Christmas Carols > A call to de-gay our Christmas carols

As the gentle reader will be aware, the old and perfectly heterosexual English word “gay” has of late years been expropriated by the sodomite, and nowhere has this been more sullying than in the realm of the Christmas carol. Now, when we hear the word “gay” in our joyous carols, we must necessarily envision limp-wristed, lisping, naked, bending men, inserting themselves into one another, or possibly two women kissing on the lips, which is also bad, but not quite as bad as male homosexuality, unless the women are fat. 

Of course there is the ancient English standard “Deck the Halls” and its lyric “Don we now our gay apparel”.  This glorious sentiment is now fouled by the sodomite, and forces us to imagine a homosexual “gang” pulling on pairs of seatless red leather pantaloons. So henceforth let us replace “gay” with “gray”, which is a fine color, and a decent and respectable color of apparel for a man to don. 

Then there is the 20th Century American favorite “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and its lyric “…make the Yuletide gay”. The gentle reader will concur that this now conjures up sickening and hurtful images of sodomites abusing the beloved and sacred things of Christmas time for their sordid ends, such as turning the Yule log into a brown-tipped poker of men. Henceforth let us replace “gay” with “bray”, as in make the Yuletide veritably call out exuberantly, as the ass. 

And then there is the neither ancient nor particularly favorite but nonetheless endearing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and its lyric “…gay happy meetings”. With this the good people of the world have thrust into our innocent minds the specter of a great convergence of sodomites at a steamy Turkish bath, where they strip naked before one another, leer effeminitely at one another’s genitals and buttocks, assemble themselves circularly, call to one another in profane expressions of homosexual admiration, and manipulate themselves. Henceforth, let us replace “gay” with “stray”, as in random, unplanned happy meetings, the likes of which would transpire on familiar streets and places of business and the like, and not bath-houses filled with steam and the hoots of wild sodomites.

Oh, and a Gay [Merry] Christmas to all our gentle readers!

Waltzing with Strauss in Vienna

THE AUSTRIAN music scholar, Max Graf wrote, “If there exists a form of music that is a direct expression of sensuality, it is the Viennese Waltz…”

What is it about the waltz that has kept listeners mesmerised for so long and will undoubtedly continue to do so? The waltz was a smash hit from the start and swept out of Germany in the middle of the eighteenth century to conquer all of Europe, inspiring an old German verse: “Whosoever the dance did discover, had in mind each maid and lover with all their burning ardour.”

The word waltz derives from the Italian “volver” meaning to turn or revolve and was an outgrowth of the country dance, the landler. The hopping and jumping were replaced by polished and graceful gliding movements. Initially, the waltz was rather low-brow and provincial, as it was rural people who found the whirling steps so appealing. In those days, there was something rather unsavoury about a woman being gripped in a man’s embrace while whirling in a frenzy around the dance floor!

This was quite a contrast to the stately dances of the aristocracy where a certain distance was kept. A first-hand account of a village dance in the latter part of the eighteenth century read: “The men dancers held up the dresses of their partners very high so that they should not trail and be stepped on, wrapped themselves both tightly in the covering, bringing their bodies as closely together as possible, and thus whirling about went on in the most indecent positions… As they waltzed around on the darker side of the room, the kissing and the hugging became bolder still. It is the custom of the country, I know, and not as bad as it looks, but I can quite understand why the waltz has been banned in parts of Swabia and Switzerland.”

Naturally, the scandalised upper classes could not endure the lower classes having all the fun, and so, in time, the waltz achieved a degree of legitimacy, without losing any of its basic appeal.

The ancestry of the Viennese waltz goes back to the rural inns and taverns on the outskirts of Vienna and the banks of the Danube, with travelling orchestras ensuring that the waltz craze reached epidemic proportions.

And it was into this dance-mad atmosphere that we discover Josef Lanner and Johann Strauss the elder, who were both members of the same orchestra before they each set up their own bands to tour all over Europe. With these composers, the waltz gained sophistication and a distinctly light-hearted spirit.

Johann Strauss Senior had six legitimate children and five illegitimate children but it was his son, Johann Strauss the Younger (legitimate!) who claimed the title of the Waltz King. His father, however, was vehemently opposed to his son’s musical ambitions and even whipped him on one occasion when he found him playing the violin.

Yet Johann II persevered, assembling his first orchestra at the age of 19 with instant success. The headline in a Viennese paper read “Good night Lanner. Good evening Father Strauss. Good morning, Son Strauss.” From then on, the two Strauss family orchestras ran in open rivalry with each other until 1849, when the elder Strauss contracted scarlet fever from one of his illegitimate children and was found in his apartment dead, naked and abandoned by his mistress. She had taken her children and all her possessions and vanished off the face of the earth.

Johann Strauss II then combined the two orchestras and enjoyed a fabulously successful career, eventually running six orchestras simultaneously. Is there anyone who doesn’t know the Blue Danube, composed in 1867 with the claim of being the best known piece of music ever written? In 1872, Strauss was invited to America to conduct that very waltz for the colossal fee of $100,000 for 14 performances! At another concert he conducted a choir of 20,000 in front of an audience of 100,000. After a short tour, he doubled his money and returned to Europe a millionaire.

In 1863, he met Offenbach who was at the height of his fame and in Vienna for a production of Orpheus in the Underworld and he and Strauss decided to enter a competition to write the best waltz for a ball – Offenbach won! This was the spur to write something for the stage, and after a few flops, Strauss came up with one of the most perfect examples of the operetta genre – Die Fledermaus and Die Zigeunerbaron.

His flair, energy and creativity never left him and when his third wife, Adele, introduced him to Brahms, the two became close friends. Brahms’ death in 1897 left Strauss intensely depressed.

To this day, the tradition of the waltz is deeply steeped in Austria with the famous New Years’ Concert in Vienna being sold out a full year in advance.

The concert reaches not only those lucky enough to have tickets (prices range from 20-680 euros for the New Year’s Eve concert and 20-380 euros for the New Year’s Day concert) but also to over 50 countries through television broadcasts.

The concerts originated during a dark period of Austria’s history and were initially conceived for a local audience as a reminder of better times and a source of hope for the future. Today, millions of people throughout the world are similarly encouraged with the light-hearted but profound character of this music.

The history and association of the Vienna Philharmonic with Johann Strauss, Jr. goes right back to April 22, 1873 with the premiere of the waltz Wiener Blut op 354 conducted by Strauss himself with violin in hand at the Musikverein.

The work was encored and the collaboration between the ‘serious’
Philharmonic musicians and the ‘King of Waltz’ was considered a veritable sensation.

On October 14, 1894, the Philharmonic celebrated Strauss’ fiftieth conducting anniversary with the composer presenting the orchestra with a commemorative medal and telegram saying “ Warmest appreciation to the great artists of the famous Philharmonic, not only for your masterful playing, but also for the expression of your kind sentiments, which has given me great joy….Johann Strauss.”

Unfortunately, the following encounter between Strauss and the orchestra was tragic as, while he was conducting the overture to Die Fledermaus, he caught a cold which developed into pneumonia proving fatal on June 3, 1899.

It was the conductor Clemens Krauss, a great supporter of Strauss’ music who initiated the Vienna Philharmonic’s Strauss tradition with a concert on August 11, 1929 exclusively of the composer’s music. The first ‘true’ “New Year’s Concert” took place on January 1, 1941 under the baton of Krauss, who led these concerts until the end of the war. After his death in 1954, concertmaster Willi Boskovsky took over the artistic direction of the concerts for over 25 years. When in 1980, he was forced to relinquish the concerts, the Philharmonic chose Lorin Maazel and since 1986, the conductors have varied each year.

New Year’s concert conducted by Zubin Mehta will be broadcast on CyBC 2 at 12h15.

Choosing the right melodies for holiday parties

There are certain songs so magical, so enchanting, they have the power to put even the worst scrooge in a merry holiday mood.

But for every “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole or “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, there are also those dreaded songs that have the reverse effect, turning Christmas cheer into holiday jeer as soon as the first note blares from the speaker system.

“Holiday depression is caused by those barking dogs,” insists Scott Frampton, contributing music editor for O, The Oprah Magazine, referring to the semi-humorous, mostly maddening rendition of “Jingle Bells” by the Singing Dogs.

What’s irritating to one ear, however, may be intoxicating to another. If you’ve been delegated to come up with the musical mix for an office party, family gathering or blowout with friends, devising a holiday soundtrack that will leave everyone happy may seem as elusive as a Santa Claus sighting. But music aficionados say it’s doable with good planning and good taste.

“I think people start going wrong when they bring out ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ and those kind of novelty hits, because they wear on people,” says Frampton, who has more than 200 holiday music CDs and creates special-mix CDs for family and friends each year.

“They don’t look around, because they just don’t know that there is a lot of really great stuff out there that would appeal to a lot of different people.”

Indeed, for a genre that’s popular only about two months a year, the variety of holiday music is staggering, from jazz to hip-hop, from comedic to religious. This year alone, artists putting out holiday CDs include R&B songstress Faith Evans, jazz siren Diana Krall, veteran rocker Brian Wilson and country singer Ricky Skaggs.

Herb Agner, vice president of catalog marketing for EMI, which puts out several Christmas albums each year, says there are obvious songs to dust off every holiday season: “White Christmas,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Charlie Brown Christmas,” or Elvis Presley’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” are among the enduring favorites.

“Obviously people want the classics,” says Agner. “It’s part of a sense of home and staying a part of something you grew up with.”

At the same time, many people want something fresh and updated; even old-timers get a little weary hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” the umpteenth time.

Frampton suggests mixing some updated renditions from current artists with tried-and-true gems, putting a Destiny’s Child remake of “Silent Night” in the same rotation as Dean Martin’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” for example. Or adding Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” after Eartha Kitt’s campy “Santa Baby.”

But picking the right modern-day interpretation of a holiday standard can be tricky, says Ron Zellner, senior vice president of XM Satellite radio, which is adding five different channels of holiday music for the season.

“It’s sort of a Catch-22 that many artists go through when they launch a holiday album because they obviously want to sing songs that are familiar, but they run the risk of people comparing them to these icons,” he says.

Agner’s company has tried to incorporate the best of both with funky, chill-out remixes of old favorites on the new CD “Merry Mixmas.”

“You’re getting those songs and those artists that you know and love, but basically, you’re getting them as a twist, seen through a new set of eyes, and we thought that was a great way of basically having it both ways,” he says.

It’s also important to time the tempo of the evening with the music.

“If it’s a dinner party, where people are going to stay and want to talk throughout the rest of the night, you can’t go too dancey,” says Dahlia Ambach-Caplin, a Verve Records executive and producer of its “Verve Remixed” series, which give jazz classics a modern spin. “People won’t be able to hear one another.”

Frampton agrees. Think about Christmas music as you would any other music when planning the evening, he advises.

“If you were going to have a dinner party … during a salad course, would you have a bunch of rousing singalongs?”

It also might be good to add some non-holiday songs to the rotation.

“Everywhere you go during the holidays, you hear Christmas music ad nauseam,” says Ambach-Caplin. “Not everyone wants to listen to Christmas music all day all the time.”

And as on any other evening of entertaining, it’s important to know your audience and which songs will elicit a knowing smile or a grimace. Cheech & Chong’s “Santa Claus and His Old Lady” might be a riot for your friends, but raise eyebrows at an office party.

Perhaps the worst offense is repetition: As enchanting as “The Christmas Song” is, even Nat King Cole can get stale after a gazillion listens.

“That’s the biggest challenge, for people to find something that they really like that’s fresh,” says Agner. “You don’t want to be only playing ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ … Although at the right time, that song might be the perfect thing to throw into the mix.”

THIS YEAR’S HOLIDAY MUSIC ENTRIES
It’s hard to put a new spin on holiday classics like “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night.” Yet every year, several artists try, hoping their rendition may stand out from the crowd and become part of the Christmas musical canon.

