Nights In

Alternative christmas songs

Ah, Christmas music. From early November on, it seems that there is truly no escape from Mariah, George and (whisper it) Cliff as retailers and radio stations alike endeavour to drive us all around the bend.

Don’t get me wrong:  I love Christmas. I love Christmas music, by and large, but I also love pizza. I don’t eat pizza every day, nor do I need to be assailed by “Deck the Halls” every time I go to buy milk in Dunnes. Like the alternative to the stylings of Katy Perry and Rihanna, I give you the alternative Christmas playlist – for the jaded, festive folk among us.

Very little can be said for the “original” Christmas rock song; I’ll be honest. They’re generally bad. Really bad. Remember “Don’t Let the Bells End” by The Darkness? Or Cyndi Lauper’s “Early Christmas Morning?” If you don’t, good for you – because they are truly dire.

That said, I can’t criticise these tunes all that much; after all, Christmas is a time for cheese and silliness, not serious tunes.  It’s a time where we want to feel warm instead of the usual cold-hearted cynicism we approach a lot of music with. Well, some of us do. Others just can’t hack the nightmarish cover versions and seek out a more chilled Christmas playlist. I present to you just that.

For those of us still not over our emo days, a number of pop-punk bands have tackled the Christmas tune. My personal favourite of the bunch is Death Cab For Cutie’s relaxed, melancholy cover version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. Sometimes the manic cheer of Christmas is too much, and you need to sit with your feet up and a bottle of mulled wine, all for yourself. This is the tune for that.

Other relaxed and slightly sad Christmassy songs include “All I Want for Christmas is New Year’s Day”, a lyrically bizarre but grandiose sounding offering from indie darlings Hurts. “Happiness has never felt so far away”, anyone? Finally, those of us who like our melancholy with a side of infinite sadness, Smashing Pumpkins’ “Christmastime” is lyrically kind of upbeat, but Billy Corgan’s dreamy vocals are as big a downer as ever. Add a truly bizarre set of panpipes into the mix and you’ve got a Christmassy, grungy confection that’s wonderful-if that’s what you’re into.

If you like your Christmassy rock to be a little more upbeat, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Fall Out Boy. Their cover of The Nightmare Before Christmas tune, What’s This?, is one of my favourite festive bangers, and I don’t care who knows it. The film itself is a lovely, if slightly dated, festive watch, but the updated soundtrack is well worth checking out.

If you’re cooler than me, try Arcade Fire’s “A Very Arcade Christmas”, a low-key, possibly free album featuring covers of classic Christmas tunes as well as originals. Upon further listening, it has transpired that they recorded the whole thing drunk. What’s not to like?

Speaking of Christmas albums, a special mention has to go to Zooey Deschanel’s pet project, She & Him. The ultra-hipster duo recorded, “A Very She & Him Christmas” back in 2012, and it’s about as cutesy and lo-fi as it gets. Including covers of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “”Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, the album is perfect for a romantic night in with your other half, should you be that fortunate around this freezy time. Turn it down low in the background and enjoy the soothing sounds of Zooey and Co. Just try not to spill craft beer on your check shirt while you do it.

A final shout out for the Alternative Christmas playlist goes to The Killers. Every year since 2006, the band have released a single for the most wonderful time, and it’s generally off-the-wall bonkers. In 2008, they collaborated with Elton John for a song dedicated to Joseph, and this year’s ode is to a lump of coal.

Not convinced? Work your way up with their most popular tune to date, “Don’t Shoot me Santa”. It’s part slow-song, part Killers rousing chorus and features a murderous Mr. Claus. It’s no Mr. Brightside, but it’s a lot of fun, and it sure as hell more fun than Shakin’ Stevens for the eightieth time.

Photo: Chloe Chaplin/ Flickr