Everyone seems to have relatively strong feelings about holiday music. The ubiquitous soundtrack to the season seems to get worse in shopping malls, restaurants and on your cubicle-mate’s tinny speakers that he or she leaves tuned to the worst station all through December.
But a whole host of terrific seasonal music exists out there. Some of it closer than you think. This locally-focused playlist will give you 12 days of songs that you’ll actually want to listen to, with links to find even more palatable playlisting. Now, go crank ’em up for your cubicle-mate.
“Happy Xmas (War is Over)” — in/PLANES
Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia of The Haunted Windchimes recorded this John Lennon-Yoko Ono cover in recent weeks for their other band in/PLANES, layering vocals together over and over to create a choir in their home studio. It’s a timely plea for peace and kindness.
“Blue Christmas” — The Lumineers
From their downtown house show days opening for The Head & The Heart in the winter of 2010, to their Fuel/Friends Chapel Session recording on the Colorado College campus in 2011, The Lumineers have a storied history with Colorado Springs. Here they take on the holiday classic “Blue Christmas” in trademark echoey, resonant fashion to warm your eggnog sipping.
“First Song About Santa” — The Jekylls
Denver rockabilly surf band The Jekylls bring their harmonies to this original holiday song laced with whistles, a surf guitar and old-fashioned laments over loneliness. Somehow even being lonely sounds charming when Eryn Hoerig sings about it. From their A Very Jekylls Christmas EP.
“Snow Face” — Candy Claws
Before this Fort Collins dream-pop band morphed into their new project Sound Of Ceres, they released lots of hazy, gauzy music that is the perfect soundtrack for watching the silent snow fall. This song is from the annual holiday sampler of Colorado music acts from the Act So Big Forest Family Collective, available for free download.
“In The Bleak Midwinter” — Edie Carey
Colorado Springs is lucky to receive Edie Carey, a recent transplant to our downtown music community from Chicago and, before that, New York City. Carey’s direct warmth and folky earnestness thaws this chilly December favorite.
“Come” — Oh, Starling
Husband and wife duo Dan Craig and Jessica Sonner from Denver have put out some of the best, noncheesy holiday music in the last few years. This original song feels classic and warm throughout, like you already know it and can sing along. From one of their two excellent Holiday Sampler EPs on the Denver-based label Wirebird Music.
“Rebel Jesus” — Wood Brothers
Chris and Oliver Wood learned to love music around campfires during their childhood in Boulder, with Chris going on to form the acclaimed jazz band Medeski Martin & Wood. For the last decade the brothers have been making folk music together again. Here they turn their attentions to cover Jackson Browne’s counterculture Christmas reminder.
“The Song the Season Brings” — Beta Radio
This North Carolina band has released four albums’ worth of tremendous holiday songs, banjo-laced and full of heart. Original tunes like this one sit happily beside reworked classics on a must-have collection for the season.
“I Wonder As I Wander” — Wovenhand
This melancholic, powerful contribution comes from Colorado band Wovenhand, a project of David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower fame. The Sounds Familyre Christmas compilations are a treasure trove of nontraditional indie holiday listening, featuring tons of terrific bands, including Sufjan Stevens, the Singing Mechanic and Half-Hearted Cloud.
Mvmt 4, “Every Bell On Earth Will Ring” — The Oh Hellos
Every time this folk family collective comes up the road from San Marcos, Texas, to play in Colorado, the shows sell out. This uplifting, sonically-enormous holiday song shows why. From their Family Christmas Album.
“Silver Bells” — Lower Lights
Over the mountains to the West, there is a vibrant folk music scene in Salt Lake City that comes together every holiday season under the moniker Lower Lights. The performances, featuring inventive arrangements, are consistently sold-out. Listening to their recordings brings the joy over the Rockies to your home stereo.
Oh, Holy Night” — Branches
This California folk collective is known for harmony-filled shows that invite the audience to join in the singing, and their Songs For Christmas album captures that communal vibe beautifully.
“This Will Be Our Year” — The Mynabirds
Hailing from just down the highway in Omaha, and part of the formidable midwestern label Saddle Creek, Laura Burhenn (of The Mynabirds) is almost an honorary Coloradoan due to all the time she spends playing her way across our state. This Zombies cover looks forward to a 2017 that hopefully will be a bit gentler and brighter than the year we’re ending. Cheers to that.