I just picked up some more Christmas music from the Amazon MP3 store. For all that I like the iTunes Music Store, the Amazon MP3 store is better in every way.
First off, the selection is far, far better. I say that because I don’t buy DRM I can’t easily remove, so the iTMS’s rather anemic selection of “iTunes Plus” albums compares badly to Amazon’s library.
Secondly, there’s the format issue. For all that 256kbps AAC is theoretically better than 256kbps MP3, in practice I tend to encode with LAME’s standard preset, which averages less than 256kbps and is practically indistinguishable from CD in my personal testing. I think it’s easy to be too picky about digital audio. If I could approach my vinyl-buying self of 1983 and offer him his record library in 160kbps MP3s on an iPod, he’d leap at the chance. So given that the quality is good enough, I’d rather have MP3s I can play anywhere than AAC files I can only play most places.
Amazon have the convenience angle sorted too. In fact, it’s a little bit too convenient–it’s one click to buy an album once you install their downloader. The downloader automatically files everything neatly in folders by artist and album, and adds the tracks to iTunes when it’s done.
But enough about the technical jiggery-pokery. The actual music is what counts. First of all I picked up the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s album of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas. I’m not a jazz fan, and I’m not a big fan of the TV adaptation of Peanuts either, but somehow the soundtrack is perfect.
Next I picked up a couple of Cocteau Twins Christmas singles from a compilation. This is where digital downloads really shine–I can buy two songs for 89¢ each rather than a 4-CD compilation I don’t want.
I then went looking for quirky Christmas music, and found Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets. I already have a Tijuana Brass Christmas album and a two different Moog Christmas albums. I’m kinda disappointed that Señor Coconut hasn’t tried his hand at a Kraftwerk Christmas album yet. Ah well, at least there’s the 8bits of Christmas.
Also in my collection are Mark Mothersbaugh’s Joyeux Mutato, and the Illegal Art A MUTATED CHRISTMAS release. Plus, of course, a hefty dose of bootleg/mashup Christmas tracks downloaded from the web.
If anyone has any other recommendations for quirky but listenable Christmas albums, please post ’em.