Mood music: snowflakes and bonfires
December 6, 2005 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Looking for seasonal music. We are not Christian, so we are looking for, in order of preference, Yule music, winter music (OK, I don't know exactly what I mean by that, but maybe you do), secular "Christmas" music. Got favorites you'd care to recommend? I'm mainly looking for CD titles, but would welcome song titles too.
posted by bricoleur to Media & Arts (38 answers total)
One of the most fun Christmas albums out there is The Ventures' Christmas Album. Released in 1965, every song is done in the classic Ventures instrumental fashion. Each track opens with a quote of a mid-60s Top 10 hit (this works, really). Plus, there's not a "religious" Christmas tune on it.

I'm not Christian, either, and this was one of those rare joys in December during my music retail days.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 4:12 PM on December 6, 2005

A recent release you might like.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2005

The Chieftains' The Bells of Dublin is excellent. Beautiful, cheerful, and it's the Chieftains.
posted by ldenneau at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2005

Holly Cole's Baby It's Cold Outside is wonderful.

For something a little hipper, I also recommend any of:
Maybe This Christmas
Maybe This Christmas, Too!
Maybe This Christmas Tree

My favourite winter song is Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for Winter's Night" (Sarah McLachlan's cover is also pretty decent) but I can't think of any Winter-themed CDs.
posted by sanitycheck at 4:15 PM on December 6, 2005

Father Christmas by the Kinks is always a good one.

The "A Christmas Gift For You" album produced by Phil Spector is a classic. It's 40+ years old, I think, and still is shown on the main display shelves at music stores.
posted by apple scruff at 4:17 PM on December 6, 2005

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is one of my favorite albums ever.
posted by tristeza at 4:22 PM on December 6, 2005

Second Bells of Dublin. You'll love it.

I used to like George Winston's December; solo piano settings of traditional British isles wintry songs. It's not bad.
posted by Miko at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2005

I second the Spector Christmas album. Get it used. ABKCO charges full price ($17+) for their 40+ years old albums.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2005

Oh, and I have been talking up this great collection of early 80s Christmas songs: The Edge of Christmas. Pretty secular. I found this while searching for the Waitresses' earworm "Christmas Wrapping." It turned out to be really good throughout, and it's only 4 bucks! How can you go wrong?
posted by Miko at 4:33 PM on December 6, 2005

Merry Axemas is pretty entertaining if you like guitar fireworks.
Esquivel's renditions of standards are, well, unique.
posted by plinth at 4:43 PM on December 6, 2005

I'll take this opportunity to plug my friend's band and a gorgeous song of theirs called Wintertime. I don't think it's intended to be downloadable, but, well, you didn't hear it from me. The whole album is great.

A few other songs:

"Winter"—Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes)
"Winter"—Rolling Stones (Goats Head Soup)
"The Hounds of Winter"—Sting (Mercury Falling)

Oh, and don't forget "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues.

Also, I find them unlistenable, but Mannheim Steamroller seems to specialize in instrumental, new-agey holiday music. If you like that sort of thing. Someone must, I guess.

And then there's this. With an album cover like that, I don't know how you can go wrong.
posted by staggernation at 4:54 PM on December 6, 2005

Brave Combo: a band of fantastic musicians from Denton, Texas with a penchant for polka and a good sense of humor. They did a Christmas Album, which was originally for a Japanese label but was later released in the states.

From the Web site: "It seems that Christmas is a big holiday in Japan as well, stripped of all religious significance: a time of indulgent buying and gift-giving (a Japanese art) when Jesus Christ is acknowledged, but no more important an icon than Frosty, the Snowman."

Also lovely and definitely not religious is Oi to the World by The Vandals. Loud and punk. Good fun.
posted by Nice Donkey at 4:59 PM on December 6, 2005

I second the unlistenability of Mannheim Steamroller. But my parents like them.
posted by Nice Donkey at 5:01 PM on December 6, 2005

our very own PinkStainlessTail's Jingle Rock Bell
posted by blue_beetle at 5:07 PM on December 6, 2005

Tom Waits "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis"
posted by macadamiaranch at 5:08 PM on December 6, 2005

Some old threads may be helpful.
posted by staggernation at 5:10 PM on December 6, 2005

The first, self-titled, Christmas Revels album is mostly secular and is a nice collection of traditional not-too-Christian seasonal music and spoken word stuff.

The album has a Winter-Spring-death-rebirth-cycle-ish theme, so when Jesus pops up it's more about that theme than about Christianity.

And the music is very pretty and Christmas-y!
posted by bubukaba at 5:16 PM on December 6, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you, great suggestions so far.

We have, and love, the Vince Guaraldi and the Chieftains. Guaraldi heralds the season for us, but 2 CDs do not a season soundtrack make. And I also like, though it's not secular, Liz Story's The Gift (though I tried her other titles and didn't like them).

