Category Archives: Christmas

Yulemixed Messages: Announcing Side A of my 2019 yulemix, Let’s Talk About Christmas!

It’s quarter ‘til eight p.m. Eastern on Thanksgiving Day, so let’s talk turkey: The first side of the fourteenth mighty installment in my indefatigable Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series is now available to provide a seasonal, tuneful, treacle-free, and generally baffling soundtrack to your Record Store Day cratedigging and any attendant treetrimming and/or halldecking. I believe this is the earliest in the season I’ve ever dropped one of these, and I expect you, the listener, to give your own merrymaking operations a commensurate boost.

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The Great Work Concludes: Side D of Blue Wave Christmas Hath Dropped

Here’s a rainy New Year’s Eve bonus for you, merrymakers: Side D of Blue Wave Christmas, the yule-mitzvah edition of my longstanding Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series, has arrived, marking the conclusion of the most ambitious mixtape I’ve yet made. It’s long on merriment, long on obscurity, and long on length. That’s why I had to serve it to you incrementally. With this vestigal-tail chapter, some of the familiar voices from prior iterations have returned after mostly keeping mum so far this year. There are by my reckoning at least seven days of Christmas remaining, so I’ll leave you to it. You can find all four sides on this page. I wish for all of us a better 2019.

B-Boys & B-Sides: Presenting (the first quarter of) my Lucky 13th Yulemix, Blue Wave Christmas

Have mercy! This is just getting ridiculous now. For the lucky thirteenth iteration of my Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series, I thought that instead of releasing it in two indefensibly long parts, as had been my habit since I stopped burning and printing physical CDs of this thing—a nice bauble to thrust into some unsuspecting person’s hand, but expensive—I thought I would do a sort of podcast limited series of four episodes, released weekly, counting down to the Feast of Christmas. Because four is more than two—one hundred percent more, from a numerical perspective. And I believe in always giving one hundred percent, Christmaswise. 

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Yulemixed Messages: Presenting (the first half of) My 12th Annual Christmas Mixtape, Noel Means Noel

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I started making these goofy holiday-themed mixtapes in 2006, inspired by the yule-mixologist Andy Cirzan‘s annual appearances on the great WBEZ radio show and podcast Sound Opinions. I was honored to interview Andy for a Washington Post piece about my mixtape several years later, and to appear with him on a Minnesota Public Radio segment that I’m glad to tell you did not involve Garrison Keillor in any way.

So I’ve been collecting and compiling weird old Christmas-themed recordings for a long time now, but I didn’t buy a turntable until the latter part of 2016. I’d refused to even entertain the possibility of joining the vinyl resurgence, because I knew my discipline would crumble and I’d feel compelled to drain my banking account re-buying dozens of my favorite albums in the most expensive, space-consuming, fragile, and heavy music-distribution format ever conceived, with the possible exception of the wax cylinder. Which is exactly what happened. I have four working turntables in my apartment at this moment. Four. If I had any reasonable estimate of how many LPs there are, I would be too embarrassed to share that number with you.
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Yulemix 2016, The Christmas Hack, has already breached your unsecured server. Submit and make merry.

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Good news! I’ve overcome my profound Electoral Affective Disorder to assemble yet another mood-elevating, hall-decking, merry-making Christmas mixtape. This one—my eleventh, for all you completists—kicks off with Charley Pride, one of only three African-American artists in history to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and it only gets funkier and more festive from there. Continue reading

Hark! The Christmas Force Awakens Is Now Fully Armed and Operational

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Side B of my 2015 yulemix, The Christmas Force Awakens — Yuletunes Eclectice & Inexplicable Perfect X: Final Sequence, is posted. (Both sides are posted together on this page.)

There are always a couple of outtakes, but this one had more than a few. Cutting the mashup of The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” and Chrissie Hynde’s controversial October 2015 Morning Edition interview about her new memoir was a hard call, but the right one. Cutting the mashup of John Williams “Imperial Death March” from The Empire Strikes Back and “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” from The Nutcracker was probably insane; we’ll never see this level of Star Wars fever again in my lifetime. The others may surface if I can summon the resolve to do this for an eleventh time.

May your days be shiny and chrome, and may the Christmas Force be with you. Merry Christmas.

Hark! The Christmas Force Awakens is now streamable for your hall-decking merriment.

2015-booklet-outsideHark! The tenth installment in my indefatigable Christmas mixtape series, entitled The Force Awakens — Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable Perfect X: Final Sequence, is upon us. Side A is, anyway. Side B shall appear like the clanky ghost of Jacob Marley upon Ebeneezer Scrooge’s doorstep in one week’s time.

