Album cover for Christmas Mixtape 2023: Photo of an elderly pug wearing a reindeer cowl over its head and around its neck. In the background are out-of-focus red christmas lights.

Christmas Mixtape 2023

Here we are, in the bleak midwinter. What better time than now to put on some fun music while we crank up the IR heater to take the chill off.

Cover image by DaPuglet (Tina) Santas Secret Weapon used under it’s Creative Commons license. CC-BY-SA.

The Christmas Mixtape is back for its seventh incarnation. It’s up on Youtube Music and on Mixcloud. And Mixcloud gives me a handy little widget so you don’t even have to leave the page to listen:

I’m also going to dump Youtube music videos of the songs where I can find them. They’re not necessarily the same version, but given that I’ve listened to these dozens of times already, it’s kinda cool to see visual interpretations…

Stompin’ Tom Connors — Merry Christmas Everybody

Stompin’ Tom his a Canadian icon, of course, and he kicks off the mixtape when I found his Christmas CD when I was organizing some of Ellen’s CD collection a while ago. The mixtape always needs at least a little bit of CanCon, and this is it. Don’t worry, it’ll make sense later.

Cher — DJ Play A Christmas Song

Ellen was all like “Did you know Cher made a Christmas album this year??”

I did not. I do check for new Christmas albums for the mixtape the last few years. Ellen didn’t want this for her mixtape, but somehow knew it would be something I’d be into. She knows me so well.

Cher seems to be pushing this hard, flying around the world to play it at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Graham Norton, some German show, Rockefeller Center… (none of those allow embeds). And there’s at least one remix. It’s only been out a month. Apparently it’s kind of a hit. And I’m a little shocked. This definitely feels like it’s my sort of Christmas music niche. Maybe I’m going mainstream…

Taylor Swift — Christmas Tree Farm (Old Timey Version)

Non-Old-Timey-Version video

I do have a rule with these mixtapes that I’m not going to put stuff on here that you’re going to hear over and over again in the mall. Thing is, I’ve had Christmas Tree Farm in my mixtape slush pile for a few years now. It didn’t seem (to me) to be making a whole lot of traction as a holiday classic. I’m sure Swifties are into it. Don’t hurt me, Swifties.

I didn’t quite like the original version enough to break the mixtape qualification barrier. Then this “old timey version” came out. And it’s beautiful.

The trouble is, seeing as this thing is genetically engineered to a slot between Mariah and Bing in the mall playlist. But I haven’t been in a mall for four years, so I don’t actually know if it is being played at all. It probably is, but I don’t know. So that’s some cover. And, I suppose if it is being played constantly everywhere, it’s pretty rare for a new song to break into the Christmas song canon. So maybe that’s justification for the exception.

Kaskade — In the Bleak Midwinter

Okay, enough popular stuff. Let’s get back to downtempo chillwave Christmas carol remixes.

Actually, Kaskade is a fairly popular DJ. I love House music, but House DJs don’t tend to do Christmas albums. Kaskade is a big exception. He just put out his second this year. Chances of him showing up on future mixtapes are high.

Celeina Ann — Christmas in Tokyo

I love Carole & Tuesday, that Netflix anime series about two kids discovering their love for music and just trying to pay the rent who somehow triumph over fascism. On Mars. In the Cowboy Bebop universe. It’s great. And the music is great.

Celeina Ann plays Tuesday. The singing bits, anyway. And a couple of years ago she came out with this Christmas single.

Lizzo — Never Felt Like Christmas

I’m no Lizzo scholar or anything, but it seems like this early Christmas single has somewhat faded into obscurity. I think it’s pretty great. The one thing it’s missing is a flute solo.

Jethro Tull — God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

I’m not a huge fan or the orchestration here. The mixtape version is better, I think.

Jethro Tull can always be counted on for flute solos, of course. This decidedly jazzy God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is prime mixtape material.

NEEDTOBREATHE — Hometown Christmas

This isn’t my usual thing, but I’m finding it compelling nonetheless. I very much appreciate the sentiment.

Andrew Bird — Skating

Video

Vince Garaldi isn’t going to show up on a mixtape due to the “overplayed in malls” rule, however much I love the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Covers, of course, are fair game. And Andrew Bird is a favourite of mine.

This is Andrew Bird’s second (maybe third) appearance on the mixtapes. He was on 2020, and he was probably on the Squirrel Nut Zippers track on the very first mixtape in 2017.

The Monkees — Riu Chiu

There are better quality videos of this up on Youtube, but they don’t allow embeds. And they cut before they bring the crew on, which is kind of nice, honestly.

I have a soft spot for Riu Chiu, but when I played this for Ellen, I was a bit surprised she’d never heard of it.

I don’t know it it is widely known, but I know it mostly because it was on a collection of Christmas music put out by CFMX FM (https://www.classicalfm.ca/, before Moses Znaimer bought it) called “The Real Music of Christmas”. Those CDs are hard to find now. They’re mostly choral and orchestral music, as you’d probably expect, so not what I’m very likely to put on the mixtape. But Riu Chiu was on volume 2, and I guess it stuck with me.

