Christmas is a holiday that impacts all the senses. Twinkling lights, the smell of wassail, the chill of the air against the skin, the taste of peppermint. Sleigh bells, of course. And, man, the music.
I have my Christmas favorites. White Christmas, Rudolph, and a surprising number of non-secular songs I sang growing up Lutheran. If you've never been to candlelight service on Christmas Eve to sing Silent Night, you're missing out on a great, not-often-mentioned holiday tradition.
But this isn't a list of my favorite Christmas songs. If it were just a list, it'd be quite long, and kind of pointless. A playlist needs to be curated. It's the heir to the mixtape. Song content and order need to work together. It can't just be your holiday tunes on shuffle (although serendipity can create some amazing combinations).
I'm not sure the songs of a playlist need to create a narrative, but I like to try to make an arc of some sort. And while Christmas is, in theory, the happiest time of the year, we know that the season is many things. Joyful celebrations with friends, melancholy loneliness, hysterical time spent with loved ones, peaceful quiet shared between two people. Why not try to capture all of that with a handful of songs?
Anyway, I'll never get it quite right, but this is The 2016 Signal Watch Christmas Playlist. If you're on Google Play, you should be able to give it a whirl. If you use another service, here are the songs.
- Christmas Treat - Julian Casablancas
- Father Christmas - The Kinks
- Merry XMas Everybody - Slade
- Hazy Shade of Winter - The Bangles
- The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
- 2000 Miles - The Pretenders
- River - Joni Mitchell
- I'll Be Home for Christmas - Bing Crosby
- Cold White Christmas - Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
- Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
- Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel - Belle and Sebastian
- Christmas Will Break Your Heart - LCD Soundsystem
- Snowin' On Raton - Townes Van Zandt
- Fairytale of New York - The Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl)
- Christmas Eve Can Kill You - The Everly Brothers
- 25th December - Everything But the Girl
- Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love
- Christmas Time is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio
- The Bells of St. Mary's - Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans
I couldn't quite make Tom Wait's Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis work, nor Robert Earl Keen's Merry Christmas From the Family. And I consider both of those to be classics.
And, no, technically at least two of these aren't Christmas songs, exactly, but we can fight over that some other time. We've got newer stuff and classic mid-20th Century stuff. We even have a pop band singing a very old song. And I think we've got a nice sort of ride, especially for Christmas Eve after you've put the kids to bed.
I swear, there's nothing so still as the darkened house when you turn down the lights on Christmas Eve.
Enjoy. Merry Christmas. May your Christmas be filled with love and peace and hope however you spend it.