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.
But it’s certainly opened up the possibilities for my yulemix, which is why this year’s installment, Noel Means Noel, is probably the one with the highest percentage of songs and other ephemera I can confidently say you’ve not heard before. From singin’ canuck Wilf Carter’s “Christmastime in Canada” to soul crooner Marvin Sease’s “Do It Tonight (Christmas Version)” to obscure Americana exponent Bruce Springsteen’s musings on the existential properties of snow, this is one wackadoo sleighride.. And that’s just the first side. I hope you dig it.
Please forgive the fluctuations in volume, which I’ve done everything I can think of to try to correct, and the overall variation of sound quality in different segments. It’s tough to make music recorded 50 or 60 or even just 30 years ago sound good next to material optimized for iPhones.
Fortunately, there’s not too much of that. My yulemix is nothing if not aesthetically retrograde!
FURTHER READING: My sadly-still-relevant Slate piece from 2013 pondering why it’s been a full generation since we admitted a new song into the classic yule-pop canon.