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Feedback with Lizi von Teig: Top 7 Christmas Songs


“Snoopy’s Christmas” – The Royal Guardsmen

In December 1914, ceasefires commenced spontaneously across the Western front. The horrors of industrial warfare had worn the soldiers down and they desired something resembling peace for Christmas, particularly the Germans who held the holiday dear. In December 1967, the Royal Guardsmen, the British band that wrote songs about Snoopy’s aerial duels with the Bloody Red Baron wrote about what would’ve happened if Snoopy and Baron von Richtoffen had been there. Sure, it’s cheesy as hell, but that’s kind of what endears it to me. It gets right to the soul of Christmas by portraying a dinner between two martial rivals in a war with no heroes.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” – Otis Redding

A wonderfully upbeat, jaunty and jangly song, Otis Redding’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” may be lyrically vapid, but the musicianship is impeccable. The organ riff and guitar licks are unforgettable, while the horns punctuate the verses with exceptional efficacy and the vocals are, obviously, stunning. The breakdown in the middle of the song to declare that “Santa came down the chimney” is startlingly effective at keeping the otherwise monotonous song engaging. Shout out to the Bruce Springsteen cover that appears on A Very Special Christmas, a compilation of A-list rock stars’ Christmas songs, which features the Big Man’s sax with exceptional power.

“It Feels Like Christmas” – A Muppet Christmas Carol

It was surprisingly hard to narrow it down to one Muppet song. In addition to the other brilliant songs in A Muppet Christmas Carol, like Michael Cane’s “Thankful Heart,” Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem did fantastic covers of “Run Rudolph, Run” by Chuck Berry and “’Zat You, Santa Claus?” by Louis Armstrong on different Christmas compilations made by Disney. But, ultimately, there’s only one song that feels like it’s the right mix of cheery and peaceful that captures Christmas, and that’s this song sung by The Ghost of Christmas Present. The arrangement is beautiful, the lyrics summarize all the best aspects of Christmas, and the variety of voices singing it make it surprisingly effective to inspire the camaraderie of the season. “It is the summer of the soul in December” has been a stand out lyric for me since I was a kid.

“Merry Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Joey Ramone

I can’t claim to be terribly familiar with this 1960s Phil Spector song in it’s original incarnation, but I am very familiar with this outtake from Joey Ramone’s posthumously released solo album, given a legitimate release on the 2002 EP Christmas Spirit… in my House. The arrangement is powerful in what it doesn’t do as much as it does. Joey lets the notes ring for a good long while and it works. Much more pop than anything The Ramones ever did, this song is clearly a labor of love for Joey in a way much of his more famous works aren’t.

“Merry Christmas, Again” – Chris Farren

It was hard to pick just one Chris Farren song for this list. Farren wrote the single greatest original Christmas album (by which I mean the only original Christmas album to not have a single bad song on it) in 2014 and titled it Like A Gift From God or Whatever. With cameos from Sean Bonnette of AJJ, Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb The Music Industry, and Laura Stevenson of :Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Like A Gift is a masterpiece of an album and it’s about Christmas, too. Although “Happier New Year” and “Not Ready For Christmas” are probably more emotionally powerful, I went with “Merry Christmas Again” because it captures the perennial excitement of Christmas and acknowledges the difficulties of the other 11 months of the year.

For this one I’m gonna link to the Bandcamp so you can buy it!

“Santa” – Lightin’ Hopkins

Most of the songs on this list are happy, upbeat anthems. Not “Santa.” Even by Lightnin’s minimal standards, this song is bare bones, and it’s not messing around. It’s a deep blues with some painful imagery. Santa begging on the street, children going unfed, it’s rough. But if you pay attention to the progression of events, it’s ultimately a hopeful and inspiring song.

“Christmas Must Be Tonight” – The Band or Blue Rodeo

Despite not being Christian, my favorite Christmas song is in fact one about the birth of Christ. Originally released on Islands in 1978, The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” was a very good if rather subdued holiday song, featuring fantastic synth work by Garth Hudson and a sweet vocal performance by Rick Danko. Another faster, guitar heavy version was released as a bonus track on a later release of Northern Lights Southern Cross, but the version I’m going to link to here is by the contemporary Americana group Blue Rodeo, who I think sound more like The Band on this song than The Band did on either of their recordings of it. The mandolin, the organ work, the vocal style, it’s all straight from their playbook, moreso than when they recorded it.

Check out all these songs and the 46 runners up in Lizi’s Christmas Spotify playlist.


Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.