A few notable albums from this year’s hopefuls:

  • Anita Baker, “Christmas Fantasy”, The husky-voiced R&B diva brings her sensual tone to classics ranging from “O Come All Ye Faithful” to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
  • Brian Wilson, “What I Really Want For Christmas”. One of the most melodic rockers takes on melodies including “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
  • Jane Monheit, “This Season”
    The jazz siren with the lush pipes covers traditional songs like “Have a Merry Little Christmas” and “This Christmas.”
  • Martha Stewart, “The Holiday Collection”
    Can she get any more overexposed? The recently freed felon, who seems to be making up for lost time with two TV talk shows and a host of new products, puts out this three-disc box set. Thankfully, she doesn’t sing. Instead, she selects the best holiday music for your soiree, from traditional pop to jazz to classical. And of course, there are recipes and tips to make your own decorations.
  • Diana Krall, “Christmas Songs”. Just the cover, which features Krall leaning back in a sexy pose, gives you an idea of the mood the album inspires. Seductive and sassy, Krall is joined here by the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
  • The LeeVees, “Hanukkah Rocks”. Plenty of humor, with tracks like “Jewish Girls (at the Matzoh Ball)” and “At the Timeshare.”
  • Various Artists, “A John Waters Christmas”
    Anyone who picks up a Christmas album with an “explicit lyrics” tag on it probably isn’t worried about offending anyone. In fact, that may be the goal. If so, this Christmas CD from director John Waters will more than deliver, with songs like “Happy Birthday Jesus,” “Santa Claus Is a Black Man,” and “Little Mary Christmas.”
  • Yourself, “U Sing It Christmas”
    Hey, why should those “American Idol” kids have all the fun? This album lets you sing Christmas classics and have an instant karaoke party. Pop it into your computer, sing and e-mail it to the universe for a laugh or to become the next Nat King Cole.

Greek New Year’s Carols

Here are the lyrics to the Greek New Year’s Carols >

In Greek > 

Ayios Vasilis erhete
Ke den mas katadehete
Apo, apo tin Kessaria.
Si sa arhon, si sa arhondissa Kiria!
Vastaei penna ke harti
Zaharokandio zimoti
Harti, harti ke kalamari
Des kai eme, des kai eme, to pallikari!

To kalamari egrafe
Ti mira tou tin elege
Ke to, ke to harti milouse
To hriso, to hriso mas kariofili!

Arhiminia ki arhihronia
Psili mou dendrolivania,
Ke arhi, ke arhi kalos mas hronos.
Eklisia, eklisia, me t’ ayio throno!

Arhi pou vgike o Hristos
Ayios ke Pnevmatikos,
Sti gi, gi na perpatisi
Ke na mas, ke na mas kalokardisi!

In English >

Saint Basil comes,
And does not acknowledge us
From Caesarea.
You are, you are the mistress of the house!

He holds a pen and paper
And leavened sweets
Paper, paper and ink.
Look at me, look at me, the brave one!

The ink wrote
And told fortunes,
And the, and the paper spoke.
Our golden, our golden clove!

It is the first day of the month and the year,
My tall rosemary,
And from, and from the beginning a good year for us.
The church, the church with the holy throne!

Christ came in the beginning,
Holy and Spiritual;
On earth, on earth he walked
To give us, to give us good cheer!

Do you love Christmas songs?

I do love Christmas songs. Anything from the traditional carols to the tacky pop numbers by Wham!, Mariah Carey and the Chipmunks.

For those of you who don’t share my enthusiasm for kitsch, Pitchfork‘s compiled a list of top new Christmas ditties you can listen to, by artists like The Killers, The Knife, Sufjan Stevens and Willie Nelson. The link to The Killers’ A Great Big Sled isn’t available in Oz so check that one out on YouTube.

You can also listen to the HypeMachine‘s great aggregate of Christmas songs by the likes of The Flaming Lips, Coldplay, The Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian, Loretta Lynn, Snow Patrol, The Beatles, Weezer, The Kinks, Otis Redding, Death Cab for Cutie, Run DMC… and, er, Oscar the Grouch and the Swedish Chef.

Beck, Chris Martin and their animal friends have also got a Christmas concert for you to watch.

For the purists, there’s always Christmas karaoke.

Enjoy! ….. and a Merry Christmas to you all!

How Christmas music was tamed

For most of us, Christmas music is bound up with that nice mixture of emotional wooziness and enjoyable aching in the throat you get at a carol service.

