Editor's Note: WPRK DJ Phantom Third Channel has kindly provided us with a list of essential and emotional holiday listening if you want to avoid the usual carols. You can hear Phantom Third Channel every Sunday evening/Monday morning at midnight on the Bargain Bin Bonanza show airing on WPRK 91.5 FM.
Christmas time is difficult. A year's worth of psychic energy tied into a sliver lined bow, wrapped up and packaged, ready to be opened and played with like a child's toy. An emotional hard reset in preparation for the softer calendar flip of the new year; an emotional exorcism in preparation for a rebirth. The highest of high masses; steeped with ritual, rich in symbology , and filled with song. We all sing our own personal hymns. I would like to suggest a couple of mine.
Neko Case - "Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis"
With the stillness of a midwinter evening, this reverent cover of the Tom Waits classic encapsulates the very definition of confessional. Honest and vulnerable, made even more intimate by Case's unfussy voice, it evokes the multicolored shadows cast by that lonesome tree in every darkened living room after all the noise and motion of Christmas morning has ebbed to the contentment of a day showered in celebration. Or maybe it's just that last glass of eggnog whispering in my head.
The Pogues - "Fairytale Of New York"
Christmas and nostalgia are the Martin and Lewis of holidays. A bit drunk, a bit annoying, a bit funny; but comforting in its familiar predictability. The Pouges understand the pull of these comforts, easing into the mood with one of the most hummable intros that even the drunkest uncle can stumble through. But then they let your sassy and sharp-tongued aunt snap everyone back to reality with the undoctored story. There is joy, there is drama, there are ringing bells ... and the boys in the NYPD Choir are still singing ... so happy Christmas, I Love you Baby ...
John Prine - "Christmas In Prison"
Like the most exquisite handmade gift: simple, unadorned, sincere. A song that should literally drip with sappy melancholy reveals itself to be a hymn of contentment. A poem of plainspeak in which we are imbued with a sense of the mundane's perfect intricacies. Everything is as it should be, everything is in its proper place, even if that place is prison. "Come to me, run to me, come to me now/ We're rolling my sweetheart/ We're flowing, by God."
Low - "Just Like Christmas"
Concretely Christmas is a day, a date on the calandar, December 25, but we are all aware that it is indeed far more authentically described as a mood. A general ambiance, a dreamlike fugue state, an emotional memory of safety and peace. Stalwart Duluthians Low trigger all of the above, from the sensory clues of actual sleighbells and a droning church organ to the simple melody, they evoke the childlike awe of the season.
Band Aid - "Feed The World"
Big, brash, with a huge commercial jingle hook. Everything disgusting about the consumer culture of Christmas. The B-side to the infamous "Do They Know It's Christmas" is a Star Hit's who's who of English pop stars fulfilling every teen dream christmas card. It's even cheeky enough to take a bit of the piss out of Sir Paul McCartney. Meanwhile, like most of the clever pop emanating from the UK at the time, it subtly slips in a succinct political message ... simple and effective sloganeering ... educating while entertaining ... Feed The World ... Feed the People ... Stay Alive.