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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Christmas music that doesn’t suck

    If you love the spirit of Christmas but are sick to death of the cheesy muzak, don’t throw yourself off a cliff in despair. Believe it or not, there’s holiday music out there that can help you celebrate the season in style without giving you a splitting headache. If your mom has an unhealthy obsession with “”Jingle Cats,”” or if your dad can’t get enough of Jimmy Buffett’s “”Christmas Island,”” then read on for some refreshing alternatives to holiday schlock. Or you could just listen to Wham!’s Last Christmas one more goddamn time.

    Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas

    Sufjan Stevens’ latest, a collection of Christmas songs from the last five years, seems like an awful lot to digest, clocking in at two hours worth of music and 42 songs, 17 of which are originals. But it’s probably a testament to Stevens’ talent that this is easily just as accessible as his previous efforts, such as Illinois and Seven Swans, with ethereal arrangements and a bevy of instruments. There are a few surprises; like a great rendition of “”O Holy Night,”” and you get to finally hear Stevens rock out on “”Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!””

    Loretta Lynn – 20th Century Masters – The Christmas Collection/Johnny Cash – Christmas With Johnny Cash

    The Christmas Collection, a compilation of Lynn’s best songs for the season, finds the honky-tonk sweetheart at her charming best, especially on her own tunes, like “”Country Christmas”” and “”To Heck With Ole Santa Claus.””

    Cash’s unwavering baritone lends itself well to both originals and traditional Christmas standards, such as Cash’s heartfelt “”Christmas Spirit”” and a stark, spine-tingling rendition of “”Silent Night.”” Curl up by the fireplace with the family cat, grab a mug of hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows, of course) and drift off with Cash and Lynn as they wrap you up in the yuletide glow.

    Low – Christmas EP

    Starting with the rollicking “”Just Like Christmas,”” this EP by the whispering Mormons from Minnesota (more commonly known as Low) is a perfect entry for the upcoming holidays, whatever your religious affiliation. Their version of “”Little Drummer Boy”” is bittersweet and haunting, driven by the ghostly harmonies of vocalists Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk. Although the languid pace bogs some of Low’s music down, the Christmas EP captures their sound beautifully.

    Kristin Hersh – The Holy Single

    Kristin Hersh’s (50 Foot Wave, ex-Throwing Muses) Christmas contribution, The Holy Single, is a no-muss, no-fuss acoustic EP. Hersh’s husky voice works its magic on four short songs in a traditionally spiritual vein, most notably a jaunty version of the Carter Family’s “”Can the Circle be Unbroken.”” This CD is unfortunately out of print, but it’s worth the time and money to hunt it down on eBay. The Holy Single is a cozy little affair, the perfect companion to a warm quilt and a good book on a cold winter’s night.

    John Waters – A John Waters Christmas

    As one might expect from John Waters, the writer/director of trashy cult classics like “”Hairspray”” and “”Pink Flamingos,”” his Christmas album leaves one with the burning question: Where the hell did he find some of these songs?

    John Waters’ holiday selections run the gamut from campy to creepy to downright hilarious, like Little Cindy’s “”Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child’s Prayer),”” and “”Here Comes Fatty Claus”” by Rudolph and Gang. Like a tall, warm glass of spiked eggnog, this motley crew of songs will have your head spinning and your stomach churning. Homer Simpson would definitely not approve.

    Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector

    If you buy just one of these albums, let A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector be it. Originally released in 1963, it’s probably the best Christmas album of all time. Produced by famed “”wall of sound”” mastermind Spector, known these days for murder charges and an Afro bigger than Sly Stone’s, “”Christmas Gift”” brings together Spector protǸgǸes The Crystals, Darlene Love, The Ronettes and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans on one sparkling disc. The maraschino cherry placed on top of this candy-coated confection is a foldout centerfold of Phil Spector dressed as Santa Claus. Make sure to buy two copies so you can tack Spector’s sexy Saint Nick mug on your wall.

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