation for 15 the day before she wanted to come in during the holidays and couldn’t believe that the folks who already had reservations had made them as much as six months prior and who proceeded to call my hostess a liar because she couldn’t bend time and space–I’m talking to you. Jacob Marley awaits, that’s all I’m saying.

21. “The Caroler’s Song”-The Green Pajamas. Another perennial favorite of mine, for reasons I can’t really fathom every time the verse about “All those at war, all ships at sea” comes up, I just get all choked up, thinking about the young men and women who’d love to be with friends and family but can’t be because they’re up to their necks in blood and war and death this season. Here’s hoping that the folks I know overseas this year are well and get home safe and soon.

22. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”-Hem. Legend has it that Hem lead singer Sally Ellyson auditioned for Hem by providing songwriter Dan Messe a cassette with her singing lullabies she’d recorded for a friend’s baby. Hearing her luminous reading of this melancholy Christmas standard, that story seems incredibly believable. I wanted to use this song and listened to maybe 20 different versions of it, including Judy Garland’s original. Maybe it’s blasphemy, but I think this one is the best of the lot.

23. “Fairytale Of New York”-The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl.
I was watching the excellent BBC Three documentary on the creation of this song, and the band opined that the ending of this song was rather ambiguous–after all, he’s spending Christmas in the drunk tank, and she’s a junkie “lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed”, and the dustup they have is legendary. (I’ll say it again: it isn’t Christmas until Kirsty’s called Shane a “cheap lousy faggot”.) Still, anyone who’s heard the last line and who can picture the Boys of the (nonexistent, it turns out) NYPD Choir singing “Galway Bay”, and hears that full orchestra come swelling up like a tidal wave, well, they know that the ending isn’t ambiguous at all.

24. “May Your Dog Talk”.
“Chris in the Morning” on KBHR in Cicely, Alaska: Walt Whitman of the (fictional) airwaves. Merry Christmas!

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