A Very Tolerable ChristmasGreat holiday music comes in many genres. But these five soft, pop-tinged selections hang together just right, making up a wintry mix of songs that, when heard collectively, simulate a soothing bath in a tub of warm cocoa.
Great holiday music comes in many genres, from the melancholy solo piano of Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas to the effervescent girl-group soul of A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. But these five soft selections hang together just right, making up a wintry mix of songs that, when heard collectively, simulate a soothing bath in a tub of warm cocoa.
1. Bing Crosby & David Bowie
Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy
Drawn from the 1977 TV special Bing Crosby's Merrie Old Christmas, the inspired and historic pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie is enough to instantaneously trigger nostalgia-induced weeping in anyone over, say, 35. But this is no novelty trifle: Hopeful kindheartedness emanates from it in palpable waves. (from Bing Crosby's Christmas Classics)
Just Like Christmas
The Duluth trio Low is most widely known for playing 1) slowly; and 2) sparsely. Consequently, for fans of the band, the sleigh bells that open the irresistible eight-song Christmas EP are as jarring as sleigh bells can get on a song with "Christmas" in the title. Both "Just Like Christmas" and the EP itself provide an ideal mix of sweet seasonal joy and minor-key melancholy. (from Christmas)
3. Sufjan Stevens
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
In recent years, Sufjan Stevens has responded to the holidays the way he's responded to everything else: by releasing a honkload of music. His five years' worth of Christmas EPs were released in box-set form last year, and they're wonderful — as sonically inventive as they are generous in spirit. Best of all is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," which builds from a gentle voice-and-banjo reading to the soul-stirring sounds of a heavenly choir. (from Songs for Christmas, Vol. II: Hark!)
4. The Weepies
All That I Want
The Weepies' "All That I Want" currently classes up the TV ads for some retailer or other, which instantly makes it one of the finest songs in heavy rotation right now. A sweetly loping rhythm, punctuated by sleigh bells, provides a rich backdrop for some of the sweetest boy-girl harmonies around. As with all everyone on this list, the rest of The Weepies' catalog warrants further exploration, too. (from Happiness)
5. Eef Barzelay
Joy to the World
Former Clem Snide singer Eef Barzelay is renowned for his clever wordplay, but he's nowhere near renowned enough for his uncommon warmth as a singer. His gentle phrasing gets put to soul-massaging use on this wonderfully spare reading of "Joy to the World," on which the air in the studio seems to be singing backup. (from Bitter Honey)