Ought to Know Christmas Albums, 2014

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A few of our top five ought-to know-Christmas albums for 2014 are actually from this year and—as often is the case—Christmas releases can also be called weird Christmas releases as well, or just weird releases in some cases. Case in point would be Bob Dylan’s 2009 release, Christmas in the Heart; it’s a strange experience. It’s not bad; it’s just weird, though it’s also weird to hear Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon behind one of the best Christmas albums of the last few years.

5.(Let's Have A) Surfin' Christmas Holiday! (feat. Pamela Des Barres, Jonathan Paley & Nelson Bragg) - Single - The Hollyberries

Good luck finding the vinyl original of this recent release.  Kip Brown and crew put out a limited vinyl and cassette Christmas album and it sounds pretty interesting...if you can get your hands on it.  Otherwise, it is available for downloadthough The Ventures’ Christmas Album and The Beach Boys Christmas Album are both readily available, if perhaps too familiar. Northerners want The Ventures and the Beach Boys and Southerners may, just perhaps, fantasize about a white Christmas.  Snowbound as we often are in Canada, surfer Christmases sound pretty good.

4. Holiday - Earth, Wind & Fire

These guys prove you can have a funky Christmas and they make the familiar new by adding their own sound.  There are also a couple of morphed songs on Holiday as well, “Happy Seasons” and “December,” formally known as  “Happy Feelin’” and “September” from 1975 and 1978 respectively.  Their arrangements may even offend a few listeners looking for the traditional, but after around forty-four years in the business that’s a good thing. From when horns and guitar roamed the same plane, so to speak, it’s great to hear this endearing Christmas album from this classic band.

3. A Very She & Him Christmas - She & Him

She & Him are timeless, in that they could have put out albums in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and so on—though it’s impossible to picture them in the 80s. Just ukulele and voices at certain times and it is simple and real throughout. There have been those kinds of bands at all times, but few as authentic sounding as this duo   of Zooey Deschanel and Matthew Stephen "M." Ward. Era benders She & Him have a great Christmas album.

2. Imagene Peise - Atlas Eets Christmas - The Flaming Lips

Besides having a terrible run on spelling lately, The Flaming Lips have had one of their most creative years to date—releasing 7 Skies H3, With a Little Help from My Fwends, and Imagene Peise-Atlas Eats Christmas in 2014. A Flaming Lips Christmas album is actually a wonderful surprise and has, thus far early in this season, become a household favourite at our home. It has a good scoop of nostalgia in the form of vinyl-noise and also a dichotomous tension between the piano (often traditional) and the rest of the sound (that thing The Flaming Lips do).

1.  Sings Christmas Carols - Mark Kozelek

Mark Kozelek Sings Christmas Carols is an informed, down-tempo release for those who think and sing along with Christmas tunes at the same time. Brilliant album.  This release harkens back to a time when artists took care with the arrangements and reformed the traditional. While it may sound a little like spending Christmas Eve in a hotel piano bar while talented minimalists share the season's carols, it captures perfectly that thoughtful aspect of the season. Poignant may be the correct word for the experience. These are soulful renditions and Kozelek makes these old carols worth hearing again. If you find it too down tempo, hit the eardrums with some surf and funk from above.  



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