We at Amazin’ Avenue want to take a moment to wish all of our readers Happy Holidays. This has been a tough year and, no matter what you celebrate, we hope that this season has, or will, provided you with some comfort and joy. To help celebrate the season, we’ve asked our staff to contribute some of their favorite Christmas music, so that we can grab a few new songs for our holiday playlists.
A Los Campesinos! Christmas - Christian
The gimmick of A Los Campesinos! Christmas is that it’s just a Los Campesinos! EP with tiny bells and wintry imaging. That happens to be the gimmick of most bands’ Christmas albums, but since the English emo mainstays usually write songs about sex, death, and soccer, it makes for a cathartic holiday listen amongst the yuletide cheer. Their fatalist snark comes through as it always does (“At eight years old I played the role of Gabriel/dressed head to toe in denim/though with less optimistic foresight”), but the band ultimately demonstrates ambivalent feelings about what is supposed to be the happiest season. LC! don’t buy the joys of religion or commercialism, so they instead sing the praises of alcohol and lovers on shuttered-in winter nights, something that feels especially poignant in 2020.
“Sleigh Ride” by Members of the 2013 New York Mets - Dave C.
For me, the holiday season can never officially start until I hear Matt Harvey belt out “Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too.” It’s a personal holiday tradition to be begrudgingly serenaded by Travis d’Arnaud and to see Dillon Gee almost miss his cue because he was grooving too hard. Lucas Duda looks like he’s being held at gunpoint and Justin Turner was non-tendered only about a week after the Mets published this video, but the smile and twinkle in the eye of David Wright always makes the whole thing. It’s always nice to be wished a Happy Holidays by current Philadelphia Phillie Zack Wheeler.
“Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby - Dave C.
The music video for this song is infamously awkward and features some garbage acting. There have been a few parodies done of it, and the stories of how the weird collab actually came together are amazing. Bowie only chose to collab with the legendary Crosby because his mother wanted him to. Then, upon arriving, he didn’t want to sing the traditional “Little Drummer Boy” duet as they were supposed to, because he didn’t like that song. So in under two hours, they wrote his “Peace on Earth” bridge as a counter to Crosby’s deeper “Little Drummer Boy” underneath it. Despite the ridiculousness of it all, it actually came together perfectly. The two singers could not be more different, but their contrasting styles actually meshed really well on this. For whatever reason, Bowie’s voice shines even more with Crosby’s deeper voice underneath, and his “Peace on Earth” verse is so good, and a wholesome sentiment especially in today’s world.
“Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix- Linda
All of Pentatonix’s Christmas albums are fantastic. You could turn it on, put it on shuffle, and get a wonderfully festive song. They cover some of the more traditional Christmas carols but this one is by far the best of them all. For those who are unfamiliar with the group, Pentatonix is an a cappella group so there is very little musical accompaniment and they rely on the strength of their voices and their harmonizing which they do beautifully in Mary, Did You Know. It starts out as quiet and gentle and then builds as the song goes along which gives me goosebumps every time. It’s so good it makes me sad I don’t have a better singing voice because I desperately want to sing along whenever I hear this one, not that it has stopped me before. I apologize to my neighbors.
“Last Christmas” by Wham! - Grace
I know there’s that online competition of sorts every Christmas season for people to try to make it as long as possible without hearing this one. I’d lose before it even starts because I can’t stop listening to this one. Now, I would’ve put “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins here but I feared some may question it’s legitimacy as a Christmas song (it starts with the line “Home for the holidays” so I’d argue it is) so I went with a more traditional choice, but it is a very close second either way. This is such a catchy song, that somehow feels like a Christmas song and not a Christmas song at the same time. The lyrics capture the melancholy and nostalgia that tends to attach itself to Christmas as you get older, and laments it while also giving into it. And George Michael is such a great songwriter with a heavenly voice, so it’s just a great song start to finish. I’d like to give some other shout outs real quick: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid is a jam, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney is a genuinely good song (fight me), any Christmas song by The Carpenters is great, and “December, Wherever You Are” by Austin Weber and “It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries” by Carly Rae Jepsen are modern classics.
