An Ethereal Earful of Wintery Warmth

Here it is, the holidays are suddenly upon us. Hanukkah began yesterday, Yule is today, Christmas is on Sunday, and Kwanzaa is on Monday. And that’s not even all of the celebrations found throughout the dark month of December. Personally, I like all of them. I enjoy festivities in general, and decorative lights, and good food, and the general feeling of warmth despite the winter cold. Okay, yes, and I enjoy presents. (Really, who doesn’t? The frantic shoppers and rampant commercialism I can do without, but giving and getting gifts is always a good time in my book.) I had meant to do a series of winter celebratory songs, but lo, time has flown by. I’ve barely had my tree decorated and I haven’t even gotten a chance to try out my new gingerbread cookie cutters, and suddenly it’s time for the celebrations to begin. And so, I’ve decided to share with you one of my favourite holiday tunes this week, little earbuds.

It seems that many people are divided on the issue of holiday carols. Lots of folks loathe them, especially those who work retail and are forced to listen to the same holiday music over and over and over from November to January. Others adore any and every song that mentions Santa and sleighs. In general I fall more toward the middle of the latter. I tend to love songs about angels, snow, and bells, and dislike anything slow, repetitive, and overtly religious. “The Little Drummer Boy” makes me break out into hives, and the only tolerable version I’ve ever heard is by David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Speaking of which, it just isn’t December without the Rat Pack crooning away on my speakers, as well as childhood favs Amy Grant, Dolly Parton, and John Denver & the Muppets. I’m also a great fan of classical Christmas such as Händel’s Messiah and just about anything sung by huge choirs in echoing cathedrals. Newer songs by The Raveonettes, Annie Lennox, and Loreena McKennitt are tops, as are older-newer songs by Wham!, The Waitresses, and Paul McCartney & Wings. But the collection that always gets spun on my record player every December is Excelsis by Projekt Records.

There are three singles, two albums, and one EP in the series, and nearly every Projekt artist contributes, from Voltaire to Faith & the Muse to Black Tape For A Blue Girl, as well as guests from other labels such as The Crüxshadows, London After Midnight, and This Ascension. As for the songs themselves, they run the gamut from traditional Christmas and Hanukkah songs to newer tunes celebrating Yule and winter in general. There’s even a tribute to the German Christmas demon Krampus. I love the darker versions of the classics as well as the beautiful newer additions to the holiday repertoire, but one song has remained my favourite above all others, and that’s “Welcome Christmas” by (the sadly now defunct) Love Spirals Downwards.

I love pretty much anything and everything from this band’s first three albums. Their forth album is more dubstep than their earlier ethereal work, but this lovely take on the final song from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is classic Love Spirals Downwards. It feels gentle and warm, sparkly and beautiful. I listen to it throughout the year whenever I need a pick-me-up, but I find this song especially potent when the world is in celebration mode during the winter months. It fills me with an innocent sense of wonder and the eternal hope that we can make the world a brighter place if we so choose.

Happy holidays, little earbuds, whatever you may celebrate! I hope that you enjoy the remaining few days of 2011, and of course, that you get lots and lots of presents.

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Filed under Artist Love, Memories and Nostalgia

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