“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” – or so Andy Williams crooned, anyway. But for the music connoisseur Christmas represents an excruciating exercise in repetition where it’s impossible to find a radio station free from Noddy Holder’s cry of “it’s chrisssstmasssssss!”
With that in mind, here’s a few alternative choices not tainted by endless regurgitation.
Julian Casablancas – I Wish It Was Christmas Today
Hero of all things indie Julian Casablancas hasn’t had a particularly fruitful solo career (2009’s Phrazes of the Young bombed commercially, whilst this years’ ‘JC+TheVoidz’ project was a bit of a mess), but his one-off Christmas single was a stroke of genius. Sounding like a cross between Angles-era Strokes and Phoenix, ‘I Wish It Was Christmas Today’ is flooringly catchy and benefits hugely from Casablancas’ signature snarly vocals.
The Killers – The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball
Vegas rockers The Killers have been making Christmas songs in aid of charity for seven years now, and whilst most have been a bit naff (hang your head, ‘Don’t Shoot Me Santa’) The Cowboys’ ‘Christmas Ball’ emerges as a cracking festive anthem. Its western theme is a bit outside the realms of your usual Christmas songs, but as with most Killers tracks once you’ve heard the hook, you’re sold.
Death Cab For Cutie – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Originally sung by sixties legend Darlene Love, ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ is every bit as mopey as it sounds – making it pretty much perfect for Ben Gibbard to wrap his famously emotional vocals around. In fact, it fits Death Cab For Cutie so well that you’ll find it hard to believe they didn’t write it themselves.
James Brown – Soulful Christmas
An absolute classic from groove legend James Brown, this. ‘Soulful Christmas’ is pretty much the ultimate Christmas party tune – with its vintage Brown saxophones and jazz hooks. The song itself is almost an open Christmas card to his fans – a group you will no doubt count yourself amongst upon giving this a listen.
Weezer – The Christmas Song
Weezer fans will tell you to be wary of anything Rivers Cuomo wrote in the noughties – but the band’s patchy discography has moments of genuine pop-rock greatness. Originally a bonus track on 2001’s The Green Album (the home of ‘Island in the Sun’ and ‘Hash Pipe’), the appropriately titled track ‘The Christmas Song’ harkens back to Pinkerton-era Weezer. A blaze of electric guitars and a less-than positive attitude to the festive season, it’s well worth a look.
Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)
You should never need an excuse to listen to the Ramones, but thankfully the band provided a great one with ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’. Much like most of their songs it’s not the most eloquent – and might scare the grandparents slightly at Christmas dinner – but if you’re looking to throw a party this will certainly liven up proceedings a little.
The Flaming Lips – Christmas at the Zoo
Most of us spend our Christmas with family – singing carols, eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine. Wayne Coyne, if the eleventh track on 1995 Flaming Lips record Clouds Taste Metallic is anything to go by, spends his festive holiday freeing animals from the zoo. It’s not exactly traditional, but then again not much about the enigmatic frontman is.
Fountains of Wayne – I Want An Alien For Christmas
Best known for their huge radio hit ‘Stacy’s Mom’, New Yorkers Fountains of Wayne produced an equally silly yet uplifting track for the festive season in 2005. If you’re looking for a slice of danceable pop punk for your Christmas playlist, you can’t do much better that ‘I Want An Alien For Christmas’.
Smith & Burrows – When The Thames Froze
The NME famously panned Smith & Burrows one-off Christmas collaboration, writing “let’s not blame Christmas for this kind of crap” in a review I’ve always thought was extremely unfair. Penned by Editors frontman Tom Smith and former Razorlight sticksman Andy Burrows, ‘When The Thames Froze’ is a melancholy yet interesting and artistic take on the festive season. It deserves a second chance.
The Pogues – Fairytale of New York
Yes, yes – this is about as classic a Christmas song as they come. What differentiates ‘Fairytale of New York’ from other songs in the festive radio cycle is that it ISN’T tainted by endless repetition. It’s a testament to what a brilliant song Fairytale of New York actually is that it still brings a smile to your face everytime you hear it. Equal parts humourous and bitter, Shane McGowan’s great love story isn’t just one of the best Christmas songs ever, but one of the best songs ever written period.
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