Dec. 23, 2022

A This American Life Christmas Playlist

Back when I was in my 20’s and broke, I used to sing Christmas carols for money. Every December, this little independent entertainment company would dress me and a bunch of other people in what our boss called “Dickens drag” – top hats, cravats, bonnets, gowns, etc. We’d roam around shopping malls or go table to table at restaurants, belting out the same 10 or 20 songs over and over and over again. It’s the easiest way I know of to become allergic to Christmas carols for the rest of your life. For years afterwards, one of my former fellow carolers and I would commiserate when December came and our radios were once again infected with “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World.” 

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I was chatting in a bar with a veteran New York DJ named Larry Weissman (aka DJ PreSkool). He told me about a set he’d just played at an outdoor marketplace, which included House and EDM remixes of old-timey crooners singing Christmas carols. I told him I had to hear this stuff. So he sent me some samples, which tripped me into a whole galaxy of alternative holiday music that I didn’t know existed – songs that I’d want to listen to anyway, even if it wasn’t this time of year. 

I started building this playlist before even realizing what I was doing. It’s like my hands started doing it without me. Most of it is stuff I’d never encountered before – the electronic remixes, other rearrangements of classic carols, more recent compositions about Christmas and the holiday’s that I’d never heard. For good measure, I also sprinkled in a few tracks I already knew but that sparkle more brightly in this little constellation. Anyhow, I like how this playlist came out and wanted to share it. It’s giving me the feeling that our episode is about this week – the feeling of a Christmas that isn’t like any you’ve experienced before, because something new happened. Shout out to our awesome Production Manager Stowe Nelson who turned me on to a few of these tracks. 

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Enjoy!