despite what you may have heard about me, dear reader, i am not a big christmas music fan. i can appreciate just a small dose of xmas music ‘fore it makes me sorta want to hurl. i do, however, love how certain records sound in certain seasons. i’m also all for festiveness or festivity, if you will, and boy how i do love a good party. here is what i will be playing for my dear ones this christmas.
- born to run (bruce springsteen). from the opening harmonica of thunder road all the way to those final frantic keys of jungleland, this record is, well, merry and bright.
- sticky fingers (rolling stones). brown sugar for your holiday cheer and probably the best closing track ever: moonlight mile. this is a damn near perfect record.
- blood and chocolate (elvis costello & the attractions). i’m afraid that this record gets lost in the shuffle of elvis’ enormous discography, and it’s a cryin’ shame because it’s honestly phenomenal from start to close. it features one of the greatest love songs ever (i want you) smack dab in the middle, and battered old bird is everything i love about elvis costello in one song. elvis took everything he learned from his americana record with t-bone burnett and brought it back home to the attractions for this record and a new era was born. this is a great record for christmas dinner with a nice bottle of red wine.
- blood money (tom waits). the majority of tom waits’ records feel like autumn to me, with the exception of blood money and its companion record. blood money is like the moody brother to its pretty sister, alice. it has gusts of wind and roaring thunder, but the ever present clarinet and quiet melodies that wrap around the storms are well worth the ride. this is a great record for after everyone has gone home, when you are left with dirty dishes and discarded wrapping paper and the last few pulls on that bottle of rum.
- bringing it all back home (dylan). it was a real toss up as far as what dylan record to include, but it hadda be this one. dylan’s first rock record happens to have some of his prettiest little acoustic songs ever. apart from being a complete classic, there is such an inspired warmth to this record. it’s like a bright burst of sunshine after a snowstorm. it should be played loudly in the morning and in the afternoon and lends itself to crowded and empty living rooms alike.
- turn on the bright lights (interpol). while antics was perhaps their finest hour, this record is full of dreamy, reverb drenched, almost underwater swagger, with a dancing beat. this record sounds like christmas lights.
- get behind me, satan (the white stripes). while elephant was perhaps their finest hour, i have a fondness for this record. i often say that jack white’s solo records fall short because he is too self-conscious. under the moniker of the white stripes, i do believe this to be the best jack white solo record. sorry meg. it’s full of everything jack does best: grinding guitars, pretty harmonies and lots of falsetto, boogie-woogie piano, hand clappin’, foot tappin’ sing alongs and some high lonesome (though not spiteful) lyrics. it is a bittersweet record. it sounds like the songs jack white sings to himself in his big empty living room. i don’t know about you, but i’d sure like to have jack white playing piano in the corner of my living room on christmas day.
- in dreams (roy orbison). beside the incredible title track, this record features some hidden gems like they call you gigolette and ends with the only actual christmas song on this list: pretty paper. it’s chalk full of unrequited sorrow and rockabilly jangle & beat all wrapped up in that velvety, ethereal, bellowing three or four octave mountain range of a voice. roy orbison sounds like christmas. period.
- live in europe (otis redding). there is no sweeter sorrow than that of mr. otis redding. this record is the perfect document of the freight train that was otis redding and the bar kays.
- unplugged (johnny cash & willie nelson). this record came out at a pretty great time in the life of johnny cash. he had seen a rebirth and revival with the beginning of his american recordings era. the release of unchained had a whole new generation of followers singing his praises. after recording his second record with rick rubin he went to do storytellers with willie nelson. cash was 66 years old when this night took place, and this was just before his health and voice took a real turn (but just before). you can still hear the old cash bravado on this record. the real star here is willie nelson, whose whiskey smooth voice and gorgeous steel guitar playing damn near steal the show. this pretty record is fun for the entire family.