In the unlucky event your computer or personal electronic device is not equipped with a tape deck, you can stream Side A below. May your days be shiny and chrome, and may the Christmas Force be with you. Continue reading

Presenting my 2014 yulemix, The Yule Analog, compiled with respect and affection for you, the listener.

2014-frontOoooooh, D’Angelo just returned from exile with a surprise album dropped online in the back half of December! Big deal; I too do situps, sometimes, and I too have released a surprise December album. It’s my ninth surprise album in nine consecutive Decembers. Kindly react with due awe.

One thing remains as apparent as ever: I am obsessed with old shit. The Yule Analog – Vol. 9 in my apparently unkillable Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series, subtitled Cowboy Santa Claus – is imbued with the music and radio and pop culture of the 1940s through the 1970s. The last song I chose – a song I loved the first time I heard it on KCRW in 2001 and then forgot about for years until I heard John Hodgman play it at Aimee Mann’s Christmas show at The Birchmere last night – is just barely from the current century. My mixtape makes a few reluctant sops to the present day, but only a few. I am The Ghost of Christmas Long, Long Past.

Particularly the 1960s. I’ve made a mixtape every Christmas since 2006, the year James Brown, of James Brown’s Funky Christmas fame, hit it and quit it forever on Christmas day. The 2009, 20102011, 2012 and 2013 editions all remain available for your streaming, hall-decking, merry-making pleasure. (Vols. 1-3, are all, I’m relieved afraid, out of print.)

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I know I say this every year, but I really tried hard to keep this one tighter than the last several so that each half would fit on one side of a Maxell XL II High Bias 100-minute cassette. If your computer does not have a tape deck but you would still like to have your own play-anywhere copy, just ask me. Continue reading

Let’s Do the Numbers! Talkin’ Yuletunes on Marketplace

My face betrays the intense concentration required to form sentences in real time.

My face betrays the intense concentration required to form sentences in real time.

I’m not allowed to post the video of my Dec. 10 appearance on CNN‘s The Lead with Jake Tapper, (here’s its blog accompaniment) and I don’t have a photo from my appearance on Marketplace yesterday. So here’s a screen cap from the CNN bit and a link to the Marketplace segment, wherein host Kai Ryssdal asks me a question for which I am completely unprepared.

Is there hope for a new classic Christmas song? | Marketplace.org. Continue reading

Talkin’ Yulejams on Word of Mouth

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Thanks to Virgina Prescott and Word of Mouth for having me back on yesterday to talk about the dearth of new Christmas songs and make a few recommendations of less-familiar old ones. They were awfully nice about it when the battery in the borrowed phone I was using died mid-interview.

You can listen to the segment here.

Talking Christmas Songs on HuffPost Live

Klimek on HuffPost Live 2013-12-17The impromptu talking tour that has grown, to my surprise, out of my Slate piece from last week asking why it’s been a generation since we admitted any new songs to the Christmas pop canon, marches on.  I was on HuffPost Live earlier today for about 20 minutes, part of a webcam panel hosted by Nancy Redd that included Huffington Post social media fellow Ryan Kristobak and — this was exciting — Walter Afanasieff, the man who co-wrote “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with Mariah Carey.

The video doesn’t seem to be embeddable, but you can watch the segment here. You’ll see my head bobbing around distractingly — useful in boxing, less so in on-camera interviews. You’ll also get a nice look at my girlfriend’s mom’s spoon collection in the background. Continue reading

Presenting my 2013 yulemix, Children, Go Where I Send Thee!

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Annotated track list TK, but like James Brown says early in the set, Don’t Be Hungry — the latest and longest installment in my Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series is live for your hall-decking pleasure now right here.

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Last Christmas? Wherein I Wonder Where the New Christmas Songs At

Remember Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron‘s brilliant dystopian sci-fi movie about a worldwide pandemic of absolute infertility, wherein the youngest person on Earth is 19 years old?

Well, the youngest Christmas song to be promoted the rarefied rank of a standard — Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — turns 19 this year. If you think Hollywood has a remake problem, take a look at the holiday charts on Billboard or iTunes. Our pop stars still write new Christmas songs, but we’re not embracing them.

In a new essay for Slate, I scratch my chin over when and how the secular seasonal songbook, a living document until a couple a decades ago, came to be locked down tighter than Santa’s workshop.

On the radio with Andy Cirzan!

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On Friday I had the honor of doing 35 minutes of live radio with Andy Cirzan, the great archeologist of obscure holiday records who provided much of the inspiration for my own Yule-Tunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series. (I interviewed Andy a month ago for an essay about my mixtape project that ran in the Washington Post just after Thanksgiving.)