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Feedback with Greg von Teig: Sleepwalkers by Brian Fallon


The best way to summarize how Brian Fallon makes a living is that he “play[s] melancholy songs that somehow make us feel a whole lot better,” a phrase gifted to us from the song “Forget Me Not” on the new album Sleepwalkers. From “And in my head there’s all these classic cars and outlaw cowboy bands/I always kinda sorta wished I was someone else” on “High and Lonesome,” from his old band Gaslight Anthem’s 2008 The ’59 Sound, to “and I hope you find a handsome young man/who can love you like I, baby, just like I can” from the song “Misery” on the oft overlooked 2012 Hold You Up EP, all the way into his 2016 solo album Painkillers when he sang on the opening track “Don’t you want a life like we saw on the picture show?”

But if Fallon’s lyrical themes have been a constant, his musical accompaniment has been comparatively dynamic. He has played relatively heavy punk songs on Gaslight’s debut Sink or Swim, he has used wall of sound style production to great effect on their 2012 Handwritten album, and most recently he released perhaps the most remarkable Americana album since Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball when he brought us his first solo album Painkillers.

The funny thing is the Brian Fallon album I was most skeptical of, Painkillers, was the one that became my favorite. When I heard he was working on a solo album, after the disappointment of 2014’s Get Hurt, I was not enthusiastic. This was amplified by the knowledge that he was working with Butch Walker, who had produced the two Gaslight albums I really didn’t like. I was expecting something of a bridge between the late Gaslight years and whatever his sound separate from the rest of the band would be. Instead what I got was a complete departure in the best possible way. Drawing heavily on Rick Rubin’s Johnny Cash albums and a fair amount from The Band and Tom Petty’s acoustic albums, it was exactly what I didn’t know I wanted.

Sleepwalkers is the album I’d expected Painkillers to be. It revisits the motifs of picking sweet melodies on a fuzzy electric guitar in one channel with a steady rhythm guitar in the other. The riff on “Etta James” isn’t recycled from the chorus of “Biloxi Parish” off Handwritten with the distortion removed, but it certainly feels like it is. Sure, there’s an organ on “Little Nightmares,” but the tone and style of that guitar gives me an unshakable sense of de ja vous to “Stray Paper” from Get Hurt. The vocal melody on the title track isn’t quite the same as the vocal melody in the chorus of “She Loves You,” the bonus track on American Slang, but the variation is so subtle I had to listen to them back to back to make sure. I could go on but you’d be bored.

When I heard Sleepwalkers would be produced by Ted Hutt, the producer of my two favorite Gaslight Anthem albums, I was really psyched. I wanted to hear what that dynamic production style would bring to the Americana direction that Painkillers I thought Fallon was sticking to. The veer back towards late-era Gaslight material produced an album more like Butch Walker’s work is startling and unwelcome. Of the 12 tracks on the album, only “Proof of Life” invokes the style of the great last album.

Lyrically Sleepwalkers is nothing special either. While Painkillers was filled with gems of phrases like “So yes I will take those/and whatever else they give me/if it stops the nightmares/and probably won’t kill me” (“Red Lights”) and “and I feel just like I woke up/in somebody else’s skin” (“Smoke”), Sleepwalkers is distinctly lacking in imagination. “Now Etta James, hit that symphony/Cause she drips through my blood like a remedy” is just as poetic and romantic as you’d expect from Brian Fallon, but it feels awfully cliché. The lyric that is also the title of “My Name Is The Night (Color Me Black)” is fun but feels kinda silly in context.

Critics don’t seem to know what to do with Sleepwalkers. I’m not alone in my assessment that the album is nothing new, as Paste Magazine wrote he didn’t “tinker with the formula,” tho they seemed more positive on the album than me. applauded the album as an evolution from the Gaslight sound but didn’t once mention the evolved sound on Painkillers. AV Club’s review was positive but left out any context of Fallon’s greater discography. Overall, Metacritic has it ranked at a 69% as of time of writing, which isn’t embarrassing but it’s nothing to gloat.

If you’re new to Brian Fallon’s work, first, congratulations on making it through that wall of text. Second, I should emphasize that Sleepwalkers isn’t bad, it’s just disappointing. This is not the worst place to start to get an impression of the Fallon style (that would be Get Hurt from Gaslight Anthem) but I’d recommend you start with the album that made his career, The ’59 Sound, the follow up, American Slang, or the album I won’t shut up about, Painkillers, decidedly not Sleepwalkers.


Greg von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. His expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.