More please!
posted by bricoleur at 5:25 PM on December 6, 2005

I hate Christmas music, but I love Messiah Remix
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 5:32 PM on December 6, 2005

Motown Christmas is pretty good.
And I just found this, Christmas on the Border in my CDs and listened to it for the first time: my new holiday favorite!
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:01 PM on December 6, 2005

I am listening to Santastic: Holiday Boots 4 Your Stockings now, and I really like it. I heard about it here.
posted by ND¢ at 6:22 PM on December 6, 2005

I'm a big fan of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's holiday CDs.
posted by vagabond at 6:25 PM on December 6, 2005

Valley Winter Song by The Fountains of Wayne
Anything sung by Nat King Cole
posted by Sara Anne at 6:40 PM on December 6, 2005

Akira Rabelais's Spellewauerynsherde says "secular Christmas music" to me like nothing else...
posted by hototogisu at 7:07 PM on December 6, 2005

Galaxie 500 - Listen the Snow is Falling
(It's a cover of a Yoko Ono song. I haven't heard the original.)
Mark Mothersburg - Snowflake Music (from the Rushmore soundtrack)
posted by hydrophonic at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2005

Over at slacktivist we've been ranting and recommending in a recent thread. Lots of good suggestions there.
posted by desuetude at 8:20 PM on December 6, 2005

Windham Hill's Celtic Christmas series is unbelievably great.
posted by jasonlatshaw at 9:21 PM on December 6, 2005

A Consort of Choral Christmas Carols
Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John
O Little Town of Hackensack
Good King Kong Looked Out

From A Portrait of P.D.Q. Bach, available here.

Surprised no one's mentioned Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses
posted by IndigoJones at 5:46 AM on December 7, 2005

There are mostly Christmas songs on "Christmas Caravan" By Squirrel Nut Zippers, but there are also a few non-xmas songs like "Winter Weather," Sleigh Ride" and "My Evergreen" that really get a good winter vibe going in our house.
posted by bkeaggy at 7:18 AM on December 7, 2005

Joni Mitchell's River is a seasonal song for me. A little sad sounding maybe, but...I still love it. And, I was surprised at how good Robert Downey Jr.'s version was...I think it was for an Ally McBeal Christmas album?
posted by Richat at 7:38 AM on December 7, 2005

Surprised no one's mentioned Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses

Someone did.
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on December 7, 2005

Low's Christmas EP is worth a listen, though it's not 'secular'. And changing tack radically, I've always associated Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije suite with Christmas, for which Woody Allen may take the blame.
posted by holgate at 10:21 AM on December 7, 2005

Surprised no one's mentioned Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses

Someone did.

Oh yeah? Well, my link came with lyrics and mp3 so there.

Of course, the mp3 isn't working right now, but that's Christmas for you.

(Goes to corner to weep.)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:36 PM on December 7, 2005

My absolute favorite Christmas album is "The Darkest Night if the Year" by Over the Rhine. It's a mix of traditional holiday music, instrumentals and original tunes.

Paste Music describes it as a "brooding, atmospheric and sometimes stark collection of Christmas songs [that] conjures the emotions of Christmas Eve with a candlelight service and a quiet drive past spot-lit Nativities. The band achieves a nice mix of traditional carols with several original songs and instrumentals."

It's the perfect album to listen to when you're snowed in with no where to go.
posted by VelvetHellvis at 1:31 PM on December 8, 2005

i made this cd for my friends this year. some of these songs were mentioned, some not. i am pasting the whole thing instead of picking songs out.

Almost Hip: Xmas '05

Christmas Time by The Darkness
Donde Esta Santa Claus? by Guster
Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses
Merry Christmas by The Ramones
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
Xmas Cake by Rilo Kiley
Father Christmas by The Kinks
Feliz Navidad by David Hasselhoff
Merry Little Christmas by Coldplay
Rudy by The Be Good Tanyas
The Christmas Song by The Raveonettes
Spotlight On Christmas by Rufus Wainwright
Merry Christmas From the Family by Jill Sobule
Holly Jolly Christmas by Old 97's
Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues
posted by lyonsmy at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2005

A favorite of mine is To Warm the Winter's Night: a Celtic Holiday Celebration by Aine Minogue. It's a musical and spoken-word celebration of Yule and the Winter Solstice. From the website:

The journey of winter is upon us; and traveling through the countries, through Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany and England, where Yule, New Year, Hogmagog, Christmas and the Winter Solstice have uniquely interlaced over time; each finding its own way to stand on the edge of nature while she sleeps. And so, over the coldest of seasons, her peoples have sought to connect the old and the new through song and dance, the death and rebirth of a new year!
posted by initapplette at 2:44 PM on December 8, 2005

Personally, I like the classics. Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, etc...

Louis Armstrong's renditions of some Christmas songs are the best.
posted by TunnelArmr at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2005

Oh, yeah. And get Duke Ellington's Three Suites, which contains a smoking jazz interpretation of the Nutcracker. It kicks.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on December 8, 2005

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