As vaguely promised, here is a list of my favorite holiday CDs. Keep in mind that I generally loathe holiday music. Shopping this time of year is just agony... yesterday H&M (where I had to buy clothes for my sister) was pounding out the "Winter Wonderland" at top volume and oh oh oh, my ears. (Presumably it usually plays Madonna at that volume.) So this is really a select group. I've been playing them the last couple weeks and Art Boy has been amazingly tolerant.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack
Well, duh. You can perform the Charlie Brown dances in your living room, quote favorite lines to your tolerant art boy ("Don't you know a sarcasm when you hear it?"), and reminisce about making your friends watch the special in college. This music was also used to excellent effect in the Arrested Development episode "Good Grief."
"John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together"
Most of this album consists of weenie songs performed by John Denver. And then there's "Alfie the Christmas Tree," a bizarre narrative about a tree struggling with its feelings about being cut down and displayed in a living room, then suddenly concerned about nonChristians around the world (a thought which causes the tree to "pause"). Denver reads the whole thing in a voice cracking with emotion. But there are some great Muppet moments as well:
Gonzo: Now bring us a figgy pudding...
Miss Piggy: Piggy pudding?!
Gonzo: No, figgy pudding. It's made with figs.
MP: Oh. Sorry.
Gonzo: And bacon.
So you can either skip the weenie songs to the Muppet songs, or enjoy it all as one kitschy whole, which I have taken to doing in latter years. There are two CD versions floating around out there, one of them without "Little Saint Nick," which you need because of Animal doing the "Run run reindeer!" chorus.
"Christmas Caravan," The Squirrel Nut Zippers
Every Christmas my family listens to this and my mom wonders whatever has become of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It was nice of them to produce this before going into hiding. My favorite tracks are "Carolina Christmas" (for the line "We're chillin in our underwear") and their loopy, infectious instrumental version of "Sleigh Ride."
"Christmas Is..." Johnny Mathis
I guess I shouldn't make fun of the late Mr. Denver for having been a weenie before endorsing music by Johnny Mathis. But dammit, Johnny is just so happy! You can't resist him! You can just hear the sleigh bells in his voice! I would love to see him perform. I bet he bobs up and down merrily. On this CD, just when you're starting to think he's a little too happy, he settles down with "Ave Maria," and it's pretty enough to melt even the toughest cynic. (And dear readers, that would be me.) Johnny also has a nice peppy version of "Sleigh Ride" but it is not on this collection... maybe for next year.
"An Even Scarier Solstice" The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society
This CD really makes shopping easier, particularly because they've tackled many of the most annoying holiday songs and made them much more palatable. I was in J.Crew a few weeks ago and they were actually playing "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." Now, really, who wants to hear that? Everyone in the store looked annoyed. But I thought of "All I Want for Solstice is my Sanity," and was able to continue shopping with a serene smile on my face. I'm not just endorsing this album because one of the Arkham Carolers is me. You can't particularly hear me, thank heavens.
"Christmas with Johnny Cash"
I am still on the fence about this collection. I can't really stand listening to it all the way through, but if you're going to put a bunch of CDs in the changer and set it to "shuffle" (if any of you iPod people still do that), this is a fine one to include. It startles you in a nice way to hear "Jingle Bells" and realize it's Johnny Cash singing. Taken as a whole, though, his merriment is just a little forced. If anyone wasn't lighthearted, it was Johnny.