Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.


The Beach Boys' Christmas Album

Oh, Beach Boys! You apple-cheeked, sweater-clad, expertly Brylcreemed gentlemen, all tinseling up that tree together! I've heard of these boys—we go way, way back, all the way to the oldies station. But I had not heard their Christmas album, and I also have a never-heard-of-it story about the Beach Boys that I'd like to tell you. Light a fire! Pull up a chair!

I dug the Beach Boys as a kid, because of Seattle's rad (and now tragically defunct) oldies station KBSG. (Sing it with me: "Good times and great oldies! [wacky jazz sax solo] Ninety-seven point three! K-B-S-Geeeeeeee!") I rediscovered them as a teenager, and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows" filled me with aching longing; they took my breath away. But who listens to the Beach Boys in high school nowadays? Nobody, that's who. I kept it on the DL. Later, I started hearing about Pet Sounds. That was the hip Beach Boys album, the one that was not embarrassing to like. Wikipedia says its sound is "a far cry from the simple surf rock" of their early albums, composed of "elaborate layers of vocal harmonies, coupled with sound effects and unconventional instruments"; it's "one of the most important albums of all time." But by the time I was hearing about the amazingness of Pet Sounds, I was so petrified of (and exhausted by) the feeling of twerpiness that came from not "getting" music, I never checked it out. I kept my Beach Boys love in my secret heart where no cool kids could get to it. And there it sat until this year, when I finally worked up the nerve to listen to Pet Sounds... whereupon I discovered that I already knew (and liked) all the goddamn songs. GAWD. Lesson learned, yo.

Anyway, on to the Christmas Album. I curled up with these songs in a wood-and-blanket-filled cabin recently, in front of a big black stove full of roaring fire, crummy weather outside but a view of mountains beyond. "Little Saint Nick," essentially a Christmas version of "Little Deuce Coupe," is fun, and you probably know it. But even better are "The Man with All the Toys," which has jovial man-harmonies with vocal sound effects ("He's the man [bop!] with all [bop!] the toys [bop!]"); "Santa's Beard," where his little brother eats a mall Santa's beard; and "Merry Christmas, Baby," about getting dumped right before Christmas. If you get the newer album Christmas with the Beach Boys, it has the entirety of this album plus a bunch of other Xmas songs and then, at the end, a cute PSA for a toy drive and a sweetly awkward interview with sweetly awkward leader Brian Wilson. You need no other Christmas album than this, y'all.

I give this a "good times and great oldies" out of 10. recommended