Favorite Christmas Music: What We're Playing... ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, December 10, 2007

Favorite Christmas Music: What We're Playing...

I've seen a variety of "Christmas Music" posts circulating, but none of them have been precisely right, if you know what I mean, because they were all written by other people. I know it's kind of late in the game to be writing about Christmas music, because you'll have to move fast to get hold of these albums (you could always download the MP3s). But to avoid wasting any more time, I'll get right to it.

Christmas Songs, by Jars of Clay. Reworked classics (Drummer Boy!) and some originals showcase the excellent musicianship I've come to expect from the Jars every time out. They create a more folksy, contemplative album this time, aiming to recover Christmas' mystery and depth.

Songs for Christmas, by Sufjan Stevens. Stevens is justifiably notorious for his jangly, acoustic, lyrically-driven Indie albums, and he brings the same lyrical flair and compositional genius to this set of five EPs. The sheer volume of music (released over five years) makes this set a great deal. Add the fact that every CD contains multiple gems, and the value is fantastic.

The Darkest Night of the Year, by Over the Rhine. Dating back to 1996, this album is anything but trite and syrupy, reminding us that Christmas was, in fact, a divine rescue operation. Darkest evokes wide open spaces, chilly air, and starlight. Acoustic, with soulful vocals.

Wintersong, by Sarah McLachlan. Love her or hate her, McLachlan's ethereal vocals are hard to forget. And (surprisingly), the pop diva delivers a Christmas album that is romantic, wistful, and Christ-celebrating in turn.

Snow Angel, by Over the Rhine. Released a couple months ago, Over the Rhine's newer Christmas album is bluesy and haunting, but also features warm, jazzy titles. Over the years, vocalist Karin Bergquist has become very accomplished, adding nuance to every line she sings. This album feels like an instant classic. (Two Over the Rhine offerings? Yeah, we're definitely fans.)

The Messiah, by Handel. The title almost says it all. Handel's Messiah will never be surpassed for orchestral, Jesus-exalting glory, and this recording is a very good one.

The John Rutter Christmas Album, by John Rutter. We love Rutter's choral and orchestral arrangements, and this album features the Cambridge Singers, his usual partners in sublime. Worshipful, contemplative, joyful, the album covers a spectrum of traditional songs, and the play time is impressive: 78 minutes.

Celtic Christmas I, by Windham Hill (various). I'm a sucker for the bittersweet melodies of Celtic music (and the instruments! harps, violins, penny whistles...) and I think the Celtic Christmas series from Windham Hill is pretty good, featuring an array of "best tracks" from talented artists. I actually own all six albums. Laugh, go ahead--the music is beautiful, and it makes me think of windswept hills, deep snow, and Jesus coming down to save a Christ-haunted world.

So, what are you listening to?

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Anonymous said...

I put the Jars of Clay Christmas CD on my Christmas list! Hopefully I get it.

must_decrease said...

James Taylor Christmas all the way, its the best

Andy said...

I'm with you on Sufjan and Jars, and definitely with Must_decrease's take on James Taylor.

But for me, gotta go old school on 3 classics:

1) John Denver and the Muppets
2) The Chipmunks

And of course...

3) The Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Alaina said...

We love Wintersong and we also love Mahneim Steam Roller. My new Christmas cd this year is Josh Groban's Noel - which I really like.

I also make Andrew listen to Bing Crobsy and Frank Sinatra every year - it's just not Christmas without them. :) Andrew endures the latter. :)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife