Death by Christmas Music

I’m on day 8 without power – I’ve become a local geek refugee, fluttering from coffeeshop to coffeshop in search of quiet places to work.

I’ve discovered the neurotic edges of my writing habits: I can’t write a word if I people are talking nearby, fiddling with newspapers within eyeshot, or if there is bad music playing overhead – escpecially the sonic evil that is bad Christmas music.

There is nothing festive about the relentless attack of dull, trite, treekly trash that passes for Christmas music in most stores and cafes. Who thinks this is fun? And do we really need to play it continually, on repeat, unless the goal is to get people to leave (or confess their sins). Can’t we mix it in? Like 1 holiday tune for 2 regular ones?

Or perhaps in the infinity of alternative and world music, there’s something more authentic than cheezy retreads of retreads of Christmas standards?

28 Responses to “Death by Christmas Music”

  1. Ric

    I’m afraid your Christmas music salvation will have to depend on someone else – I don’t know of ANY Chrstmasy music I’d recommend for someone trying to author a book (I can only recommend it for people anxious to become inebriated – it’s a great excuse to drink).

    Despite the power outage and bad muzak, I hope you manage to enjoy the season …

  2. Scott Berkun

    There was a brief NPR segment I caught on one of the staff’s funky Christmas music selection: I heard two songs I liked. One was a techno version of silent night (called, I believe, “Angry silent night”). The other sounded like Gogol Bordello doing another classic (possibly jingle bells). Both were funny and interesting – I could totally listen to stuff like that for an hour.

    But writing aside, I’ll take all recommendations for any kind of good, less than mainstream, holiday music choices.

  3. John the Statistician

    Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”

  4. Tiff

    DJ BC is a mashup DJ of rather remarkable quality. His Santastic album is *completely* unhelpful if you have to work. But if you don’t have to work, it’ll bump up your traditional xmas tunes. Probably better for the attention-deficit set.

  5. Phil Weber

    “Treekly.” I like it. Combines “treacly” and “reek.” ;-)

  6. Scott (admin)

    (Blush) Treekly was supposed to be treacly. So much for my command of the language: I got 2 out of 7 of the letters wrong.

  7. Paul

    The good folks at Gourd Music put out a couple of discs of lovely Victorian instrumental carols by Robin Petrie:

    …they also publish the most excellent “A Toolbox Christmas” by Woody Phillips. Which is, admittedly, most excellent in a delightfully broken way.

    There’s also this:

    …which is a nice sampling of (among other things) some of the music of Eastern European traditions.

  8. Josh Maher

    hehe, I can’t offer you christmas refuge, but I have a spare bedroom (North Seattle) with Wifi that are you are welcome to crash in for the day…

    I am usually working on my book in the family or living room (so there isn’t much for interuption during the day). I couldn’t imagine trying to write at a coffee shop!!

  9. Jason Kemp

    I totally agree with you on the Christmas music. The only album I can tolerate is Barenaked for the Holidays by the Barenaked Ladies.

    Best. Jingle. Bells. Ever.

  10. marrije

    Go classical! I love Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium, very Christmassy and not annoying at all, very good to write to.

    BTW, I’m working my way through your book on Project Management at the moment, and I’m really enjoying it (also mildly grateful that my teams aren’t as large as yours were…)

  11. Chris Lowe

    Scott, try ‘The New Possibility’ by John Fahey –

  12. Scott (admin)

    Who are all you people and where have you been all my life? Geez – While I’ve be suffering lo these many years in the sonic duldrums, you’ve all been basking in the glory of musical wisdom (then again, powerless as I’ve been, I haven’t had the chance) – thanks for sharing – you guys rock.

  13. John Corrigan

    Warren Ellis posted a link to a version of Hark! The Herald Angels by Psy-Sci. It is an electronica style arrangement and it’s very good.

    The link is at:

  14. Mal Ross

    From a UK perspective, how about the following:

    Jona Lewie – “Stop The Cavalry” (1980)
    Saint Etienne ft. Tim Burgess – “I Was Born On Christmas Day” (1993)
    The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York” (1987)

    Don’t know whether they made it across the pond, but The Pogues’ tune is considered a Christmas classic on this side of the Atlantic.

    Have a good holiday!

  15. Al

    I may be showing my age, but old school Christmas music to me has always meant the Pogues and Run DMC….both of which are classics in my house.

  16. Bryan Zug

    Sufjan Stevens Christmas (5 CD boxset, Poster, Comic Strip, Animated Video, short story, 2 intro essays, lots of original illustration, AND stickers — all for $15 at Easy Street in West Seattle) — featuring the breakout hit ‘Get Behind Me Santa’ —

    and the always classic Bruce Cockburn Christmas — featuring 2 pub/bar song carols with “Mary Had a Baby” and “Early on One Christmas Morn”

    But may favorite of alltime is a song by Cockburn on a regular album called “Cry of a Tiny Babe”

    Whatever your persuasion, it’s hard to a Christmas song with hookers ad hit squad’s dull.

  17. andrew

    If you dig jazz and Hammond organ, you can’t miss Jimmy Smith’s “Christmas Cooking”. Also remarkable in my opinion is “Hymns, Carols and Songs About Snow” by guitar master Tuck Andress (of Tuck & Patti). Both records are excellent apart from the subject, and instrumental, which is maybe less distracting when you write.

  18. Lori

    I know you’ve got your power back, but still I would reccomend … there are some great christmas podcasts, I especially like DixieGrrl’s. St. Louis had a nasty windstorm not too long ago and frequent power outages from our typically weird weather, I can feel ya man. Best!

  19. Mari Lynch

    My son’s all-time favorite: Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas.” And my daughter has a tough time choosing (she can find all the good music in any genre); one classic winter fav is Joni Mitchell’s “River”; another she loves is Ingrid Michaelson & Sarah Bareilles “Winter Song.” Enjoy.

  20. Sean

    Yeah, like today. I was in Starbucks (which was my first mistake) but Fed Way is lacking good coffee shops. This beeping kept going non stop. Sort of like the beeping that happens when the microwave is done. But it just kept going and it was loud. The workers kept going along doing their thing. I looked around at the disgustingly packed house of customers and they seemed to be unfazed as well. Finally I went up to the counter. “What is that beeping?” “oh that’s the safe. Nobody can turn it off but the manager and I don’t where she is. Ill see if I can find her.”
    Seriously? Well it didn’t take me long after that that I took my burnt coffee and sat in the car to do my work. Are these people just that conditioned to bad music and unnecessary noise?

    1. Remko Tronçon

      The one christmas song i *do* like (and which gives me the ‘christmas’ feeling): ‘What’s this?’, from ‘The nightmare before christmas’


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