With the majority of my Christmas CDs still MIA, and likely never to be found, I've had to go searching for some new entries to bulk up the collection. In the process I've found some really, really good, and some really, really bad.
I was thinking today about who I really wish would put out a Christmas album. At the top of my list for some reason is Alison Krauss, so I went looking to see if she had anything out there. I found 2 tracks from compilations - "Shimmy Down the Chimney" and "Only You Can Bring Me Cheer". They were both utterly horrible. I removed them from my IPod and will be happy never to hear them again. The first sounds like it was produced completely on a Casio keyboard, and not a good one. The second is all Nashville and no bluegrass. I know she could do better; much better.
Others on my list of people I'd like to hear Christmas albums from? Nina Simone, though that will now never happen. Ron Sexsmith has a couple wonderful original Christmas songs out there already - warm and sentimental in a good way, without being the least bit sappy or cloying, and could probably put together a wonderful mix of covers and originals with his soulful melancholy vibe. The Decemberists have already covered one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs - Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas - but I'm sure they could provide a few more Christmasy tales of sailors, gypsies, and doomed lovers.
Browsing ITunes' Christmas section I was intrigued by a new Killers single called "Joseph, Better You Than Me". Even though I can't stand their current single with the idiotic name I can't remember, and I did note that this track features Neil Tenant (Pet Shop Boys) and Elton John, I bought it anyway. Bad move. It went straight to the recycle bin with the Alison Krauss tracks. $3 poorly, poorly spent today.
My other ITunes purchase of the day was Weezer's Christmas EP. All "traditional" Christmas songs, and all pretty straightforward Weezerish renditions. I'm a moderate Weezer fan, and this one gets to stay on my IPod, but it didn't particularly excite me. It actually reminds me not a little of Manheim Steamroller.
There is a good bit of free indie Christmas music out there to be had, and I spent a good portion of my day listening to it. Sufjan Stevens makes a Christmas EP for his friends every year, 5 excellent volumes of which were compiled and released a few years ago. The general, non-friend-of-Sufjan public has to settle for one new track this year, found on the totally free Sounds Familyre Compilation "A Familyre Christmas Vol. 2". There's some interesting stuff here, from a mix of familiar and unfamiliar bands (to me), but not much will be making my regular Christmas rotation. Danielson was already near the top of my "wish they would put out a Christmas CD" list, and after hearing their track here, I'm even more convinced. The Half-Handed Cloud and Soul-Junk tracks are also worth a few listens. Last year's compilation is also available for free download at the same link, and is a bit less challenging than this year's.
Also free to e-music subscribers (does not count against your available downloads), or a mere $1.99 on Itunes, is the considerably more mainstream Redeye 2008 Holiday Sampler. Ron Sexsmith contributes a stellar track alongside other great stuff from the likes of Over The Rhine, Supersuckers, Elk City, and Apples in Stereo. Lisa Loeb contributes a very pedestrian Jingle Bells, which I was disappointed to hear as she's one of my huge guilty pleasures. I'd still pay $1.99 for the whole album in a heartbeat.
My two most pleasant surprises for the year were the new Raveonettes EP "Wishing You A Rave Christmas" (4 songs. Avaiable on E-Music or for $3.96 on ITunes) and the indie classic from Low, "Christmas" (8 tracks, available on E-Music or for $7.92 on Itunes). I had not previously heard much from the Raveonettes am very interested after hearing this. One cover (Christmas Baby Please Come Home) and 3 mellow but heavily 60's influenced originals; alternately fuzzy and shimmering, and all lovely. It's all streaming free at their MySpace page. The Low album shares a similar aesthetic while being considerably more lo-fi. Both albums are more pretty than depressing, but neither will have you rockin' around the Christmas tree.
That's about it for new finds. As to what I'm missing most from my Christmas CD collection - Bruce Cockburn's "Christmas", Aimee Mann's "Another Drifter in the Snow" (I do hold out some hope of turning this one up), a Louis Armstrong Christmas CD, and a Mahalia Jackson Christmas CD. If they don't turn up this year, I'll have to start looking into replacements.