The Strange Holiday Mix – 2018

Bend in the River

Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri has posted her insightful and very funny list/ranking of 100 Christmas songs. With two exceptions (71 and 2), none of her choices are in my collection, to which these fine musical works are being added this year.

All of them should available in your favorite digital store or streaming service. So listen and enjoy.

  1. Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) – Ramones
  2. The Big Opening (Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch) – Danny Elfman
  3. Monster’s Holiday – Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers
  4. I’m Not Ready for Christmas – Alicia Witt
  5. Deck the Halls – Walk Off the Earth
  6. Come On Santa – The Raveonettes
  7. Fall in Love This Christmas – Dia Frampton
  8. Mele Kalikimaka – The Monkees
  9. A Marshmallow World – Walk Off the Earth
  10. Holiday – Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, James Corden, Ron Funches, Caroline Hjelt, Aino Jawo, Kunal Nayyar, Christopher Mintz-Plasse & The Bergens
  11. Christmas Is You – Swear And Shake
  12. Santa’s Messin’ with the Kid – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  13. The Nice List – Dia Frampton
  14. Christmas Tree – Zac Brown Band (feat. Sara Bareilles)
  15. 2000 Miles – The Pretenders
  16. Making Christmas – The Citizens of Halloween & Danny Elfman
  17. Auld Lang Syne – The Cast

Photo is of Georgetown as seen from Kennedy Center on the foggy Christmas eve of 2014, and posted to my Flickr account. I have great hopes for Flickr under it’s new, non-corporate owners in the new year.

The Strange Holiday Mix, 2017

This is my idea of an annual tradition: a collection of the holiday-related songs I can stand to have on heavy rotation over the next month or so. As opposed to the traditional playlist of earworms that even the programmers at Muzak must be embarrassed to let loose on the world.

But regardless of your musical tastes, and whatever you are celebrating this time of year, enjoy!

  1. Strangest Christmas Yet – Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
  2. Christmas Coming Home (feat. Lennon & Maisy) – Nashville Cast
  3. To Christmas! (The Drinking Song) – Straight No Chaser
  4. Christmas Is the Time – Katharine McPhee
  5. Naughty Naughty Children (Better Start Actin’ Nice) – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
  6. Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train) – The Tractors
  7. Warmer in the Winter (feat. Trombone Shorty) – Lindsey Stirling
  8. Santa Stole Thanksgiving – Jimmy Buffett
  9. Feels Like Christmas (feat. Jana Kramer) – Straight No Chaser
  10. Santa Claus, Santa Claus – Dennis Turner
  11. California Christmastime – Rachel Bloom, Vincent Rodriguez III, and the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Cast (the video)
  12. Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ – Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone
  13. They Don’t Make Them Like That Anymore – Great Lake Swimmers
  14. Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) – Davina & The Vagabonds
  15. Santa, My First Love – Swear And Shake
  16. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – Lindsey Stirling
  17. Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy – The Tractors
  18. Baby Don’t Leave Me (All Alone on Christmas) – Echosmith
  19. Schedryk – Pink Martini
  20. The Way-Too-Early Christmas Song – Paul and Storm

I Could Be Wrong

Randy Newman has release a new collection of his songs, the first in almost a decade, and it is wonderful. The first “album” I’ve bought in many years.

He recently performed four of the tracks for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and it’s a great showcase of Newman’s talent as both a song writer and performer.

Although the song “Putin” is the one that seems to be getting lots of attention, my favorite, both in this performance and the album, is “It’s a Jungle Out There”. Newman has taken his fun, character-appropriate theme from the TV show “Monk” and turned it into an also fun but very satirical reflection on the paranoia (possibly justified) of modern life.

I could be wrong now… but I don’t think so.

3-2-1 For 1-8-17

Three readings worth your time this week.

End of year retrospectives can be tedious and, in the case of 2016, rather depressing. However, Planet Lab’s review of their favorite satellite imagery from the past year is beautiful and the pictures tell some interesting stories. (about 5 minutes)

dana boyd, who has made a career of trying to understand teenagers (and who really does spell her name with no caps), asks Did Media Literacy Backfire? in a recent essay. I disagree with about half of her analysis, especially concerning her implication that we must empathize with people who willfully choose to remain ignorant, but she does make some good points. The piece is worth a read. (about 10 minutes)

I often wonder how many of the education reformers who love standardized tests could actually pass one of them. After all, most of the knowledge and skills students are asked to recall are not required in adult life. But you know these exams are really out of touch when a writer is unable to answer the questions based on her poems. Her analysis is amusing, in a weird sorta way: “Texas, please know, this was not the author’s purpose in writing this poem.” (about 10 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

The BBC World Service has a new podcast about 50 things that made the modern economy. Sounds dull but it’s actually a wonderful series of short stories about technologies we take for granted that have had a big impact on our lives. It’s not necessary to listen in order so try out the series with their episode on the iPhone, which is actually about how government research has found its way into almost every part of every smartphone. (8:58)

Speaking of the economy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been bouncing close to the 20,000 mark this week. And, according to the folks at Planet Money, that so-called “milestone” is completely meaningless. In this segment, they explain in simple language why “The Dow” offers little or no information about how the American economy is doing, and why you can and should ignore all the breathless reporting on that number. (17:40)

One video to watch when you have time

Considering their huge audience, you may have already seen this latest video from OK Go. But on the off chance you haven’t, enjoy not only a good song but also the amazing extreme slow motion effects that accompany it. The group has always had a wonderfully geeky (not to mention messy) visual style, so if you like this, explore YouTube to find more of it. And check out the making-off video to understand the complexity of those four minutes. (4:12)

The Strange Holiday Mix 2016 – Best of Edition

I’ve been posting this list for more than 10 years, but this year we seem to have a major shortage of original, interesting, and/or weird holiday songs. Even The Killers, instead of a new, oddball holiday song, dropped a compilation of their past Christmas singles (adding one cover of a holiday classic).

So in that spirit, here is a short list of the best holiday-themed stuff in my music collection, now in heavy rotation for the season. Enjoy.

  1. Christmas is Interesting – Jonathan Coulton
  2. Elf’s Lament – Barenaked Ladies (With Michael Buble)
  3. Christmas in L.A. – The Killers
  4. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft
  5. I Want an Alien for Christmas – Fountains of Wayne
  6. Merry Christmas from the Family – Robert Keen Earl
  7. Can I Interest You In Hannukah? – Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart1
  8. Father Christmas – The Kinks
  9. Ain’t No Chimneys In the Projects – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings2
  10. Yuleman Vs. The Anti-Claus – The Bobs
  11. Snow Globe Christmas – Pink Martini
  12. The Christians and The Pagans – Dar Williams
  13. The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball – The Killers
  14. Come Darkness, Come Light – Mary Chapin Carpenter
  15. Alternate Christmas In Heaven Song – Monty Python
  16. Light One Candle – Peter, Paul & Mary
  17. Fifty Kilowatt Tree – The Bobs
  18. A Great Big Sled – The Killers
  19. Oklahoma Christmas – Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison
  20. Another Christmas Song – Stephen Colbert
  21. The Man in the Santa Suit – Fountains of Wayne
  22. Getting Ready For Christmas Day – Paul Simon
  23. Fruitcake – The Superions

And not really a holiday song, but still one that seems appropriate for some this time of year:

Atheists Don’t Have No Songs – Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers