Hey guys! It’s almost Christmas again! Around here that means I’m gearing up for Mixmas by asking bands to contribute mixes for your holiday enjoyment; but I thought I’d take a little while and whip up a special mix of my own. My goal with this season’s mix was to create a holiday mix that wouldn’t be out of place in any department store, family gathering or radio show — in short, one with mass appeal, but good. So that meant cutting out some favorites like Of Montreal’s “My Favorite Christmas (In A Hundred Words or Less),” but I think the mix is stronger for it.
I’ll share a few thoughts on the songs I chose after the jump, but before we get to the MP3s I’d like to take just one second to speak up for one of my two favorite charities. Toys For Tots gets a lot of attention this time of year, but I know in my area they can always use more donations and I’m sure they can in yours too. If you’re able to do so this year, I encourage you to give a few dollars or, even better, drop off a toy at a drop spot near you.
You Ain’t No Picasso’s Christmas 2008 Mix
MP3: Sufjan Stevens – Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!
MP3: Everthus the Deadbeats – Deadbeat Christmas
MP3: Cale Parks – Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney cover)
MP3: The Boy Least Likely To – Little Donkey
MP3: The Polyphonic Spree – Silent Night
MP3: Frightened Rabbit – It’s Christmas, So We’ll Stop
MP3: Harry Nilsson – Snow
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – Christmas is Coming Soon
MP3: The Kinks – Father Christmas
MP3: XTC – Thanks for Christmas
MP3: The Features – Christmas Wish Book
MP3: Deerhoof – Little Drummer Boy
MP3: My Morning Jacket – Santa Claus is Back in Town
MP3: Casper and the Cookies – Kiss Me Beneath the Christmas Tree
MP3: Death Cab for Cutie – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
MP3: Palace Songs – Christmastime in the Mountains
Thoughts on the mix after the jump. Or, grab more free Christmas MP3s at Suburban Sprawl’s annual Christmas compilation.
I started this one off with Sufjan Steven’s “Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time! for two reasons: the obvious introductory song title and that it’s arguably the least accessible on here. Sufjan’s a folk rocker through and through, but I love it when he lets his electric freak out of the box for a minute like he does between verses in this song.
Everthus the Deadbeat’s “Deadbeat Christmas” was a new one on me, but one that completely clicked with what I was trying to do with this mix. The intro’s a little wacky, but I can see my parents or boss enjoying this song as much myself or anyone else predisposed to wacky music. Also, try to ignore the part where he’s peeking in someone’s window and mocking Christmas song standards — however, they will make you laugh if you don’t ignore them. Especially the obligatory sax solo.
I spent a good half hour googling around for an acoustic version of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” but came up empty handed. Then I moved on to covers, where Shiv from WOXY pointed me to Cale Park’s cover. He incorporated that same synth bit that a.) makes me hate the 80s* and b.) completely makes this song. *yes, I know the original came out in 1979.
I like to pretend that The Boy Least Likely To wrote “Little Donkey,” even though I’ve since found out that isn’t true. They just make the plodding donkey sound like the real trooper of the nativity scene.
“Let’s keep it going!” Tim DeLaughter of The Polyphonic Spree is often incorrectly pegged as Mr. Sunshine. He’s not. He is, however, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met (I’m not even going to quantify that by saying “in rock and roll”) and shows it each year by putting on a holiday show in Dallas. This year’s is on Saturday, so go if you’re able!
Frightened Rabbit’s “It’s XMas, So We’ll Stop” is another song that was new to me this December. The song’s so sad that I contemplated not including it here. Then I realized that they were playing my emotions so well that I didn’t even notice that this is nearly a six minute song. In a fair world I would have given this song its own post, but we all make mistakes — and I think that’s part of what this song is about.
I’m kind of cheating with the placement of Harry Nilsson’s “Snow”. Putting it after Frightened Rabbit is kind of like a one-two punch to the heartstrings. In fact, if you’re sitting alone in a dark room when you listen to these two (like I am now, at 1am) you might even get a bit choked up. So remember, if you burn these: keep the order! (or don’t, I’ll never know)
Much like Everthus, I think Blitzen Trapper’s “Christmas is Coming Soon” really hits the spot on this mix, much like Blitzen Trapper normally does. Thanks to MUF for that MP3.
I debated leaving the Kinks’ “Father Christmas” off the mix, since it’s about hoodlums robbing Ray Davies as he’s dressed as Santa to collect money for charity. However, it’s such a catchy song with almost a good message that I decided to leave it in there. If nothing else, take it as a plea for charity.
XTC’s “Thanks for Christmas” is cheating, I feel. We all know it’ll go over well since it gets played in department stores all the time during Christmas. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s easily one of the best Christmas songs ever to be spawned from a pop/rock group.
Maybe the most commercial of the bunch? The Features turn in the male equivalent to “Santa Baby,” with their song that recalls Sears’ Wish Book.
I rejected a lot of indie bands doing traditional songs (The Essex Green doing “Deck the Halls”) for recording quality. Luckily Deerhoof’s “Little Drummer Boy” is both awesomely recorded and awesomely played. Miraculously Greg Saunier (one of my favorite drummers) managers to tone his drumming down so that the song doesn’t turn into Little Drummer Boy Who Could Explode At Any Minute.
If you’re making a mix, My Morning Jacket have written or covered at least two songs that would be perfect for it. Just try to think of some mix you’ve made where you couldn’t have slid in “Off the Record” or their cover of “Time of the Season.” So of course they had a few Christmas tunes for me to pick from, the best of which was this version of “Santa Claus is Back in Town.”
Casper and the Cookies’ “Kiss Me Beneath the Christmas Tree” is one that mines one of the biggest Christmas song topics: being separated from your loved ones during the holidays. It and its sister song in this mix, Death Cab for Cutie’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, hit on the same topics and close out the mix with a little more fire than the rest of the mix. It’s my belief that we should have Death Cab’s “Baby Please Come Home” voted into regular radio airplay — that’s a new classic.
And then, just when you thought it was all over, Will Oldham stirs aimlessly for a Christmas in the Kentucky mountains as we close out with Palace Songs.
Merry Christmas, everyone.