When it comes to love of tradition, there are two types of people in this world: those who love traditions; and those who love to start them, then love traditions. Being the prematurely young patriarch of the family, I've become more and more of the latter, tossing aside my childhood family's old traditions and tweaking them to fit my style and make them my own. Same when it comes to holiday music. I could listen to the Mormon Tabernacle's Joy To the World or Willie Nelson's Pretty Paper for the 30th year in a row, or I can toss in newer holiday tunes by fun. or Rosie Thomas to keep the season bright and make new memories. That said, one of my favorite new traditions is trolling through the last few months' releases and putting together a sound (double meaning) holiday shopping list. So tear this out and hit Amazon or a great local retailer and go to town.
For the hipster: Sufjan Stevens' Silver and Gold casually pulls together 59 tracks over 5 discs, mostly lovely and sweet. I'd usually say pick and choose over iTunes, but for less than $20, it makes it look like you spent way more.
For the classic queen: Tracey Thorn's Tinsel and Lights is a mostly originals affair with a smattering of covers and standards. Exactly what we'd expect from a pop pioneer who's never bowed to tradition or expectations. As expected, it's a joyous release filled with heartfelt sentiment and a touch of sorrow. That sorrow fades fast when you realize it's the first time her partner in life and Everything But the Girl, Ben Watt plays on a few tracks. Sweet reunion.
For the reality show junkie: Pick up the surprisingly good CeeLo Green's Magic Moment or DWTStars' Katherine Jenkins' This Is Christmas. CeeLo's first Xmas CD provides even more fun than you thought he was capable of. This columnist expected a quickly thrown together novelty CD, but what he (I) got was a rollicking holiday party wrapped in classic bow. Jenkins doesn't disappoint, though I had higher expectations of the classically trained opera singer than I did of the "Fuck You" guy.
For the teen girl or the gay man who acts like one: Surprisingly great CDs by Ke$ha, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna and Ellie Goulding just hit stores and all of them are much better than their last releases. I like this trend. C'mon Britney, your turn.
For the parents (but just the cool ones): Get the Complete Beatles Vinyl Box, Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day (live CD), or Neil Young and Crazy Horse's Psychedelic Pill. All three are lengthy and satisfying affairs for the die hards in your life.
And finally, shopping local is one of my all-time favorite traditions, so go pick up the rockabilly tinged Mister Casanova by Jinx Titanic and the Ladykillers or the heartfelt new Stephen Leonard album, His Fire. Mister Casanova finds Jinx peeling away a bit of the punk and a bit of the gay for a more sexy bisexual party where everyone's "coming". No worries, it's not a huge departure, just slightly more Wanda Jackson than Iggy Pop. Leonard goes way beyond his past on his phenomenal concept CD, telling a full story anyoneespecially gay mencan identify with. Both are easily the best of an already great catalog for both Chicago gay boys.