Anyway, Minnesota Public Radio’s The Daily Circuit invited us both on to talk about our mixtapes and recommend some yulejams that haven’t been played to death. I was afraid no one would be in the mood for this silliness when I realized our segment would follow an hour of reaction to the NRA’s spectacularly tone-deaf press conference about the Newton, Conn. school shootings, which the station had carried live a little over an hour before we went on. But I thought the segment turned out well. I had a great time.

You can listen to the whole segment here.  Should it happen to pique your curiosity, my 2009-2012 yulemixes are on the upper periphery of your frame of vision, on the Musics of Christmas page of this site. You can grab Andy’s 2012 mixtape, Santa Soul, from Sound Opinions.

Happy holidays, everybody!

Yulemix 2012, Drop’d! It’s time to Stay Hungry to Feed the World

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I don’t have a Christmas tree in my apartment yet. My friends haven’t seen me in weeks. My editors are all ready to fire me. I’ve been avoiding mirrors, but I assume I look like Ted Kaczynski.

It’s all for a noble cause: Every November & early December I fall into a four-to-six week time warp attempting to create the funniest and most reverent, most entertaining and most beguiling Christmas mixtape possible. (You may have read the essay I wrote about this project recently in the Washington Post. If you haven’t, please do.)

It is my great pleasure to unveil now for your hall-decking enjoyment entry No. 007 in my  Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the future of Christmas merry-making enforcement, Stay Hungry to Feed the World.  In keeping with the perpetually inflating ethos of this project, it’s the longest one yet. When it comes to Christmas, less is less. And more? Is just the most. (Hear the mix after the jump.) Continue reading

Twelve Songs of Christmas

I was asked to provide a sidebar for my Washington Post essay (in today’s Sunday Style insert, with Helen Mirren on the cover, which actually came out Friday) about making my annual yulemix. We didn’t have room for my brief rationales for choosing the Twelve Songs of Christmas that I did, so I’m posting it here. Bow your heads and tremble before Twelve Songs of Christmas!

(Not the twelve songs, as if there could be such a thing. Merely a dozen yule-sides that ring my Christmas bell, presented chronologically.)

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What Justice Stewart Said About Christmas

My essay about making my Christmas mixtape is in the Style section of today’s Washington Post, the pullout section with Helen Mirren on the cover. I was surprised how difficult I found it to write about this silly little project that’s come to claim so many tens hundreds of hours of my time and moxie every fall. Continue reading

This Damn List Gets Longer Every Year

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Time was, I allowed myself one Christmas-album purchase per year. In 2003, it was the immortal James Brown’s Funky Christmas, or the latest “Millenium Collection” compilation containing its key tracks (“Go Power at Christmas Time,” “Soulful Christmas Tree,” “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto”). In 2005, it was Christmas with Johnny Cash, which is an innumerable reissue of previously-released material, too. 2006’s big splurge was Sufjan Stevens’ set of five Christmas EPs, a purchase that continues to pay rich dividends. (But I might have bought A Jolly Christmas with Frank Sinatra that year, too.)

2006 saw the first of my annual Christmas compilations, which are probably the reason things are just really geting out of hand now, with me buying different compilations by the same artists, for crying out loud.  I’m way over $50 since this year’s CD, Santa Claus and Popcorn, was finished:

Julian Koster, The Singing Saw at Christmastime
Various Artists, Savoy Christmas Blues (for my mom, ostensibly)
Frank Sinatra, The Christmas Collection (ditto; and I’ve already bought The Chairman’s Jolly Christmas, but Grant-Lee Phillips sang “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” at Aimee Mann’s Christmas show this year, and I had to go after that one )
Various Artists, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
Various Artists, Ultimate Christmas Cocktails

Let’s not even talk about the individual-track purchases, or the tunes obtained via torrent. I must be stopped.

Because Christmas Is a Dish Best Served Weird…

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Santa Claus and Popcorn, the third in my annual (so far) series of radio Christmas cards featuring yule-tunes eclectic and inexplicable (TM), is now sliding its merry way down chimneys around the globe.

Rufus Wainwrong

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Well, not wrong, maybe; just not not a performance to convert anyone who wasn’t already a robe-wearing member of the Cult of Rufus. Miss Crooks loves him unconditionally, but even she had to admit that an all-standing venue was not the place for him to be playing a sleepy show like this.

The Paper of Record held my review for two days, perhaps (and if so, rightly so) to make room for Richard Harrington’s eulogy for Oscar Peterson that ran Christmas Day, so this didn’t see print until the Wednesday after this Friday-night concert.