As soon as I heard the dramatic prologue to Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You," it was enough. I had met my threshold of tolerance for that song. The date was November 26th. It was going to be a long thirty days.
We talk a lot about music here at the winery. A fair amount of that "conversation" is Zeke and I arguing over the volume of his classic rock playlist. It can blare through the glass walls separating the winery from our tasting room, creating a cacophony of sonic dissonance sure to chase off the thoughtful, pensive taster. The rest of the conversation revolves around our own tastes, and those that make sense in the tasting room. We want an environment that feels comfortable, inviting, intellectual, intriguing, and fun. Simply, we want people to want to be here, and we want them to learn. The soundtrack is integral to setting the stage for this experience to happen. Every song that is added to our playlist is first reviewed by multiple members of our team with these ideas in mind, before it gets added to the rotation. We are a Performance Rights Organization's dream come true here at Unionville.
That brings us to Christmas music. There are two big problems with the sounds of the season. One- there are only 30-40 songs that are regularly played, and two- almost every recording artist (or more likely their record label) thinks that they need to make a holiday album. There are way too many versions of certain songs that are produced with no variation- the instrumentation, key, time signature, background vox are all identical. Have you heard Norah Jones and Cyndi Lauper's "Home for the Holidays?" Why did anyone bother making that song, other than to squeeze a few dollars from the die hard fans of those performers? The song is the same as any other version. Same goes for Rod Stewart and Cee-Lo Green's "Merry Christmas, Baby." I won't even give them the merit of a link.
The good news is that there's plenty of original songs and unique recordings out there to replace the commercial soundtrack. There are also soundtracks to popular movies that are forgotten by the radio. My colleagues (Olivia) might be tired of the 6 hour playlist (I admit hearing the same 100 songs six times a week might be tough), but I guarantee you a more enjoyable holiday experience if you put a few of these songs into your holiday listening plans. Apologies to Mariah.
John Cifelli, GM, Unionville
2. Jason Mraz- Winter Wonderland see? Pop stars CAN take old songs and make them completely fresh and exciting. Mr. AZ makes this standard fun and new.
3. Vince Guaraldi- A Charlie Brown Christmas you hear "Linus and Lucy" and a couple others now and then, but try the whole album wire to wire. Close your eyes and you'll think it's snowing. Don't drive with your eyes closed.
4. Sufjan Stevens- Joy to the World
one of the most unheralded and underrated songwriters of the 21st century, Sufjan will make you feel like you've gone to a country cabin and recorded a family sing-a-long holiday album, with only the family members who can sing and haven't had too much eggnog.
5. Matt Pond PA- Snow Day prepare to feel like an eight year old, listening to hear your school closing on the radio.
6. Michael Buble and the Puppini Sisters- Jingle Bells yes, this is almost a carbon copy of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, but the new version has a bigger band and better production. I'd rather have the original if it could sound this smashing.
8. Fleet Foxes- White Winter Hymnal a lovely, charming melody with beautiful harmonies, confusing lyrics and a dark meaning referencing some unsavory parts of the French Revolution. It can't all be sugarplums and fairies, you know.
9. Pentatonix- Coventry Carol these guys have made a capella so cool, they perform the weekly theme song to Thursday Night Football. They're presentation of a classical English carol is probably a little more appropriate.
10. John Williams- Somewhere in my Memory when John Williams makes Christmas music, it is good because John Williams says so. You know this as the peaceful, heartwarming theme to "Home Alone," not to be confused with the one that makes you want to run through the airport and slip on micromachines.
11. Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind
- a staple for any parochial high school chorus, the Alfred Burt Carols have stood the test of time for a reason. Enjoy with some figgy pudding and a glass of Unionville Syrah.
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