Sort of in response to Ellen putting Gaudete on her mixtapes, I wanted to see if there was a cool remix version or something of Riu Chiu. There isn’t, as far as I know, but The Monkees put in in their Christmas special. The Monkees! And it shows they’re not just pretty/goofy faces. They actually can sing.

Pedro Eustache — Veni, Emmanuel

Pedro Eustache made a bit of a splash at The Game Awards last year as “epic flute guy.” A bit of a sucker for epic flute in general, I decided to check if he had a Christmas album.

He didn’t, per se, but he did have a bunch of albums with new agey world music adaptations of popular hymns. Like this one.

It’s airy and dreamy, but what I really like about it is how, with the backing synth percussion, it sounds a bit like those CG animated shorts they had on YTV when I was a kid.

BREAKING! Epic flute guy is back this year!

Günther — Christmas Song (Ding Dong)

Video

Günther’s Ding Dong Song was a viral hit on very early Youtube back in the early noughties. I don’t think I was aware of it at the time, but it came up on a podcast I was listening to and look! There’s a Christmas version!

I think the Christmas version’s better than the original, honestly.

Los Niños — Feliz Navidad

Not the Feliz Navidad you might be expecting. No real story here. I just like the vibe.

Housewife — Just Like Christmas

This is an accoustic cover of an original Christmas song by indie rock band Low.

I’ve had a more faithful cover of it flowing around on my harddrive for ages, downloaded from some MP3 blog or something. So the song struck me as familiar when I stumbled across this version on Bandcamp. I… really like this.

Omar Miller, Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams — Joh Blastoh

Video

The Christmas Mixtape wouldn’t be the Christmas Mixtape without some ridiculous Star Wars nonsense.

Last year’s Lego Star Wars Holiday Special was a tiny bit disappointing, not really living up to its terrible predecessor, but it did have its moments. And honestly, Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams are both goddamn living treasures.

Jean-Emile Biayenda — Mbotama ya Muana Noël

This one’s for my son.

My mother-in-law found this “Comptine d’Afrique” channel on Youtube in her search for French songs to play for the kiddo. He really likes Jean-Emile Biayenda’s songs, especially Katoto Lala. And he’s got a Christmas album in this style, in a mix of Swahili and French. They’re cute and fun.

Gaia — What Christmas Means to Me

The video itself can’t be embedded, but the making of can…

Video

What Christmas Means To Me was originally recorded by Stevie Wonder in the sixties. Here it is recorded by an Italian pop singer with a bit of a Brazilian flavour.

I love it when a cuíca pops up in things.

Matt Cavan — One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas

Matt Cavan is an Irish actor, singer and, up until recently, drag performer who performed under as Cherie Ontop.

Honestly, the reason this is on the mixtape is because I watched Muppet Christmas Carol last year and wanted to find a good cover of One More Sleep Til Christmas. This was the best one I found on Youtube Music. It’s heartfelt and beautiful. I love it.

In August last year, Matt Cavan came forward to say that after a drag story time he was doing with kids, he started received death threats and abuse and decided to give up drag. This year, tho, Cherrie Ontop is back in Matt’s play Mirrorball, which dramatizes the abuse he received.

Confidence Man — Santa’s Comin’ Down the Chimney

Video

Another case of stumbling on Confidence Man, this time I think just in Youtube recommendations after watching a bunch of DJ sets, and asking “do they have a Christmas single?”

Yes. Yes they do.

Laufey — Christmas Dreaming

I really wanted to finally get Dodie on the mixtape. I might still. She does this minor (and other) key Christmas song thing, which I think is great, but I’m not sure they work on the mixtape. Also, extracting them for mixtape purposes is work.

Anyway, Laufey and Dodie did a cover of Love to Keep Me Warm on Laufey’s “A Very Laufey Holiday!” EP last year. And it’s great and everything, but I really found myself drawn to Laufey’s Christmas Dreaming cover. It’s delightfully mid-century, even though it’s brand new.

Maybe next year, Dodie.

Red Velvet with aespa — Beautiful Christmas

Video

Oh god, watch that video.

This was recommended to me by a friend who’s way more into K-pop than I am. And, honestly, I think I’ve been sleeping on K-pop Christmas music. Although a brief glance around tells me that this track is somewhat exceptional. It’s got everything in one immaculately produced Christmas single.

Also, aespa’s been following me around this year. While not Christmas, their track on the Tetris movie soundtrack (remember there was a Tetris movie this year?) absolutely rocked my world.

Stompin’ Tom Connors — Greetings And Merry Christmas Everybody (Reprise)

Hello, friends. This is the flying squirrel. I hope the songs that have been selected for this album have been enjoyable, and if they have in any way brought a little more cheer, warmth or comfort into your home during this Yuletide season, then my humble efforts indeed have been greatly rewarded. Thank you.

KEiiNO — A Winter’s Night

Not super Christmassy, this one. But I really like it. It gets the coveted “secret track” slot.

KEiiNO represented Norway at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. I’ve kinda gotten more into Eurovision the last few years and this year I decided to poke around random Eurovision contestant discographies for Christmas tracks.

What I really like about this one is the little bit of Sàmi Joik singing. It’s a bit more prominent on their Eurovision track than here, but it elevates an already beautiful song, I think.

Published by

Darcy Casselman

Blogging as the flying squirrel.