Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 10 Christmas Songs

I love Christmas because it's a moment of brightness during the darkest time of the year. The message of peace in a tumultuous world is particularly resonant now. Plus I happen to love sad music. Naturally, my top Christmas songs are mostly dark, minor numbers with hopeful lyrics. I hope you enjoy.

10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan were recorded singing this song impromptu, and mixed it with We Three Kings. Probably the cheeriest song on this list:

9. Carol of the Bells
You may remember this carol from Home Alone, or perhaps you've heard The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's fantastic instrumental version. I'm a big fan of this a capella rendition, which has a nontraditional beginning and then lets the innate epicness of the original take over:

8. River
I will admit Neal introduced me to this one only today, and it was the impetus for this post. Love her voice, love the longing, relate to Christmas in L.A.:

7. Song for a Winter's Night
Gordon Lightfoot crafted a beautiful winter song, and Sarah McLachlan covered it in dense harmonies and sad accompaniment. Simply gorgeous:

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Nobody sings this like Judy Garland. The sadness and the hope:

5. The Coventry Carol
This song from the 1500's is seriously about the mothers of all the other children massacred by Herod at Christmas time. It's haunting, and I've always loved it. Sufjan Stevens does a folksy, intoxicating, and even strange version, which, is that a theremin? Outer space. Love this:

4. O Come O Come Emanuel
Another very old song. This one was translated from Latin. This arrangement uses the piano and the violin and some sort of thundery sound to perfectly capture what it is about this song that I love:

3. Flight 180
The lyrics to this song make it one of my favorite songs no matter what time of year. Set on a flight returning to New York, and brilliantly musing on love and and its relevance in a world of darkness and distance:

2. What Child is This
The tune is Greensleeves, and the words were penned in 1865. Kristin Chenoweth really has one of my favorite voices:

1. O Holy Night
The consummate Christmas carol, sung by the world's best choir. I love the harmonies on this song, and it is my number one for the second verse: "Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease." Check it out: