Max Wastler’s New Christmas, 2017
Max Wastler’s New Christmas, 2017 on Spotify and Apple Music.
In some ways, it was no different than it had been in years past. It started the day after I shared last year’s mix. I heard this haunting version of “Greensleeves,” my favorite Christmas song, performed by Coleman Hawkins.
And so I began “Christmas 2017,” a playlist I kept private, adding songs as I encountered them throughout the year. But something happened this year. Christmas stayed with me nearly every week, certainly every month, and as if on purpose, coaxing and coaching me through the year, and by November, the mix had grown to over 120 hours of holiday music I’d never heard before. This year — perhaps too revealingly — was filled with bluesy, melancholic tales of lonely Christmases, songs with yo-yo emotions like Chuck Berry’s “Spending Christmas” where he laments, “Many people are so cheerful, and some are alone and blue. / What would make my Christmas happy if I could have it all alone with you” (First heard on March 18, 2017, the day of his death).
There were brighter spots too, and you’ll hear a little medley of upbeat hipster tunes as a merciful coda to all that crooning over wah-wah pedals. Two standouts that are brand new this year: Amy Stroup’s “Holiday Ease” (discovered 12/01) and Sia’s “Snowman” (discovered 11/24), the latter of which pleads if somewhat ridiculously, “Don’t cry, snowman. Don’t you shed a tear. / Who’ll hear my secrets if you don’t have ears, baby? / If you don’t have ears, baby?”
Maybe you’re someone who wishes you didn’t have ears for Christmas music until after the last of the leftover turkey has been digested, or maybe you’re built like me: endlessly hopeful and brimming every day of the year with the wide-eyed optimism that’s typically bound to this season. Maybe it overflows in such waves that this year, despite the conspiring of the world around you, that spirit of Christmas was boundless, and everyday was like a holiday. Wherever you are, I hope you find tunes to suit your mood, and here’s hoping that maybe this year will be better than the last.
As a post-script, note these are tunes that haven’t made it onto a mix of mine in the past. If you still have a hankering for more, I recommend this albeit preposterous six-and-a-half hour mix filled with the tunes I actually couldn’t get enough of this year.
1) Coleman Hawkins – Greensleeves
2) Stanley Jordan – Silent Night
3) Charles Bradley – Everyday Is Christmas (When I’m Lovin’ You)
4) Chuck Berry – Spending Christmas
5) Chuck Berry – Christmas
6) Roosevelt Sykes – Winter Time Blues
7) Lightnin’ Hopkins – Santa
8) The O’Jays – Christmas Ain’t Christmas, New Year’s Ain’t New Year’s Without the One You Love
9) Canned Heat – Christmas Blues
10) Elvis Presley – Santa Claus Is Back In Town
11) Brook Benton – Soul Santa
12) Brook Benton – This Time of Year
13) Victoria Spively – I Ain’t Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus
14) Carla Thomas – All I Want For Christmas
15) Albert King – Christmas Comes But Once A Year
16) B.B. King – Christmas Celebration
17) Clarence Clemons – The Christmas Song
18) Mickey Champion – Gonna Have a Merry Xmas
19) James Brown – Merry Christmas My Baby And A Very, Very Happy New Year
20) James Brown – Christmas Is Love
21) Jimmy Liggins and His Drops of Love – I Want My Baby For Christmas
22) Roy Milton – Christmas Time Blues
23) Bessie Smith – At the Christmas Ball
24) Solomon Burke – Presents for Christmas
25) Gatemouth Moore – Gate’s Christmas Blues
26) King Curtis – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
27) Sonny Boy Williamson – Christmas Morning Blues
28) The Universal Orchestra – Christmas Spirit
29) Felix Gross – Love for Christmas
30) The Moonglows – Hey Santa Claus
31) Charles Brown – Christmas With No One To Love
32) St. Vincent – Happy Birthday, Johnny
33) Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson – Winter Song
34) Sia – Snowman
35) Sam Smith – River
36) Amy Stroup – Holiday Easse
37) Kelly Clarkson – Christmas Eve
38) Justin Jones – Christmas Night
39) Opus Orange – A Long December