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.
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I’d say it was the Pop Culture Happy Hour episode for which I’ve been training my entire life, except we just did the Die Hard episode. Anyway, I was glad to be part of the elite panel of holiday song-pickers summoned to the National Public Radio today to argue which Christmas song is the Muhammad Ali Greatest of All Time yulejam, and which one is our individual favorite at this particular moment. The stakes in the latter instance are lower, but that only complicates the emotional work of choosing, because the shackles of convention are all the way off!
It says something about the company I was in—PCHH regular Stephen Thompson, plus two very smart NPR Music staffers, Lyndsey McKenna and Marissa Lorusso—that my selections were somehow the most uptempo of the lot. (They’re all lovely people, whose affection for mopey holiday songs is one I very much share. Click on “Christmas Mixtapes,” above, for years and years of evidence.)
Had this episode been recorded at an earlier or later hour of the day, I might’ve stanned for James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” or “Christmas Love” by Rotary Connection or The Killers' "Great Big Sled" or even the ‘87 U2 version of Darlene Love’s classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” But I chose to stump for the lead track off Blue Wave Christmas, the latest ineffable installment in my generally somewhat effable Yuletunes Eclectic and Inexplicable series. (See here, you.) There’s no promotion like self-promotion. Ebeneezer Scrooge had to learn that the hard way. I don’t know what that means, but if you say it out loud with the inflections in the right places, it sounds like it means something.
FURTHER READING: Since Marissa chose “All I Want For Christmas Is You” as her all-timer, perhaps you’d like to revisit my five-year-old Slate piece trying to puzzle out why this song, from 1994, is the most recent entry to be admitted to the perennial holiday songbook. Or my six-year-old Washington Post story about sad-sack seasonal sounds.
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.
So this is merely the first twenty-five percent, right here. And I daresay this is the most eclectic Yuletunes Eclectic entry yet. Do they know it’s Christmastime at all? Do you? Is Santa a B-Boy or a B-Man? Sure, you’ve heard Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”; that’s entry level. But have you heard the flip? These are cuts so deep they’ll give the bends, and yet so Prime that Jeff Bezos would be delivering them to you with free two-day shipping if I hadn’t already dropped ’em on ya instantaneous.
Strap in. Turn on. Light up. Get down. Because to paraphrase Ben Grimm, it’s hall-deckin’ time. Again!
I'm exhausted, but this thing is finally finished.
Yulemixed Messages: Presenting (the first half of) My 12th Annual Christmas Mixtape, Noel Means Noel
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.Read More
Side B of my 2015 yulemix, The Christmas Force Awakens — Yuletunes Eclectice & Inexplicable Perfect X: Final Sequence, is posted below!
I might’ve cheated a little to make Side B fit a 55-minute cassette side. There are always a few outtakes, but this one had more than a few. Cutting the mashup of The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” and Chrissie Hynde’s controversial Morning Edition interview from two months back about her new memoir was a hard call, but the right one. 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.Read More
Hark! 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 the Christmas Force be with you.Read More
Presenting my 2014 yulemix, The Yule Analog, compiled with respect and affection for you, the listener.
Ooooooh, D'Angelo just returned from exile with a surprise album dropped online in the back half of December! Big deal; I do that every year. This one, The Yule Analog, is my first release in twelve months. 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.Read More