Holiday music just sounds better on vinyl

Records on display are Dana Labat’s kind of Christmas decor. He’d always keep it simple: a tree for the kids, plus some of his records propped up on shelves. The covers depicted snowy villages and presents.

And Labat had plenty of albums to choose from. Even before he opened Capital City Records in 2014, his home was bursting with 10,000 records.

Holiday music can be polarizing. You love it—or you don’t. But as Labat sifts through his shop’s collection of 300-plus seasonal records, it’s a reminder there’s no genre that hasn’t dabbled in holiday themes. Motown, blues, R&B, country, rock, punk. It’s all here.

“Regardless of what kind of music you like, your collection inevitably had some type of holiday record,” he says. He pulls out a holiday record by My Morning Jacket. “Oh, look—for the hipsters.”

There are modern classics from artists like Mariah Carey and John Legend. Then there are the quintessential tunes from Burl Ives, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole.

The store has plenty of rarities. A real Christmas card inside a red envelope is attached to the original LP of The Partridge Family’s Christmas Card. A ’70s compilation called A Christmas Present unfolds like a pop-up book, unveiling a paper Christmas scene of reindeer and snowmen. Talk about Christmas decor!

Over at Pop Shop Records, owner Charlotte Smith is putting the finishing touches on her new location at Acadian Thruway. She is already thinking about Record Store Day’s Black Friday releases. She’ll add limited edition holiday albums by artists like Eric Clapton, Hall & Oates and the Monkees to her seasonal bins.

“I’m a big fan of unexpected Christmas albums,” Smith says, pulling out a release by The Flaming Lips. Another record—Once Upon a Christmas by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers—embodies the joy of the season for her. And Tijuana Christmas by the Border Brass, she says, is just ridiculously fun. It’s a respite from what can be an emotionally heavy season.

“We cry a lot during Christmas songs,” she says. “They make us think about coming together—or not being able to be together.”

There’s something about a song, Labat adds, that brings you back to all your Christmases past.

And sure, it’s easy to pull up Spotify or a holiday music channel on the TV. But nothing takes you back quite like hearing a song in its original, raw, scratchy form on a record player—just as it sounded all those years ago.

This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.