Ho Ho Ho: Ugly Rumors’ Favorite Holiday Albums

Though the appropriate time for listening to holiday music is quickly fleeting, I thought it’d still be fun to share some of my favorite holiday albums. Some are new for this year, some are from bands I’m sure you know, but they all feature unique renditions of musical chestnuts. So here you go, in no particular order:

Pink MartiniJoy To The World

Just like you’d imagine from the “little orchestra,” Joy To The World is a lovely collection of global holiday classics. The elegant arrangements of Christmas songs are complimented by more traditional performances of songs for Hanukkah and Chinese New Year.

Various Artists – Seasonal Favorites Vol. 1

The first in what is now a series of three compilations of surf and garage bands’ takes on, well, seasonal favorites. While I have yet to hear volumes two and three, the songs on volume one have been sufficiently burned into my head. Great instrumentals and vocal cuts from essentially unknown signees to the Double Crown roster.

Béla Fleck & The FlecktonesJingle All The Way

Few groups make music the way the Flecktones do, so it stands to reason that the guys make holiday music unlike anyone else as well. Performed with all the virtuosity you’d expect (and with the help of the Tuvan Alash Ensemble, which you might not), Jingle All The Way should be the new soundtrack to your sesason.

Julian KosterThe Singing Saw At Christmastime

The brain behind The Music Tapes, Julian Koster’s Christmas album runs just under half an hour in length. However, that’s probably about as much as anyone can handle of Koster’s singing saw. The slower melodies come across as lilting and ethereal (and, as such, are the highlights), but the more jaunty tunes are nothing short of unsettling.

The VenturesThe Ventures’ Christmas Album

When it comes to instrumental music (for both the holidays and year-round), no group did it better than The Ventures. Their 1965 Christmas album is a classic, not just for its lively arrangements, but for its trademark interpolations of other great guitar tunes in the first few bars. “Sleigh Ride” is based off of “Walk Don’t Run,” “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” off “Memphis, TN,” and so on. For more in this vein, check out Los Straitjacket’s two Christmas albums, which also work in some of their original melodies.

Various Artists – A ZE Christmas Record

Finally, we have another compilation from another iconoclastic record label. This album features tracks from well-known acts like Was (Not Was) (who also act as the band on other tracks), Suicide, and August Darnell. There are also lesser-known performers who give tremendously fun contributions, such as Material, Davitt Sigerson and Charlelie Couture. A recent reissue added more tracks and remastered the whole set, making this already bountifully strange album even better.

Of course, there are plenty more old and new favorites, but I’ll save those for next year. Happy Holidays, kids!

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~ by E. on December 24, 2010.

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