Seattle Sounds: Five essential holiday songs that celebrate the area

Dec 13, 2022, 3:02 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 2:26 pm


Rob Lind of the band 'The Sonics' performs on stage at The Moore Theater on April 2, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

Right after the last slice of turkey is gone, some people can’t wait to string the lights and put holiday music on the stereo. Others insist on waiting until Dec. 1. Still others would be happy to never hear a single note of seasonal sappiness.

As the producer of KIRO Nights, one of the elements that makes our show special is our passion for music. Both myself and host Spike O’Neill are major music fans and incorporate that into the show both in topics and our “bumper” selections. It’s one of the few things our listeners can agree on. Usually.

But as soon as the Christmas tunes started, for every handful of listeners happy to hear it, there were — of course — complaints. So I set out to find truly different holiday tunes – ones that not everyone had heard before. And being in a city with such rich music culture, I knew I could find unique tracks from Seattle artists that hadn’t been overplayed in retail stores and on radio. Here are five of my favorites – with the hope you’ll enjoy adding them to your holiday playlist.

“Santa Claus” — The Sonics (1965)

Tacoma garage rockers The Sonics were one of those bands many non-locals may not have known by name, but whose influence reverberated through generations of rock and roll. Outfits from punk and garage rock, such as the Stooges and the White Stripes, testify to The Sonics’ impact on their sound and style. With this holiday original, an irresistible hook backs up the tale of a rocker’s wishlist – and a Santa that’s not inclined to fulfill it.

“Someday At Christmas” — Pearl Jam (2004)

Originally a 1966 single for R&B legend Stevie Wonder, this hopeful tune carries with it wishes for better times ahead, for ourselves and future generations. Proof that even grunge rockers can set aside angst and find a joyful groove for the holidays.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” — Death Cab for Cutie (2004)

The original 1963 version of this song was a classic from the start. A joyously stomping soul rendition by Darlene Love. Then, Irish rockers U2 brought their anthemic rendition to a 1987 soundcheck at a Glasgow concert. From there, it was on to the Very Special Christmas compilation album, and their version became a seasonal staple. Then, a band that formed in Bellingham, fronted by Ben Gibbard, delivered in 2004 this wistful downtempo take on Nettwerk Records’ holiday compilation “Maybe This Christmas Tree.”

“Sleigh Ride” — The Ventures (1965)

When you think “surf music,” the images that spring to mind are of sand, sun, and waves. Drifting snow and icy blasts of wind, not so much. But on this 1965 cut, Tacoma’s Ventures perfectly mold the surf rock sound with a timeless holiday melody. This sonic seasonal tonic will lift your holiday spirits – whatever the weather may be.

“It’s Christmas Time (I’m Still Alive)” — Deep Sea Diver (2015)

Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver released their EP titled “It’s Christmas Time” in 2015. Alongside three traditional holiday standards, this original spotlights the powerful vocals of lead singer Jessica Dobson over instrumentation that perfectly captures a meditative winter’s mood while providing a warm sense of optimism.

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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