Once the calendar turns to December, we’re all barraged by an onslaught of Christmas music. It blasts out of store speakers, dominates the month’s concert calendar and gets whole radio stations to itself. If you’re looking to liven up your holiday playlists, why not do so with festive music produced by some of Washington state’s best artists? Here are a few Evergreen State classics and plenty of excellent hidden gem albums that might be missing from your life.
I feel like I might get kicked out of Spokane if I don’t start with this one. The city’s most famed musical son is also the king of Christmas music. Did you realize Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” isn’t just the biggest Christmas song ever, it’s literally the top-selling single of all-time (50+ million copies)? Merry Christmas is chock-full of the crooner’s seasonal classics.
One Christmas at a Time
Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick
While Bing might be king, One Christmas at a Time is actually my favorite Christmas record. The Long Winters’ frontman Roderick teams up with nerdy singer-songwriter Coulton for a collection of songs that eschews norms. The duo wrote it with rules to avoid some words that were too Christmas cliche, and the result is an absolute blast of an album featuring delightful tunes about your deadbeat uncle, spending Christmas in jail, the always odd week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the childhood desire for a new Atari, and a techno reading of the Chanukah Wikipedia page.
Halftime for the Holidays
Those seeking to freshen up their jingle bell rocking should look no further than this album by stellar Seattle pop punk trio Dude York. Featuring super catchy tunes about seeing hometown exes, being stranded a long distance from your family for the holidays, the glitz of Christmas in LA and more, it’s an LP that belongs in any festive record collection.
It’s a Spokane Christmas!
Hot Club of Spokane
If you want something jazzy to cut a rug in front of your Christmas tree, you can’t go wrong with Hot Club of Spokane’s addition to the holiday catalog. The group’s peppy jazz and swing arrangements of classic favorites and less obvious selections (with plenty of enthusiastic vocal accompaniment), heats up the holidays without even needing to use the fireplace.
Dark Sacred Night
It’s safe to say David Bazan’s relationship with Christianity is complicated, as was clear in his indie rock work as Pedro the Lion. No Christmas album is as much of a beautiful bummer as Dark Sacred Night. You can feel the heavy emotional vocal tone in Bazan’s heartbreaking originals and extremely melancholy renditions of holiday standards.
The Ventures’ Christmas Album
The kings of Seattle instrumental surf rock brought all the best vibes to their 1965 Christmas record. It’s far warmer, sunnier, and cooler (metaphorically) than an actual Northwest Christmas beach day.
Miracles: The Holiday Album
Santa may have his sack, but Kenny G has his sax. The smooth jazz superstar’s holiday album feels as comforting as being wrapped in a blanket in front of a crackling fireplace with a mug of cocoa in hand.
The Sonics, The Wailers, The Galaxies
Seattle/Tacoma was a garage rock hotbed in the ’60s, and three of the scene’s best bands teamed up for this excellent Christmas compilation. Featuring mostly originals, this collection adds some guitar jangle to jingle bells.
Gimme What I Want
Lisa Prank & Seattle’s Little Helpers
The crown-wearing queen of Seattle pop punk is her usual hopeless romantic self on this EP of original holiday tunes about snagging a cute little drummer boy(friend) and only wanting love for Christmas.
Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes)
Only the title track of this EP actually has anything to do with the holidays, but that song is a deep cut gem from the Seattle alt-rock outfit. An artful downer about someone who has to work at a movie theater on Christmas, it nails the ache of being lonely on the holiday.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
There’s not any depth to this EP, but the Emerald City guitar icon shreds harder than kids taking on wrapping paper on Christmas morning on “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne.”
To counter the always-present threat of a White Christmas, Afrofuturist R&B singer/producer SassyBlack (half of THEESatisfaction) put out this tiny EP cheekily celebrating holiday Blackness.
It’s Christmas Time
Deep Sea Diver
One of Seattle’s best current rock bands, DSD’s Christmas EP showcases Jessica Dobson’s sweet crooning of classics over tastefully restrained arrangements, before rocking out a bit on the original tune, “It’s Christmas Time (and I Am Still Alive).”
Fa La La La La (La La La La)
There’s an inherent empathetic kindness in Tomo Nakyama’s voice that gives all of the singer-songwriter’s tunes a certain glow. In this case, that’s a Christmas light glow, as he takes on “Happy XMas (War is Over)” and other holiday faves.
Heart Presents a Lovemongers’ Christmas
The Wilson sisters hit the brakes on their hard rocking mode to get soft and cozy for the holidays on a Christmas album that evenly splits original tunes with renditions of songs like “Oh Holy Night” and “Ave Maria.”
The Brothers Four
The ’60s Seattle folk group of brothers (the frat variety, not biological) delivers a very traditional presentation of the canonical Christmas classics that leans heavily on the ensemble’s wholesome vocal blending.
Christmas Bonus Single
Murder City Devils
The dark punks howl and growl about Santa being depressingly lonely all but one day of the year (“364 Days”) and take a crack at covering Hanoi Rocks’ “Dead by Christmas” in this chaotic two-song blast of holiday noise.
The singer-songwriter best known for singing the chorus on “Same Love” warms up the holidays with a collection of tender tunes that overflow with queer love and acceptance.
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
This may be fudging the numbers a bit, but the folk singer who’s best known for voicing Sam the Snowman in the beloved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special spent his late years living in Anacortes. If you want more from the voice of that jolly snowman, this Ives album should do the trick. ♦