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Duo debut new, alt-Christmas songs — because they hate Baby Boomer favorites

Published November 24, 2012 1:01 am

Music • Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick shun seasonal favorites.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of Utah's first Christmas shows of the holiday season won't feature "Winter Wonderland," "Let It Snow" or any of those familiar songs about reindeer.

To boot, the musicians have banned the use of the words "merry" and "cheer."

There's no reason to be alarmed. Instead, singer-songwriters Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick say they've got some new Christmas songs on tap.

The duo will perform selections from their new album, "One Christmas at a Time," which first began as an attempt to record what Coulton called "a big money-making album." In the idea stages, they were considering a title like "The Rod Stewart Christmas Album," which they called a crass attempt to lure buyers.

But when Roderick and Coulton got together to start working on the album in August, they realized they didn't like the vast majority of Christmas songs.

And what's so bad about the traditional favorites? "C'mon, you know what's wrong with the old Christmas songs," Coulton replies. "We don't listen to them because they are good songs. It's because of baby-boomer nostalgia."

Coulton said he always felt creepy when he had to sing the word "virgin" in songs such as "Silent Night."

Added Roderick: " 'Rudolph' isn't really a good song."

Neither singer considered himself particularly religious, so they decided to invent their own Christmas songs.

Roderick and Coulton have made careers out of reinventing audiences' notions of comedy in indie-folk songs. Roderick is best-known for his band The Long Winters, while Coulton has the same clever songwriting style that made him an Internet sensation in 2005 and 2006 with his off-kilter project "Thing a Week," where he recorded 52 musical pieces to prove to himself that he could write songs on a deadline, and released each on YouTube.

In the span of about a week, Coulton and Roderick wrote a batch of holiday songs. "Our internal feelings about Christmas came pouring out," Roderick said. "The melancholy, the longing, the warm blankets, the smothering." —

'One Christmas at a Time'

A seasonal concert by singers Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick, at which they'll debut alternative holiday songs from their new Christmas CD.

When • Tuesday, Nov. 27, 8 p.m.

Where • The State Room, 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City

Tickets • $20 at thestateroom.com