10 Songs About Christmas
Jeff Shaw at our sister paper City Pages goes off the beaten sleigh path to bring his readership 10 songs for the season. Ever generous, Jeff's allowed us to share 'em with you:
10 and 9: Two from Tom Lehrer
My uncle would never forgive me if I didn't mention Tom Lehrer's scathing, brilliant "Christmas Carol.." Unfortunately, only the lyrics are available on-line, and the only performance of the song is a dreadful reading performed by the even more dreadful Christopher Hitchens. Do Not Want. On the brighter side, we can do a different-denominational holiday Lehrer experience with the peppy "Hannukah in Santa Monica."
8. Harvey Danger, "Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas."
In a nod to my current personal activities at this time of year, I must mention this track from Seattle's Harvey Danger.
7. Of Montreal, "Christmas Isn't Safe For Animals"
Kevin Barnes has a penchant for odd Christmas songs. Besides this preciously weird, violin-backed indie tune, his band has also produced two goofy Christmas-themed songs on their early record "The Bird Who Continues to Eat the Rabbit's Flower." But this is the most accessible of the three, and features a bizarre radio montage in the middle. Excelsior! Get the lyrics and the MP3 download here.
6. Dean Martin, "Jingle Bells (Dan the Automator remix)"
Lounge never felt so cool as it does in this gentle remix that is (gasp!) true to the original. The beatmaker behind Del and Handsome Boy Modeling School does the Rat Pack proud, and I bet even your mom will dig. Download it here.
5. Asobi Seksu, "Merry Christmas"
Who doesn't love The Ramones? They practically invented pop punk, they wrote "Cretin Hop" after seeing Cretin Avenue on a trip to St. Paul, and they penned a bittersweet holiday song called "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)". But truth be told, NYC-based indie band Asobi Seksu (the name means "playful sex" in Japanese) has a version that blows the doors off Joey et. al.'s original. Sacrilege, perhaps. True, though. Yuki Chikudate's girlish vocals over the fuzzy guitar mix just perfectly. Hear it at Asobi Seksu's MySpace page.
4. Donny Hathaway, "This Christmas"
One of soul music's most beloved voices ought not be forgotten this holiday season, and if you listen to this track, I guarantee you won't.
3. Run-DMC, "Christmas in Hollis"
I cannot believe 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of Run-DMC's gem. This staggering revelation narrowly edges Run's sporting a Portland Trailblazers jacket (from the Clyde Drexler era!) in personal significance. It's a classic song and a campy delight of a video that doesn't end until that elf's final "niiiiiiice."
2. Sean Na Na, "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)"
Recorded in 1998 by Sean Tillman (Har Mar Superstar, Sean Na Na) and Jeff Severns Guntzel (The Dynamiters) in Tillman's Chicago kitchen. Tillman plays guitar and sings. Guntzel plays a snare drum on a folding chair. The results are an exact mix of plaintive and hilarious, as Tillman's voice is confection-sweet over the bitter lyrics.
1. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, "Fairytale of New York"
What can be said about this? A song so bleak, it starts in the drunk tank, and that's as hopeful as it gets. A song so salty, the Beeb thought of censoring it. A video that includes a young Matt Dillon. A song so beautiful, you won't be able to feel anything but happy after listening to it.