As I look out the window of my office at the first snow fall of the season I think of two things. One, thank God the rain has stopped and, two, it's time for a story on Christmas music for the 2011 holiday season.
Christmas music is such a strange genre. It's hardly a genre at all as every conceivable style of music has been used as a Christmas song. It's also an easy way for an artist to make a quick buck. I dislike saying that sort of thing this time of year, you'd wish it were always for reasons from the heart, but it's true.
That's not to say that there isn't truly earnest Christmas music being made each year. And even those blatant attempts to cash in can capture the spirit of the season. There's a hokey quality to much of Christmas music, a guilty pleasure if ever there was one. New holiday releases in 2011 give us a little of both as usual.
The best of the bunch is the new Kate Bush album called 50 Words For Snow. It's her first new material in five years and simply gorgeous. Bush's ethereal voice and minimalist piano are the perfect accompaniment to watching the snow fall.
She's joined on the album by Elton John and British renaissance man Steven Fry. And those are the lesser songs on the album. She's best by herself, singing in that haunting yet childlike voice about making love to a snowman. The real joy of this album is that it's an album that can be played throughout winter and not just during the holiday season.
My affection for Zooey Deschanel has wained recently. Why, oh why, did she have to do a sitcom? Her musical act She & Him, him being M Ward, has produced three albums with diminishing returns. The new one, A Very She & Him Christmas, unfortunately exposes her somewhat weak vocals. That being said, it really doesn't distract from the charming material here. Anyone who does a good job with Sinatra's "Christmas Waltz" gets extra points from me.
Michael Buble seems to have every woman wrapped around his finger these days. So his new Christmas album is the perfect soundtrack for couples. He released a holiday EP two years ago that only left you wishing for more. Here's that gift.
My favorite kind of Christmas albums, regardless of musical style, are the ones with original songs. How many versions of "Little Drummer Boy" have we all heard? The best example of this, from a Clevelander's point of view, is our own Ohio City Singers. This changing cast of local musicians led by Chris Allen have released their third, well second proper, album titled Snow Days. I love Christmas music and when the lyrics (" when the snow melts 'cross the snow belt") hit home, well, I'm on a sleigh ride with Santa.
I bought numerous copies of their other CDs as they make perfect gifts for fellow Clevelanders. You can buy them at their shows around town, like the one this Saturday at 2:30 at the House Of Blues. 2:30? Yes, it's a show for the entire family. Bring the kids.
I've gathered together some other new Christmas releases along with many more from years past on Spotify. Subscribe to it as your go to source for Christmas music both tried and true and, well, odd too.