Nostalgia is really the keynote of much Christmas music. Bing Crosby’s White Christmas sets the tone. It’s all about harking back to a time when there was more true togetherness, and more proper snow.

But out beyond Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Bing there’s a vast treasure of Christmas music that doesn’t sound nostalgic at all. Go back to the earliest Christmas songs, and you find a lusty heartiness that lives in the moment.

The feast of Christmas was overlaid on pagan festivals celebrating the winter solstice, and in things such as the Wassail Song and the Boar’s Head Carols you can feel a pagan energy.

The Holly and the Ivy seems decorous enough now, but in the 14th century it was a danced and sung word game full of bawdy double entendres, the prickly holly was man, the twining ivy was woman. Two centuries later Henry VIII added to this repertoire with his carol Green Grow’th the Holly.

By this time there was already a millennium and a half of Christmas music in the Church, but it had no particular Christmas flavour. Come forward in time, though, and one simple “Christmassy” quality reveals itself: splendour.

This is the most joyous festival in the calendar, so it was only right that the clergy should put on their best vestments, the church should be full of candles and flowers, and the musicians should put on the best possible show.

“Splendour” at first meant towering vocal polyphony. One of the first surviving polyphonic pieces, Pérotin’s Viderunt omnes, has a Christmas text. But as you move forward into the Renaissance and Baroque, splendour means colour and contrast and drama. And that means telling the Christmas story in music, which gives lots of scope for human and picturesque touches.

In Heinrich Schütz’s Christmas Story, composed around 1660, the angel’s words are haloed in strings, the shepherds are signalled by “rustic” recorders and bassoons, the wise men have solemn trombones, and Herod is accompanied by trumpets. This is the beginning of a line of big festive pieces that leads to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah, which wasn’t written to celebrate Christmas, but was bound to be co-opted into the season’s music, given its subject matter.

So far, so predictable. But what about those Baroque instrumental pieces such as Corelli’s Christmas Concerto? What have they got to do with Christmas?

A clue is given by an old Italian custom you can still see in Rome between Christmas and New Year. Musicians in rustic dress come into the main squares to play plangent melodies on the piffero and zampogna, shawm and bagpipe.

They’re students at the Accademia, mostly, and you can see the trainers peeping out under their “shepherds” smocks. It’s a touching sound, though, and a reminder of a link between Christmas and the pastoral. In painting, it’s the three wise men with their gorgeous robes who get pride of place in nativity scenes. But it’s the shepherds who call the tune in Christmas music. Baroque composers left us hundreds of gently lilting Christmas pastorals, the most famous ones being Corelli’s and the one in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

Once the middle class takes centre stage in history, Christmas music becomes well behaved. The pastoral tone and the tipsiness disappear, apart from odd moments such as Tchaikovsky’s Second Quartet, where there’s an amusing portrayal of the Russian custom of drunken Christmas visits in costume.

Instead, we get cosily domestic Christmas music, written for instruments such as the piano and harmonium. But this isn’t yet nostalgia, the emotion is still real, and strong. If you doubt that, listen to Arnold Schoenberg’s Weihnachtsmusik.

You won’t believe that that fearsome inventor of “modern music” could have written something so exquisite and touching.

Download Your Favourite Christmas Carols Music and Songsheets

The carols are: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, In the Bleak Midwinter, O Come, all ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Once in Royal David’s City, God Rest ye Merry, Gentlemen, It Came upon the Midnight Clear, Coventry Carol and Away in a Manger.

To download the carol backing music, right-click on the button next to ‘download,’ choose ‘Save target as …’ and save the sound file to your computer.

The Christmas album of your dreams > 25 songs to fill a CD

It’s Christmastime. Time to release a holiday album, that is. This season’s list includes such easy-listening choices as James Taylor at Christmas and Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong, the big hit of the bunch, as well as convivial outings from out-of-the-blue sources such as hair-metal band Twisted Sister, Parliament funkateer Bootsy Collins, and rapper Jim Jones.

The song list that follows fills up one CD with recommended revelries. All songs are either brand-new or chestnuts available on 2006 reissues. Everything’s available on iTunes, except where noted.

