Seeking relief from the cacophonic Christmas

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The deeper we get into “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” holiday songs are the ubiquitous Muzak of the season. I may get tired of the endless beating of little drummer boys, but I really enjoy some holiday songs. Pretty much every holiday song Frank Sinatra covered is at the top of my playlist and I love Dean Martin’s version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as well as the version of the same track by She & Him. But, it seems like lot of the really good tunes get lost in the musical stocking stuffed with holiday cheer.

Hearing the Boss perform “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” is one of the highlights of my season. Bruce Springsteen could make just about anything cool, but he does an exceptionally good version of the classic song with the E Street Band. This is the kind of song you can’t be ashamed to wonder who is within earshot.

When I first heard that Bob Dylan was releasing “Christmas in the Heart,” I thought it was a joke. However, the 2009 release features 15 tracks with a lot of great renditions of a lot of holiday classics.

But how many Christmas songs have an accordion and include former presidents among the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh? Not too many that I know, which just one of the reasons this is one songs that always makes me feel jolly. Even the music video for this song is incredibly Dylan while paying tribute to the playfulness of the holiday.

Everyone knows Santa loves the sand as much as snow and Jack Johnson is perfect beach music. He recorded “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in 2008 for the compellation “This Warm December: Brushfire Holiday Vol. 1.” Like all musicians who perform a cover, Johnson puts his own unique twist that would make Rankin and Bass proud.  Rudolph stands up for himself and gets an apology from his pals.

Reggae-rapper Matisyahu does tribute to the High Holidays with “Happy Hanukkah” released Nov. 20. The native New Yorker donated the proceeds from the song between its release and the end of Hanukkah, Dec. 16, to the Jewish Federations of North America and to Hurricane Sandy victims through the Robin Hood Foundation. This is his second tribute to the holiday, the first was “Miracle” in 2011.

“Happy Hanukkah.
I wanna give a gift to you
Light up the night, my love shine through
From mount Zion, this is what we do, bring love to you”
- “Happy Hanukkah”

Sufjan Stevens, the most creative and outright genius singer-songwriters recording today, released a 58-track album of Christmas music Nov. 13 entitled “Silver & Gold.” From the absurd to the enchanting, this album is an incredible collection that is the follow up to “Songs for Christmas,” released in 2006 and encompasses the first five volumes. In addition to performing old classics, there are a lot of creative new tunes in the latest collection. Stevens has now been recording Christmas songs since 2001 and seemed to save the best for this second collection. In fact, I found my favorite song on the second track of the first album (volume VI in the entire collection). "Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past" is so much fun with its fiddles and layered, harmonized vocals that melt like frosting on hot gingerbread.

Last year, I couldn’t listen to enough of the classic covers featured on “A Very She & Him Christmas” by She & Him, and I think this holiday season I’ll be listening to “Silver & Gold” well into the New Year.

The High Note wishes all of its readers a happy and healthy holiday season. 

What's your favorite holiday song? Comment on Twitter @DBCurrent #TheHighNote or #TheHolidayNote

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