Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Christmas In Your Ears!

Maybe it's the threat of theapproaching meltdown of our entire society, but Fosco is kinda getting into the Christmas spirit this year. And you can too, if only you listen to some good Christmas music. To that end, Fosco has chosen ten great Christmas songs.

[N.B.: all of these tunes are available on iTunes!]

  • "Once in Royal David's City" performed by Sufjan Stevens. Stevens's box set of five Christmas EPs is the gold standard for contemporary indie-pop holiday music, including both traditional and newly-written songs. It's hard to choose a fave from this box set, but Fosco is really drawn to the somewhat obscure carol "Once in Royal David's City." The box set includes two versions: one with full-band and vocals and one solo piano. It's a beautiful song either way. And be sure to listen to the other tracks.
  • "Christmas for Cowboys" by Jars of Clay. It hurts Fosco to put this one on his list. He hates Christian rock, especially when Christian rock acts try to "cross over" onto the secular charts (like that bitch Amy Grant!). And Jars of Clap Clay definitely attempted the crossover in the mid-1990s (and Fosco neither forgives nor forgets). However, all that being said, this is a really great Christmas song. Fosco has a soft spot for the cliches of cowboy life (loneliness, wide open spaces, etc.) and this song serves them all up with a hearty side of Christmas gravy (yum!). In my head, the video for this song features Jake and Heath.
  • "Coventry Carol" performed by Allison Moyet. A Christmas classic performed by one of the great voices.
  • "Wonderful Christmastime" performed by Tom McRae. You know this song as written and performed by Paul McCartney. Like most of Macca's music, it's cheesy and chirpy and impossible to banish from your head. I hate it (and so does Todd, I know). But McRae's stripped-down, melancholy version completely changes things for me. It turns out that a really good song was buried under all that synth.
  • "Ho Ho Hopefully" by The Maine. There aren't a lot of good new Christmas songs being written now, but this is one of them. It's not overly cheerful. But it's also cautiously hopeful. Which seems to be about the right attitude these days. In fact, Fosco is willing to recommend the entire holiday EP (available on iTunes) from this band.
    Oh, and the chorus has killer harmony:
    Ho ho hopefully this holiday will make us believe that
    We're exactly where we're supposed to be
    And we're ho ho hoping that
    We all come back and as a matter of fact I know
    We're exactly where we're supposed to be
    Together by this Christmas tree
    Aw, shucks.
  • "Carol of the Bells" performed by The Bird and the Bee. Another classic carol, reworked into an electronic bonbon.
  • "Yule Shoot Your Eye Out" by Fall Out Boy. This one goes out to all of you who plan to spend Christmas hating your ex. A great chorus:
    Don't come home for Christmas
    You're the last thing I wanna see
    Underneath the tree
    Merry Christmas, I could care less
    Fosco saw them perform this one live a few days before Christmas in 2006.
  • "All That I Want" by The Weepies (you have to follow the link and shake the snowglobe!). Fosco heard this song last holiday season when it was the centerpiece of the JCPenney television campaign. It is such a good song that Fosco listens to it during the year!
  • "Last Christmas" by Wham!. Yes, this is an old song. It's also one of the most frequently covered contemporary Christmas songs. Fosco particularly enjoys the covers by Jimmy Eat World and Ashley Tisdale. However, Fosco was recently surprised to find that the original is actually the best version out there. Granted, the '80s synths sound a little dated, but George Michael's voice makes this song.
  • "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In" performed by Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert. Fosco is happy to recommend any of the songs from Stephen Colbert's Christmas Special (especially the Willie Nelson song "Little Dealer Boy"). However, Fosco thinks this song stands above the others for clever writing--both lyrics and music. Fosco thinks this is actually a song that could enter the Christmas canon. In it, Stephen makes a good case for Christmas spirit compared to the many worse things one could believe in:
    There are cynics, there are skeptics
    There are legions of dispassionate dyspeptics
    Who regard this time of year as a maudlin insincere
    Cheezy crass commercial travesty of all that we hold dear.
    When they think that
    Well, I can hear it
    But I pity them their lack of Christmas spirit
    For in a world like ours, take it from Stephen
    There are much worse things to believe in.
    And with that sentiment, Fosco advises you to listen to some Christmas music.

1 comment:

todd said...

Some additional Christmas song gems (IMO):

Darlene Love - All Alone on Christmas
This version is essentially Darlene Love and the E Street Band.

Death Cab for Cutie - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Heather Nova - Always Christmas
Sadly not available on iTunes or Amazon MP3, but a terrific song. Of course, I am fairly certain Ms. Nova could sing about gastrointestinal distress and I would still find her utterly amazing.

Mindy Smith - It Really Is (A Wonderful Life)
I just noticed the first three songs I listed are, well, sort of downers. So how about a happy one?

Closing things out with two from Over the Rhine: Darlin' (Christmas is Coming) and All I Ever Get For Christmas is Blue