Sleigh bells drowned in reverb

“Can Twelve Great Christmas Songs be treated with the same excitement as is the original pop material of today; sung by four of the greatest pop artists in the country; produced with the same feeling and sound that is found on the hit singles of these artists, without losing for a moment the feeling of Christmas, and without destroying or evading the sensitivity and the beauty that surrounds all of the great Christmas music? Until now, perhaps not!”

You said it all, Phil, you crazy dude. It’s the season to be jolly and merry, I know. But what about after you’ve heard the same 20 Christmas songs ad nauseum in every shop, and you’ve just got home and mum’s got the same playlist. Fire up the old youtube and sing a few of these Christmas standards.

Phil Spector’s Christmas album
Since Phil wrote the manifesto, what better way to listen to sleigh bells than drowned in Gold Star Studios reverb? Darlene Love sings White Christmas first up on side one.   

Little Monster Studios - A Very Little Christmas
Sort of in the spirit of Phil Spector but with a bit less reverb and a lot less gun brandishing is Auckland producer Dave Parker’s Christmas album of local bands. The cat-herding-like feat of successfully encouraging sixteen Auckland bands to write original Christmas songs in time to actually record them before December is a bit of a Christmas miracle. They’re good too, songs with enough varied and considered approaches to the Christmas spirit that it doesn’t even hurt to start dusting this thing off in November, or keep listening to a few cuts over summer holidays. Best of all, it’s FREE to download here.

Ella Fitzgerald – Jingle Bells
With a song as inescapable as this, you might as well wash out your brain with a good version. Ella Fitzgerald does it as good as anybody, upping the tempo and the swagger so this sleigh ride is a fun jaunt.

Sufjan Stevens and Vito Aiuto – I Saw Three Ships
Renowned tinselphile Sufjan Stevens is a bit of a  maximalist. Now legendary within the independent music world, he recorded an album of tender folk and chamber pop about the state of Michigan, which is impressive enough, but followed it up with one about Illinois. All the while he’s been recording yearly Christmas albums of traditionals and originals, which range from Silent Night to a composition titled Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance! I’m not going to post the latter, as it activates my humbug reflex, but here he is with the Welcome Wagon’s Vito Aiuto on I Saw Three Ships.

Damien Jurado  - Kalla Hus
From the consistently excellent label Secretly Canadian, Damien Jurado’s brand new track Kalla Hus paints a bleak picture of someone tired of more than just Christmas. It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes this holiday season, but it’s real to the touch and paints a picture that sadly rings true.  

Okkervil River – Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas
If Damien Jurado got you feeling a little melancholy, then you’re in the right mood for Okkervil River’s regretful introspection over the (romantic) ghosts of Christmas past.

Otis Redding – Merry Christmas Baby
After that last track, it’s really appropriate that we all actually listen to Otis Redding at home during Christmas. Take it home Otis.

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