My absolute favorite time to be at the college radio station during my undergraduate years was winter break. I liked the isolation that came from being in the station alone, a sensation compounded by the stretch of time when the university was at its most severely underpopulated and the frigid temperatures outside meant that there was even an abatement of general traffic on the road past the windows of the hallway between studios. Although, I must add that there remained a slight problem with the situation until the calendar reached December 26th: I didn’t particularly like Christmas music, but I felt an obligation to play it.
Now, this is between twenty and twenty-five years ago, and the number of releases with holiday music at the station was very limited. There were always a couple of new samplers from small labels, pushing their obscure artists into covering holiday standards, but we were more likely to play songs that had only the most tangential relationship to Christmas. Even still, it all got tiresome for me pretty quickly, and I got more Scrooge-like with ever twee, tender cover of “Silent Night” I added to one of my many playlists. I’m not sure where this aversion came from–like almost everyone, I loved Christmas music as a kid–but it was pronounced early in my tenure at the college radio station. My grumpiness started from the moment a section of the new releases shelf was cleared out for our little batch of Christmasy CDs.
Therefore, I often cling to those few songs that fit into the category, that I do like. Maybe unsurprisingly, they’re often the ones tinged with cynicism or a bleak sense of humor, pushing back against the forced sentiment of most holiday songs rather than succumbing to it. In the case of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s “Cold White Christmas,” my appreciation of it may be as simply as my ease my Upper Midwestern heart has in sympathizing with the refrain of “It’s gonna be a cold white Christmas/ In St. Paul.” Ho ho humbug, everyone!
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Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, “Cold White Christmas” (removed by request)
(Note: Owen Ashworth, the man behind Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, reached out to me to note that Etiquette is actually still in print on CD and LP. You can go to the record store and secure a physical copy of that release, as well as any number of albums he’s created. You can also go straight to the source, at least for his most recent music. As the saying goes, we regret the error.)