A Christmas Kind of Town by Marah - Brian
The Christmas album is a time-honored tradition among musicians of all stripes, but it is something that far fewer traditional rock and roll bands have done in the last couple of decades. When Brooklyn by way of Philadelphia band Marah made their Christmas record in 2005, they did so at a time when, in their own words, Christmas records were not very hip or well accepted in the rock community. But Marah bucked the trend, and made one of the finest Christmas records of recent memory.
Mixed with covers of Christmas classics, such as a soulful “Silver Bells,” interstitial skits, and original compositions like “Christmas With the Snow,” the record feels like a group of friends hanging out having a holiday party. They hit all the important Christmas moods: celebratory, melancholy, maddening and, in a genre that never seems to go away, a little horny.
If there was any justice in the world, radios in the Tri-State area would be blasting “New York is a Christmas Kind of Town” every year with the same frequency as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Well, maybe a little less, lest that get overplayed. But the entire record is a joyful, rollicking, trip through the holiday season. Enjoy it with friends, family, and a nice drink.
A Santa Claus: It’s a Punk Rock Christmas (Volume 1) - Vas
I’m not normally big on traditional Christmas music, so if I’m looking for something to listen to around the holidays, I will reach for this compilation album with some of my favorite bands on it. Is it good Christmas music? No. Can some of it even qualify as Christmas music? Debatable. But dammit if Blink-182’s banger “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” doesn’t get me in the holiday spirit from the opening notes! On top of that, there’s Something Corporate’s “Forget December,” Fall Out Boy’s “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out.” New Found Glory’s “Ex-Miss,” The Matches’ “December is for Cynics,” and Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “This Time of Year,” which is brings us a fun some fun for the skalidays. There’s also some solid covers, including one of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by Acceptance and one of Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” by The A.K.A.’s. So if you’re feeling particularly emo around the holidays, this is the album for you!
Silent Night by Franz X. Gruber as performed by the Rutgers University Kirkpatrick Choir & Glee Club - Kellyanne
I unironically adore Christmas music, including the typical schmaltzy Christmas carols (especially when they’re sung by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, & Perry Como). I am only including one here because everyone is probably sick of hearing them by now. I’m going to list a few more works that I’ve had the privilege of singing over my years at Rutgers.
The first is Silent Night. This serves as a finale to our annual Christmas in Carol & Song concert series. Kirkpatrick Chapel darkens. The Glee Club stands in the upper gallery and the Kirkpatrick Choir sat on the altar, save for the two conductors, who have small flashlights to coordinate the call and response at either end of the chapel. All three verses are sung in total darkness.* I love choral music because it’s the physical (or in this case, aural) manifestation of different people across different cultures working together in harmony. Carols like this are probably the simplest and honestly divine encapsulation of the holidays for me.
*They were when I was there, but there was also an altar screen in the chapel at the time. The nativity being lit in this version is new to me.
Three Mystical Choruses by Steven Sametz - Kellyanne
This trio of songs are in three different languages (Spanish, Hebrew, & Hindi), finding the commonalities among Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Sikhism, and Islam. Here again is the manifestation of different cultures and religions coming together in harmony. The first song has the typical feel of a Christian service, while the second follows a typical Shabbat prayer. The third borrows Indian poet Kabir’s ‘Mein To Tere Paas’. In the poem, he sums up what we should all remember during this time of year: that no one religion may lay claim to the sacred without the danger of creating “otherness,” and that when we see our unity, we will arrive at the true nature of the Divine.
Betelehemu by Babatunde Olatunji as performed by Morehouse College - Kellyanne
There are no words to describe how amazing this song is (and it should ONLY be performed by Morehouse at ALL times). Just watch & listen.
12 Days of Christmas & The Christmas Can-Can by Straight No Chaser - Kellyanne
OK, so some lighthearted fare after my very serious choral works - Straight No Chaser began 24 (!!) years ago aa college a cappella group and have become quite the sensation. These two songs are medley riffs on Christmas (and don’t forget Hanukkah) and has listeners laughing and singing along and just enjoying the silliness and happiness of the season (and shopping Shopping SHOPPING).
Christmas Is 4 Ever by Bootsy Collins - Chris
You can try to find a better Christmas album than this, but you will not succeed. Released in 2006, the album includes a few originals but is mostly comprised of familiar songs that are given the proper P-Funk treatment—with plenty of guest appearances along the way. If you’ve never heard it before, give it a nice loud listen on whatever your best speakers are.