White Christmas by Bing Crosby
Bing was a Tacoma native who cut his teeth in Seattle and Spokane’s jazz scenes. Today you can throw a rock in his catalogue and hit some new compilation of his yuletide hits. May as well go back to the original.
Merry Christmas by the Sonics, the Wailers, and the Galaxies
This compilation finds the three Tacoma garage-rock legends grinding out originals between classics. The Wailers cover the properly sentimental ballads (“Maybe This Year”), the Galaxies the jaunty optimism, while the Sonics, of course, are the ones who spiked the nog with tracks like “The Village Idiot” and “Don’t Believe in Christmas.”
The Ventures Christmas Album by The Ventures
Seattle’s favorite surf band gallops through instrumental covers of Christmas classics, slipping a bit of their “Walk Don’t Run” into “Sleigh Bells.” Their take on “Jingle Bells” is just as much rock as the “Jingle Bell Rock” that follows it.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year by Jimi Hendrix
Show up mostly for Hendrix’s medley of “Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night,” and “Auld Lang Syne.” Hendrix could play “Chopsticks” and make it sound like gods locked in a celestial psychedelic struggle. Apparently he could do it with holiday classics too. (The other track here, “Three Little Bears,” has… nothing to do with Christmas?)
The Spirit of Christmas by Ray Charles
It’s Ray Charles, who came up in Seattle's jazz scene, singing a bunch of Christmas hits. I mean, c’mon.
Miracles: The Holiday Album by Kenny G
I cannot actually personally recommend this album—which is merely Kenny being Kenny, churning out classics in jazz so smooth it feels unctuous—but it is one of the best-selling records to come out of this region (platinum 8 times over), and by 2016 was the Billboard's second best-selling Christmas album ever (after Elvis).
Blackest Winter by SassyBlack
This three-song rejoinder to the whiteness of Christmas music is the sort of Bandcamp riff SassyBlack excels at, oriented around loopy grooves. See also Sassy's “Kwanzaa Song,” released this summer.
It’s Christmas Time by Deep Sea Diver
The local quartet’s EP features three classics and one original, “It’s Christmas Time (and I Am Still Alive).” Singer Jessica Dobson’s voice is the draw, soaring, murmuring, and galvanizing some typical indie rock backing.
Dark Sacred Night by David Bazan
If the Ventures indiscriminately crank the tempo and vibe of any track they play, Bazan goes the other way on this album. This collection of classics is slow, lonesome, haunting—often just his aching voice and a lo-fi guitar or piano. Damn if it isn’t pretty, though.
Gimme What I Want by Lisa Prank and Seattle’s Little Helpers
Lisa Prank’s bright, high-schooly pop punk seems built for Christmas, all cheer and whimsy and unembarrassed longing. Here Bree McKenna (of Tacocat) and Tristan Jemsek (of Dogbreth) assist on Prankian takes on Christmas classics. Consider, for instance, this EP’s “Cute Drummer Boy”: “Met him at the record store pa rum pum pum pum.”
Halftime for the Holidays by Dude York
This nine-song album from the Seattle trio is a tight set of punk pop cheer, whether the band is bending a DOA song into “Takin’ Care of Christmas” or knocking out a version of “Silent Night” you can fist pump to. Of special interest this year: “Long Distance Christmas.”
“O Holy Night” by Brandi Carlile
Brandi singing a cappella. Again, c’mon.
“Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)” by Pearl Jam
For nearly 20 years, starting in 1991, Pearl Jam sent its fan club members holiday singles. This first one is among the best; Eddie Vedder’s yearning mumbles make a surprisingly good match for a holiday track. It’s presumably about someone trying to wake him up, maybe when he was a kid, but I can’t understand what the hell he’s saying. It definitely involves sleep. And Christmas time.
“Paper Snowflakes” by Tomo Nakayama
Acoustic guitars and angel-voiced Nakayama singing about Christmas this year: “I’m hanging the lights on my window and thinking about the good times. My darlin’ there’ll be so many more if we just make it through these hard times.” Are you a weeping little socially distanced mess yet?