Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Record Store Day (RSD) has become an audiophile’s Christmas since its inception in 2008, celebrating independently owned record stores with exclusive titles and limited-edition releases from everyone from The Beatles to Arcade Fire.
The premise is bizarre: The awesomely acronymed BRO decided to reinterpret songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” in modern music genres, like Motown, prog rock, R&B, country, funk and more. Many of these tunes are original music creations with the lyrics and occasional melodies from the source material.
But the biggest head trip here is “Do-Re-Mi / ABC,” which jams the lyrics and melody of the iconic song inside The Jackson Five’s “ABC.” I can’t even explain how disorienting and incredible the mash-up is, because it’s perfect. It sounds as if Michael Jackson wrote “Do-Re-Mi” and “ABC” as one song. (Hear it below.)
It helps that BRO is comprised of amazing musicians and vocalists who make all of the many genres here sound authentic instead of cheesy. The mad jazz skronk of “I Have Confidence” sounds as legitimate as the high lonesome country of “Edelweiss on High.” Even smooth R&B, that hardest of genres to appropriate effectively, sounds revelatory when it’s paired with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” The fact that a rap about Martin Luther King Jr. is dropped in only ups the ante.
Songs familiar and unfamiliar get their due here, with “Maria” turned into a slow-jam duet ballad, and “The Lonely Goatherd” transformed into a Queen-esque classic rock track, complete with gospel choir.
I fall in the middle camp; I marvel at this release, but don’t anticipate putting it in heavy rotation. But for those in love with musicals (or just “The Sound of Music”), re-appropriated tunes or WTF head trips, this may take up a permanent place in your heart and stereo. Get it March 8. —Stephen Carradini