I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music. It tends to walk the tight rope between the sublime and the unbearable, with many perceptions on those points being pretty wide too.

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As such, even though it’s a popular move, I think the idea of releasing a Christmas single, or even a whole album, to me is kind of a risky move artistically speaking. But, that’s what artists do; they push the envelope and they take the big risks. Or they go right for the cheese with impunity, knowing that a lot of people groove on Christmas music, whether they expect it from the artist in question or not! An important aspect of all this is simply that I really want to love Christmas music. So, often it works out for me. It’s amazing what simple willingness will do for you.

So, this year, I thought I’d gather another collection of Christmas songs from the rock and pop and jazz quarters, representing the best of the bunch (or just the most unexpected and weird and completely sentimental) just like last year. Well, ten of them anyway. Some you’ll know, some maybe you won’t. But, either way, here’s hoping that some of these tune will find their way onto your own personal Christmas mixes this year – even if you don’t celebrate Christmas!

Let’s begin!

***

1. “Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas” – Eels

Eels

Here’s one to kick us off. Not always noted for his sunny optimism, Eels principle Mark Oliver Everett, or simply “E” is a writer who knows a simple pleasure when he experiences it. And that’s what we get in this song; pure yuletide joie d’vivre, albeit in a signature Eeyore voice. Everything really is going to be cool this Christmas, kids. I can just feel it.

2. “Christmas In Hollis” – Run DMC

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When you find Santa’s wallet, you’re faced with a dilema. But, as everyone knows, you can’t steal from Santa, ’cause that ain’t right. The result of doing the right thing? Winner, winner chicken (and collard greens) dinner in Hollis, Queens!

3. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” – Ramones

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Peace on earth and goodwill toward all begins at home, good people. So, do like Joey says: don’t fight tonight. Spread the merriment of the season instead, and maybe slam dance to a rockin’ band or something while you’re at it.

4. “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” – Elvis Presley

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And the winner for the most sexually charged Christmas song goes to the King by way of Leiber & Stoller. This one as taken from 1957’s Elvis’ Christmas Album reveals Elvis’ love for Chess Records-style blues, with this yuletide tune about, well, shagging.

5. “Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects” – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

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Christmas for those who celebrate it is a time for unity and feelings of connectedness, helped along by this sweet soul seasonal excursion. But as this song points out, some experience the season differently, depending on where they live, what they look like, and who they are. As joyous as this is, it’s also  at reminder of the season that we live in a world of haves and have-nots.

6. “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” – Louis Armstrong

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The Great Satchmo seeks out The Great Saint Nick in this tale of a nightly visit that may or may not be a visit of the Christmas kind. Who will be most impressed with whom? It’s a close call.

7. “Xmas Cake” – Rilo Kiley

Rilo_Kiley_Las_Vegas_2007

Christmas is a time for memories, some good and some bad. This one is of the latter kind, when love goes wrong, when the money runs out at the wrong time of year, and when you find yourself wrapping presents in the dark. Hey. It happens, friends. If that’s you this year, I’m thinking of you. The year is almost over and a new one is almost upon us. Here’s to a better one for you, and everyone.

8. “Father Christmas” The Kinks

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They say that being good brings Christmas treasures. But, what if you took another road when it comes to Father Christmas; extortion? The fightin’ Davies brothers bring you this straight from the hip holiday tune that explores this very sentiment. I predict lumps of coal for Ray and Dave after Santa takes his lumps. Then again, how can anyone stay mad at the Kinks?

9. “Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree – The Magnetic Fields

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All I want for Christmas is a heap of irony, courtesy of Stephin Merritt and his merry band of Christmas fans. Well, my wish is granted with this holiday tune stuffed to the rafters full of the stuff. And if people don’t like it, well – listen to the song for the next line to answer that one.

10. Emmylou Harris – “Light Of The Stable”

Emmylou Harris

To close, here’s a reminder of the original Christmas story and what it can inspire; innocence born in the night, and carrying a promise of hope for the future. At this time of year, that’s the underlying theme of the season in a world that seems to be working against that hope. But, light always banishes darkness – at least in song.

***

That’s it, Christmas fans; 10 songs of yuletide joy for 2014!

I hope you all have a great holiday season. I will be taking a rest for a while to settle into the season and in preparation for a glorious 2015 here on the ‘Bin.

We will return in the New Year! Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, and of course as always …

Enjoy!

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8 thoughts on “10 Rock And Pop Christmas Songs 2014

  1. Reminding me to dig out the Christmas music – not much really, but there’s the Nick Lowe, Good Lovelies, Bruce Cockburn, a couple of others. Plus that corny Connie Kaldor/Roy Forbes vinyl out in the back room, with Merle Haggard’s classic, “If We Make it Through December”.

    Thanks Rob, for another good year of thoughtful tuneology.

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