Just how many "Do You Hear What I Hears" do you want to hear?
One more, at least.
The Christmas music invasion has been going on for weeks, if not months, by now. The playlist below highlights reindeer season songs of note by both flashy pop stars and less exposed indie acts, with a mix of traditional and freshly minted holiday songs.
Some of these songs date back hundreds of years, but all have been recorded and released in 2014, starting with the gospel-blues "Do You Hear What I Hear?" that kicks off the list.
Most high-profile releases of the season are represented, although a few big collections, such as Idina Menzel's Holiday Wishes, and a few good ones, like Irvin Mayfield's A New Orleans Creole Christmas, didn't make the 25-item cut.
There's been such an explosion of Christmas music that making an annual playlist means choosing from among multiple brand-new versions of holiday standards. So, sorry, Lucinda Williams, your perfectly good "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," included on the Amazon exclusive All is Bright playlist, loses out, as does Sam Smith's also capable take. Cecile McLorin Salvant's superior version, included below, is the winner.
A streaming version of this Christmas 2014 playlist is my blog at www.philly.com/inthemix.
1. "Do You Hear What I Hear," Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal. Gloria Shayne Baker and Noel Regney's standard - written in 1962 as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis - gets winningly recast as a lively blues shuffle. From the Blind Boys and Mahal's exclamation-point-worthy gospel blues album Talkin' Christmas!
2. "Santa Tell Me," Ariana Grande. All the pixie with a voice that soars like Donner and Blitzen wants is to know her man will still be around next year.
3. "I'll Be Home," Meghan Trainor. "All About the Bass" singer's vow is an original tune and the title track to the Simon Cowell-produced mini-compilation that also features Fiona Apple and Tamar Braxton.
4. "FaLaLaLaLove Ya," Nikki Lane. If this rising alt-country star had her way, there'd be mistletoe every day. Steel guitars, too. From Americana Christmas, the compilation that mixes new recordings from Luther Dickinson and Robert Ellis with vintage cuts from the likes of Emmylou Harris and the Band.
5. "Blood Oranges in the Snow," Over the Rhine. A bittersweet ride home that's the title track to the impressive third holiday album by this Ohio folk-band fronted by the wife-and-husband team of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler.
6. "The Drummer Boy," Earth, Wind & Fire. A haunting taste of township jive from the R&B heroes of EW&F's Holiday, which, yes, does include a version of "September," rewritten as "December."
7. "Winter Wonderland," Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga. The season's cutest couple swing through the woods with Parson Brown.
8. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Darius Rucker and Sheryl Crow. Frank Loesser's kinda creepy standard finds former Hootie front man plying kittenish Crow with drinks, the better to persuade her not to "hold out."
9. "Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto," Christian McBride Trio. Philadelphia jazz bassist and James Brown aficionado's instrumental take of JB's funk classic schools St. Nick on what West Philly neighborhoods he needs to visit: "Hit Chancellor Street, Irving Street, go on down to Woodland Avenue." A showcase for pianist Christian Sands, on the all-jazz It's Christmas on Mack Avenue comp.
10. "Funky Merry Christmas," Pee Wee Ellis. Speaking of the Godfather of Soul, Brown saxman Ellis has a terrific jazz and funk holiday album, The Spirit of Christmas.
11. "El Primer Noel," Gaby Moreno. One of a set of lovely Spanish-language holiday songs from the Guatemalan singer and guitarist on the album Posada.
12. "Charpentier Messe de Minuit Pour Noel - Kyrie," William Christie. Gorgeous choral music interlude on the Christmas at Downton Abbey collection, which includes a singing Elizabeth McGovern and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) reading "A Visit From St. Nicholas."
13. "The Enniscorthy Christmas Carol," Rosanne Cash, Tom Jones, Caitriona O'Leary, and Rhiannon Giddens. One of a dozen beautifully rendered 17th-century songs from the Wexford Carols project headed by Irish singer O'Leary.
14. "2000 Miles," Mark Kozolek. A Pretenders cover on the wonderfully warm and melancholy Sings Christmas Carols acoustic collection from the Sun Kil Moon main man.
15. "Christmas Card," Joyce Manor. A rocked-out memory with staying power: the lead cut from this Ohio punk band's Never Hungover Again.
16. "6th Gear - Bethlehem Edition," Diplo, Alvaro, Kstylis. Christmas booty-shaker from former Philadelphia DJ-producer's Mad Decent label compilation A Very Very Decent Christmas.
17. "I'll Be Stoned for Christmas," Dent May. Mississippi synth-pop songwriter plans to spend the 25th in a holidaze.
18. "My Tree," Killer Bangs. Philadelphia garage-rock quartet hopes to light up and do the same, from the "Naughty & Nice" EP available at killerbangs.bandcamp.com. Proceeds go to Toys for Tots.
19. "Nicholas," Work Drugs. Sweet holiday love song from the synthy, smooth-grooving Philadelphia band. Available at workdrugs.bandcamp.com.
20. "What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas," Anthony Hamilton. " 'Tis the season to be jolly," sings the old-school soul man on Home for the Holidays. "But how can I be when I don't have nobody?"
21. "South Alabam Christmas," Jamey Johnson. Burly country outlaw's sad-eyed waltz is the centerpiece of his "The Christmas Song" EP.
22. "Hanukkah," the Living Sisters. The Los Angeles indie-pop quartet of Eleni Mandell, Inara George, Becky Stark, and Alex Lilly blends voices in praise of the Festival of Lights, from Harmony Is Real: Songs for a Happy Holiday.
23. "White Winter Hymnal," Pentatonix. A fetching a cappella cover of the Fleet Foxes track by the Texas vocal group that has the biggest-selling holiday album of 2014, with the chart-topping That's Christmas to Me.
24. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Cecile McLorin Salvant. The young jazz singer turns in a delicately divine version of Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane's less-than-jolly standard, first recorded by Judy Garland in 1944's Meet Me in St. Louis. On It's Christmas on Mack Avenue.
25. "Joel the Lump of Coal," the Killers, featuring Jimmy Kimmel. The Killers' annual Christmas single for (RED), Bono's AIDS in Africa charity, takes us out with a Rudolph-like, heartrending tale of a lonely lump who aspires to be a diamond someday.