Music is a little like food and clothes. These are areas where it’s probably worthwhile for one to explore & expand their tastes. The Playlist is assembled each month by Dappered’s very own music correspondent, Tim Johnstone. Tim is a former Virgin Records Label Rep & current award winning Program Director at KRVB, which was awarded the FMQB AAA station of the year markets 50+. You can also catch his work on Fridays when he assembles the Weekend Reset. Got a Spotify account? You’ll find a link to this month’s playlist at the end of the post.
There are numerous types of holiday songs. The break your heart beautiful. The over the top pop showstopper. The quiet, lovely Winterlude. And this is not a surprise since holiday songs were always pop culture touch stones. Then there are the Holiday love songs which are everywhere. This year’s December playlist has selections from all of the above.
JD McPherson – “All The Gifts I Need”
I’m already on the record as a big fan of JD and his new Christmas album. It is just a blast right out of the gate and it doesn’t let up. These aren’t all songs about making merry and bright. Sometimes the Holidays suck and you get some of that too, delivered with a terrific sense of humor and a knack for big, memorable hooks.
Kelly Clarkson – “Christmas Eve”
This relentlessly cheerful Holiday song from Kelly Clarkson was released last year. And there’s a chance I recommended it last year. But there is absolutely no chance that I care about repeating it here. It’s just too fun to forget. It is all of the heightened energy of that first peek at the tree on Christmas morning, the promise of all the fun to come, and the joy of the season all crammed into a showstopper of a song.
Old 97’s – “Snow Angels”
Rhett Miller and The Old 97’s have been consistently made terrific Americana/Alt-Country for a good while now. Rhett released a solo record not that long ago and now the band has shared their first original Holiday collection. There is much to like here and if you are already a fan of Rhett and The Old 97’s this is for you.
Ingrid Michaelson – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (featuring Leslie Odom Jr)
Whereupon Ingrid does the most Ingrid thing imaginable to Mariah Carey’s perennial favorite. Yes, this is a compliment.
A Fine Frenzy – “Red Ribbon Foxes”
Some of the songs included in this year’s playlist aren’t actually new. But they are deserving of attention. I met Allison Sudol (AKA A Fine Frenzy) just after she released her debut single with Virgin Records sometime in 2007. She stopped by the station to play in our performance lounge. It was obvious to those of us who were there that she is supremely talented. We played several of her singles over the next couple years and were fans of her Christmas ep which included “Red Ribbon Foxes.” But you might already be familiar with her via her screen work. In particular, her role as Queenie Goldstein in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Yep. Same woman. And I still love this.
Kasey Musgraves – “Present Without A Bow” featuring Leon Bridges
I’m not sure how I missed this one. It has been really something watching Kacey Musgraves’ evolution as a songwriter/performer since her debut. Her most recent album is pretty much one of the best of the year (not me – real critics have expressed this). This Holiday album is from a couple years back and it is a fun collection of original songs, favorites of the season and a few nicely chosen less-covered Christmas songs.
Aloe Blacc – “I Got Your Christmas Right Here”
Aloe Blacc just seems like the most chill man in music. He makes what he does seem effortless and maybe it is for him. This is a perfect example of what he does best. It’s a feel-good song that begs you to just stop and enjoy the season.
Low – “Just Like Christmas”
Here’s where I admit I have all the feels for this song. I am not proud of the fact that I came to it via Snow Patrol but there you are. I love both versions. This is definitely one of those Holiday songs that is lovely and kind of sad at the same time. Like I said. The feels.
David Archuleta – “Christmas Every Day”
If you would have asked me two weeks ago if I’d ever include David Archuleta on a Dappered playlist, I would have snorted like a smug douchenozzle. I’m still an asshat but damn if this song doesn’t just insist on making you a little less cynical about the world we live in. It is nearly unrivaled in it’s cheerfulness and good vibes and it will make your heart grow two sizes and such. So, yeah. Way to go David.
John Legend – “What Christmas Means To Me” featuring Stevie Wonder
Anyone else kind of surprised we are only getting this now? Doesn’t it feel like John Legend must have surely released a holiday collection before now? This one could very well be a classic.
Rogue Wave – “Christmas”
Not new. But it’s a gem for sure. Rogue Wave covered this Who song (from their rock-opera “Tommy”) and because it is Rogue Wave, they infuse the song with that sweet and sad spirit that makes up so much of their own music. Everything about this arrangement helps take a song out of its original context and lets it live on its own. Absolutely lovely.
The Mavericks – “I Have Wanted You For Christmas”
Raul Malo and his band of honky tonk brethren are no strangers to Holiday songs. Malo released his own Holiday collection years ago and it is worth checking out. Everything The Mavericks do has a retro feel which is a result of their use of instruments popular in Tejano music. This is one of those “Christmas song masquerading as a love song” Holiday songs.
Over The Rhine – “Here It Is”
Here we have an example of the holiday LOVE song. As in framing the love song in a holiday song. As in this is really just a fantastic song that is dressed up for the season. This Cincinnati band has made Christmas songs a regular part of their discography. This is one of my favorites. There is something special about this song: it is absolutely genuine, and Karin Bergquist’s vocals are something to behold.
Leslie Odom Jr. – “Winter Song”
Whereupon one of the sweetest vocalists working today absolutely shines on this cover of Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles’ beautiful Christmas song. This is just one song from a fantastic collection that came out last year.
Phoebe Bridges – “Christmas Song”
Phoebe Bridgers is having a really good year. Along with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, Bridgers released an excellent ep under the moniker boygenius. Late last year she released her debut album “Stranger In The Alps” to critical acclaim. This new holiday recording is a cover of a song by Omaha, Nebraska band McCarthy Trenching (they have quite the story about their name by the way). The story goes that Bridgers performed the song at a Holiday show last year and Jackson Browne was in the audience. Phoebe asking him to sing on a studio version and this is the result.
Lindsey Stirling – “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy”
I can’t think of a Holiday song better suited for Stirling’s talents. Merry and bright indeed.
For previous editions of The Playlist, see the growing archive here.
See the Spotify playlist here.