I should begin by saying that I feel traumatized by Christmas music. It’s all due to a former coworker, who shall remain unnamed because, well, I can’t remember her name. I’m trying to block out my wasted years in corporate America. Anyway, she sat in the cube across from mine and she started with the Christmas music around Halloween and didn’t stop until after New Years. And I’m not just talking Christmas music in general. I’m talking the Charlie Brown Christmas album. Over and over and over and over again, right up until the point where I was searching for the Necronomicon and looking for ways to get great Cthulhu to rise from his watery kingdom at R’lyeh and consume us all because that is just how badly I wanted to end it all.
There are a few songs that I think of as winter anthems that tend to get me through the holidays in one piece, though. They’re not necessarily Christmas songs or holiday songs or even any particular sort of song, but they make me think of barren branches and snow and all things seasonal, so what the hell. Here, have some music.
Jeffrey Foucault, “Ghost Repeater”
All of the drunks
Dressed up like Santa Claus
Ring Salvation Army bells
But the town square is quiet
The juke joints are empty
What no one can sell
I don’t think that Jeffrey Foucault has ever once in his life sung something that wasn’t heartbreakingly beautiful, and I’ve long admired him for the remarkable poetry of his lyrics. Listening to his music is like watching a movie in your head (if you’re me, anyway), complete with mind-blowing cinematography. His clear contender for holiday song of the century is “Ghost Repeater,” and you can even download the mp3 for free from his website because he is. Just. That. Awesome.
Aside from some gorgeous Christmas-meets-the-death-of-the-American-dream sort of imagery, this song also contains one of my favorite pieces in the history of songwriting: “The wages of sin / Don’t adjust for inflation / It’s a buyer’s market / When you sell your soul”. I love this song. I love this album. I love Jeffrey Foucault, particularly when he’s saving me from the doldrums of holiday music. But I’m going to stop nattering on now and let you listen… here’s a live recording of Foucault performing this particular song with the accompaniment of the great Peter Mulvey:
Figgy Duff, “Henry Martin”
There were three brothers in merry Scotland,
In merry Scotland there were three
And they did cast lots which of them should go, should go, should go,
And turn robber all on the salt sea
I will be the first to admit to you that my holiday rituals are extremely geeky holiday rituals. Sure, I like the standard stuff like Christmas trees and lights and the whole bit, but what really sets the mood for the season in my book is the Doctor Who Christmas special and my own private screening of every Christmas-themed episode of Due South. Which is why this little ditty about privateers and tallship battles is a holiday anthem in my house — it’s from the awesome Due South Christmas episode “Gift of the Wheelman“. Plus, it’s just lovely. It’s not what you’d call a terribly cheerful song, but I’m pretty sure I was emotionally damaged in fourth grade, when the two songs we had to sing in class every day were 1) about a kid’s parrot dying (he’ll no longer sing koo-koo-dee koo-koo-da, for serious) and 2) about the Titanic sinking and how totally sad that was. (It was sad — so sad! — it was sad — so sad! — it was sad when the great ship went down.) So you know… I kind of prefer my music twisted. And my holidays. And kind of everything else, really. *Cough* So uh, here’s a song.
The Pogues, “Fairytale of New York”
It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
This list just wouldn’t be complete — but it would contain much cleaner language — without The Pogues. Personally, I don’t consider it to be Christmas until I’ve listened to “Fairytale of New York” at least a half dozen times.
Laura Veirs, “Icebound Stream”
I can hold a thunderhead in my heart
And in my bed I can dream a winter’s gale
And wake up drenched
A stormy pale, a stormy pale
Okay look, I don’t want to completely geek out on you and like blow your mind or something, but I’m not really kidding when I say that the theme of the season for me is Due South, which is why this song (and specifically this video) is my final winter pick. The Due South two-parter “Victoria’s Secret” is one of the finest pieces of television produced in EVER, as far as I’m concerned, and this fanvid for the episode set to Laura Veirs’ “Icebound Stream” is one of the best works of fan creativity I’ve ever seen, too. I’ve actually watched it so many times that when the song comes on my MP3 player the vid starts to play in full color in my brains. It kind of takes all the emotional points of the episode and distills them into a steely ice pick which it then jams right into your heart. It is just that amazing. DO NOT JUDGE ME. Instead, go buy Due South on DVD — it’s less than $20 for the complete three seasons, and it is well worth the money, not to mention it makes a super gift — and then you too can do a Due South holiday marathon! It’s much better than singing Christmas carols with your aunt Bertha or whatever it is you usually do.