Mixing and A-Mingling

Mixing and A-Mingling

A nontraditional playlist, for a nontraditional Christmas:

Kitka, “A’v Jerusalime” (Youtube | Spotify)
This call-and-answer song decisively answers. Kitka, an all-female American group specializing in Eastern European and Eurasian music, chose “A’v Jerusalime” to cap off Wintersongs, an album ideal for getting lost in snowy forests and minor intervals.

Teddy Vann (feat. Akim Vann), “Santa Claus is a Black Man” (Youtube | Spotify)
This is Teddy’s answer to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” in which his 5-year-old daughter Akim recounts a sweet romantic moment she observed between Mom and “Santa” last night. The main vocals are endearing, the backing is prodigious and the overall effect is as warm as a Yule log fire.

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Christmas Eve at Trinity on the Green

John Prine, “Christmas in Prison” (Youtube | Spotify)
This deceptively upbeat song, from the album Sweet Revenge, hides a tale of love, loss and longing at Christmas. Prine—the “ultimate songwriter’s songwriter,” as Pitchfork eulogized—was lost this year to COVID-19.

Brown Bird, “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow” (Bandcamp | Spotify)
Low-key acoustic folk duo Brown Bird came to an end with the tragic death of frontman and founder David Lamb in 2014. Like Prine, he and the band live on through their music, including a posthumous Christmas album featuring this Jethro Tull cover. The arrangement, a major departure from the original, showcases Brown Bird’s capacity for strange but beautiful harmonies and recalls something ancient.

Fairouz, “Kena nezayn shagara saghira” (Youtube)
25 years earlier, in 1989, Lebanese recording artist Fairouz took a much more familiar Christmas song, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and translated the lyrics and trimmings to Arabic. See the song in a new but also retro light, which glows brightest whenever the backing harmonies swell.

Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, “Breaking Up Christmas” (Youtube)
Low on lyrics and high on fiddling, Bruce Molsky’s take on “Breaking Up Christmas” is breaking up our playlist, interlude-style. The bluegrass dance number is tentatively attributed to 19th-century fiddler Pet McKinney and was preserved in part by Tommy Jarrell, who was born in 1901 and, during a 1983 performance, said he recalled the tune from his childhood.

Electric Jungle, “Funky Funky Christmas” (Youtube | Spotify)
This golden-age track from 1974 breaks up saxophone solos and choral calls for that “funky funky Christmas” with bite-sized motifs from “Little Drummer Boy” and “Deck the Halls.”

El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, “No Hay Cama Pa’ Tanta Gente” (Youtube | Spotify)
Singer Charlie Aponte describes a raging house party but never pins it to Christmas. Nonetheless, this tune—whose title insists “There Is No Bed for So Many People”—is classified as a Christmas song and is great for post-eggnog dancing, or pre-eggnog wrapping, or doing anything, really.

Stan Rogers, “First Christmas” (Youtube | Spotify)
This one goes out to all the ‘essential workers’ and others out there who won’t be able to celebrate the way they’d like. Canadian national treasure Stan Rogers croons about Christmases “away from home”—at the job, or on the streets, or in the nursing facility.

Sonic Boom, “I Wish It Was Like Xmas Everyday (A Little Deeper)” (Youtube | Spotify)
A surreal, disorienting soundscape repeatedly crying out for a break from the norm feels like the right way to end a 2020 playlist—and 2020 itself. Happy holiday music, everyone.

Written by Allison Hadley. Image by Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/Shutterstock.

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