Top family music picks for the 2013 holiday season

Have I mentioned that I’m a holiday junkie? Oh yes, I have. Actually, I mentioned that in my last column here at Chicago Parent, the one where I shared with you “Eight New Holiday Records for 2013.” But one entry just wasn’t enough and here I am again with another batch of fresh tunes for your holiday music playlist.

The girls and I have already been making our way up and down through Chicagoland this season. We have two family Christmases under our belts, a very brief stop by the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza (too cold to stick around) and our annual visit with Santa Claus at Macy’s on State Street in the books. Our soundtrack just keeps expanding and with that, I’m sharing with you ten more records to check out this season.

As always, these selections are geared toward the entire family – from the kid-friendly sounds of Ralph’s World and Zak Morgan to the contemporary offerings from Lots of Love and NTNT and all the way to the other side of the dial with metallic entries from August Burns Red and legendary actor Christopher Lee. Here’s what’s in my musical stocking this week:

Poochamungas featuring Strain Busy Sky – “Santa’s Eating Pancakes” (Self-released)

Available on Amazon| iTunes|CDBaby

What does Santa eat for breakfast? That’s the question that Chicago’s own Poochamungas aims to answer on their perennial favorite, “Santa’s Eating Pancakes.” The track features vocals by Strain Busy Sky, with a horn section provided by grade school and high school students. All proceeds from the sale of this track will benefit Ignite the Spirit, a fund that helps brothers and sisters of the Chicago Fire Department.

PBS KIDS Presents Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood – “Snowflake Day” EP (PBS KIDS)

Available on Amazon| iTunes

If you have preschool-aged kids like I do, chances are “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is a fixture in your home. Even before I got involved with PBS as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent) Blogger, Daniel and his pals were becoming very well-known in our house and the music really struck me in that it just makes you feel good. Following-up last year’s full-length album, ” Life’s Little Lessons,”the “Snowflake Day” EP was just released and features five songs from the recent episode of the same name. Guest vocalist Matt Dusk also appears.

  

Ralph’s World – “Songs 4 Happy Holidays” EP (Waterdog Music)

Available on iTunes

These four holiday songs by Chicago’s Ralph Covert were originally part of a larger collection called “A Holly Jolly Ralph’s World.” Back in 2005, Minty Fresh was set to release the album but a deal with Disney scrapped those plans and the original CD’s were thought to have been destroyed. Thanks to digital releasing, Ralph’s four original compositions are now on iTunes. And thanks to luck, a few copies of the original, unreleased CD (complete with 10 additional recordings) have surfaced. They have recently been made available exclusively through the Waterdog Music website.

Disney Holiday Celebration (Walt Disney Records)

Available on Amazon | iTunes

Originally released on CD as a Target Stores exclusive back in 2007, this twelve song collection quietly arrived at digital retailers just this week! Featuring classics performed by Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse and even The Muppets’ Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, it’s certainly worth a look.

Zak Morgan – “Snow Day” (Universal Music Enterprises)

Available on iTunes

Last year, Zak Morgan released a really cool album called “The Barber of the Beasts” that I just didn’t have time to review. This year, he’s released a new music video for the song “Snow Day,” and while it’s not a holiday song, it’s definitely seasonal.

Lots of Love – “Lover Man for Christmas” and “Last Christmas” (Self-released)

Jessica Fleischer, who you might not know just yet but hopefully will in the coming year, performs under the moniker: Lots of Love. Over the past few months, she’s released her debut album, a children’s book and now a Christmas single, “Lover Man for Christmas.” It’s available as a free download via the player below.

But that’s not all! Last Christmas, she released a cover version of the George Michael and Wham! classic “Last Christmas.” It’s available on iTunes and there’s a video for it, too:

NTNT – “The List” (Self-released)

Available as a Free Download

If it was the year 1985 and I was out at the mall Christmas shopping after catching a matinee screening of “The Breakfast Club,” it’s very likely that I would’ve heard something with a vibe similar to “The List” at some point in my travels. But it isn’t ’85, it’s 2013 . . . but that doesn’t matter because Portland-based NTNT (Ninja Turtle Ninja Tiger) has released “The List” as a holiday-flavored single that’s being made available as a gift for you. Yes, just for you. Stream it below.

August Burns Red – “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” (Solid State Records)

Available on Amazon | iTunes

They have a tradition of releasing a metal version of a classic holiday song each Christmas and last year August Burns Red brought them all together for a full album called “Sleddin’ Hill: A Holiday Album.” So what did they do for 2013? They’ve reissued the album digitally with an all-new track, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker.” It’s fantastic. Stream the new song below and speaking of “The Nutcracker,” my wife and I attended The Joffrey Ballet’s opening night performance of the famed ballet earlier this month and it’s magnificent. Go see it.

The Raskins – “The Little Drummer Boy” (Self-released)

Available as a Free Download

The Raskins (twin brothers Logan and Roger) were born and raised in New York City in a musical household. Now, having left their East Coast home for Los Angeles, the duo are prepping their self-titled debut album for Spring 2014. In the meantime, they’ve served up a free single for the holidays with their version of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Grab the download via the ReverbNation widget below.

Christopher Lee – “A Heavy Metal Christmas Too” (Charlemagne Productions)

Available on Amazon | iTunes

Having already appeared in over 300 films during his youthful 91 years of age (born in 1922), Christopher Lee was not only Count Dracula but also “Star Wars” Count Dooku and Saruman in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films. A couple of years ago, Lee also added heavy metal to his resume with a series of recordings that included 2012’s ” A Heavy Metal Christmas.” For 2013, Lee is back with ” A Heavy Metal Christmas Too,” a new single that pairs his version of “Jingle Bells” with a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” It’s pretty epic, and a great conversation piece for listeners young and old.

For even more late-breaking additions to the 2013 holiday music playlist, check out the “Seasonal Cheer” section of my main site, The Rock Father.

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