Haul out the holly.

I have a number of friends who start listening to Christmas music right around Halloween, which, I'm sorry, I've just never understood. Growing up, we were allowed to put on Handel's Messiah (which doesn't even count as a Christmas composition, really) the day after Thanksgiving, and I just never saw the need to get started any sooner, if at all. Call me a scrooge, call me a grinch, but I actually have very little innate holiday spirit, particularly when it comes to the seasonal soundtrack.

Traditionally, I make a limited number of exceptions to tide me over when I do holiday-related activities, such as making cookies and wrapping presents:

One, the Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert album of my youth, featuring Kathleen Battle, Wynton Marsalis, and a token boychoir.

Two, Over the Rhine's brooding, sad-sack Darkest Night of the Year, which evidently caused an acquaintance to wonder, "So, do they actually like Christmas?" A valid question, but clearly this person had not heard Karin and Linford's recent, more lighthearted "Martini Jingle" (complete with "bell solo" and Karin purring lyrics like "you look dashing in the snow...").

Three, the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas album (and lo, the accompanying movie).

Four, that one ubiquitous, jingly song by Mariah Carey, which inexplicably fills me with girlish glee. (In a similar vein--Exception Four-point-five, if you will--I stumbled upon the Most Annoying and Yet Best Christmas Song Ever this weekend, also known as "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.")

And five, a compilation of depressing Christmas songs mixed by my dear friend Joanna. I can't remember what's on it--some Aimee Mann, I think, some Bing Crosby and Otis Redding--but I do remember that it's good.

Aside from these, my policy on the vast majority of yuletide tunes is strictly zero-tolerance. Now, however, I will be forced to make another exception, which is kind of irritating considering that my list fit into a nice, traditional top five. But actually, I'm glad to do so--the seasonal offerings of this banjo-strumming, scout-uniforming-wearing, faith-and-arts-articulating, all around fascinating fellow has rocketed to the top of my Advent exceptions.

"Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" - sublime.

"Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" - ridiculous.

Yes, friends, it's a very Sufjan Christmas.*

(Thanks to BW, co-proprietor of tiny drawings arts collective, for providing this link on his livejournal. As BW mentions in his thoughtful disclaimer, Sufjan evidently made these albums as gifts for friends and family, but they've been distributed on the web with abandon. I hope that policy still stands and would appreciate knowing if it does not.)

*Not familiar with ol' Soof? And you call yourself an expat--for shame! Educate yourself.


At 12/13/2004 9:24 PM, Blogger educat said...

I comment here with a great deal of trust in this community, and I am new here so be kind.

Last year, my granny told me that I Want a Hippopotomus for Christmas was originally recorded my a distant cousin of mine.

Please don't hate me, the family receives no royalties from this monstrosity.

Add Shawn Colvin's Holiday Songs and Lullabies to your holiday playlist and thank me later. It has soothed me through many a frightening holiday season.

At 12/14/2004 11:34 PM, Blogger Darren said...

It's been tough for me to get in the Christmas spirit this year, but those Sufjan Stevens songs are helping. A lot.

At 12/14/2004 11:37 PM, Blogger kate said...

Jennifer -- Thanks for the recommendation. I found some mp3s online that are giving me a promising taste of Ms. Colvin's album... and apparently it's an album that goes with a Maurice Sendak book?!

Darren -- I know just what you mean. I actually wrote a column about my lack of Christmas spirit for Catapult, which I'll post here on Friday.

At 12/15/2004 8:23 PM, Blogger educat said...

The Shawn Colvin album is both carols and lullabyes and I think it was recorded around the birth of her son. That's why the Sendak art.

It's mighty tasty, though.


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