1.”The Winter Solstice,” Sufjan Stevens. Evocative instrumental from the wunderkind behind the 50 States project comes from Songs for Christmas (Asthmatic Kitty), a budget-priced, five-CD, 35-song box that’s this year’s stocking-stuffer standout.

2.”White Christmas,” Bing Crosby. Der Bingle, arranged by Nelson Riddle, off Christmas Classics (Capitol).

3. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” Dean Martin. One suspects that a hot toddy also helped the effortless crooner heat up. From Christmas With the Rat Pack (Capitol).

4. “A Great Big Sled,” The Killers. Over-the-top Las Vegans climb aboard with Santa for this iTunes single. Proceeds go to Bono’s RED campaign to fight disease in Africa.

5. “Winter Wonderland,” Aretha Franklin. Vintage ‘Retha, available on the inevitable Rachael Ray’s How Cool Is That Christmas (Sony).

6. “Up on the Housetop,” Jackson 5. Preadolescent Michael leads his brothers in pleading their case with Saint Nick. On the hit-or-miss Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Vol. 3 (Strategic Marketing).

7. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” James Taylor. Sweet Baby James does justice to the bittersweet classic, from James Taylor at Christmas (Columbia).

8. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Ellis Marsalis. Crescent City jazz patriarch tickles the ivories on this jaunty instrumental. From New Orleans Christmas (Putomayo).

9. “Santa’s Second Line,” New Birth Brass Band. Kris Kringle gets Big Easy funeral party treatment. Also from New Orleans Christmas.

10. “Wish List,” Jim Jones. Harlem rapper brings the real, wonders if it’s “the proper way to spend the holidays / Locked down upstate a hundred miles away?” From A Dipset Christmas (Koch).

11.”Merry Christmas Baby,” Bootsy Collins. The P-Funk bass man has a funkalicious way with Charles Brown’s classic. “I haven’t had a drink this morning / But I’m all lit up like a Christmas tree.” From the delectable Christmas Is 4 Ever (Shout Factory).

12. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” Twisted Sister. Dee Snider brings heavy metal thunder on A Twisted Christmas (Razor & Tie). Amusing in small doses.

13. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” Wynonna Judd. Country belter plays it straight on the solid A Classic Christmas (Curb).

14. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Rhonda Vincent. Brenda Lee goes bluegrass. From Beautiful Star: A Christmas Collection (Rounder).

15. “Jingle Bells,” Brad Paisley. Underrated axman cuts loose on honky-tonk instrumental, from the top-notch Brad Paisley’s Christmas (Arista).

16. “Christmas All Over the World,” Sammy Davis Jr. Holiday kitsch, with a multilingual children’s chorus. From Christmas With the Rat Pack.

17. “(It’s Good to Be) A Jew at Christmas,” Good for the Jews. “It’s clear we’re the chosen ones / We get eight nights, you only get one.” Humorous duo play the Tin Angel tonight. www.myspace.com/goodforthejews.

18. “Christmas Morning,” Loudon Wainwright III. Rufus’ dad takes a contemplative look around at a world where “there is sand, there are camels, but where are the wise men?” From Midwinter, an estimable four-CD set on the British Free Reed label.

19. “Cool Yule,” Bette Midler. The Divine Miss M sashays through Steve Allen-penned big-band title cut of her seasonal CD (Columbia).

20. “River,” Sarah McLachlan. Sorrowful thrush expresses disconsolate solidarity with fellow Canuck composer Joni Mitchell. On Wintersong (Arista).

21. “Christmas Light,” the dBs. Indie-rock heroes return with an expanded version of the 1986 holiday gem, Christmas Time Again (Collector’s Choice).

22. “Christmastime,” Aimee Mann. Adult alternative heroine sings hubby Michael Penn’s song, from the predictably melancholy and pleasurable One More Drifter in the Snow (Superego).

23. “Get Behind Me, Santa!” Sufjan Stevens. A horn-happy, hand-clapping play on the satanic title of the last White Stripes album spreads good cheer.

24. “I Believe,” Frank Sinatra. The Chairman keeps the faith, swings hard. From Christmas With the Rat Pack.

25. “My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year),” Peggy Lee. No Auld Land Syne, please. Fond wishes for a healthy and happy 2007, from Christmas With Peggy Lee (Capitol).

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