Hey, it's almost Christmas. By now, you're likely sick of Christmas music (particularly if you work in any kind of service industry position where you are forced to endure the endless looping soundtrack sent down from corporate HQ to be played beginning mid-November until Boxing Day and you just want to kill yourself or the customers or both or lie down somewhere under a coat and cry for a bit).
Anyway, if you need a reprieve from the usual, perhaps this will help. And if you've heard all these, then I guess you're screwed. Merry Christmas.
1. Chirstmas Lights – Coldplay
Don’t worry, this was released back in the day (2012) when Coldplay were still ensconced in their safe space – general d-minor melancholy – and before the wild swings of late between severe depression (2014’s Ghost Stories) and colourful giddiness (2105’s A Head Full of Dreams). The song is about getting drunk on Christmas Eve, having a fight with one’s significant other, leaving to let off some steam on a walk down Oxford Street, and, though it’s not quite snowing yet, subsequently being struck with Christmas spirit upon seeing the lighting displays, and regretting silly verbal spars. Now, can it all be rectified? Who knows! But probably! It’s simple, really, and complete with all the surging piano chords in its latter half for which Coldplay are best known and which, frankly, work well in a Christmas song. That’s the kind of joyful stuff you need in the depths of December, isn’t it? It makes one think that perhaps Coldplay ought to just release Christmas songs forevermore, and put the regular stuff to bed. Maybe Christmas will deliver one last miracle.
2. Sister Winter – Sufjan Stevens
This, like most Sufjan Stevens songs, is a bit dark. It’s not entirely clear what’s happening in this song, to me, or, for what it’s worth, to anyone apparently over at Genius, where the lyrics have no accompanying notes. Anyhow, mostly it seems to be about rejection, of happiness, of other people and of other people rejecting you, and yet, in the end, coming back in from the cold and making amends because it’s Christmas. At the end, it’s pretty much happy. I think? Anyway, Sister Winter is one among many Sufjan Christmas-themed tracks from his two Christmassy albums. This is one of the better tracks, but there are others worth putting on your list – that is, unless you hate this, and then stay away, because mostly they’re a bit like this one.
3. Merry Xmas (Says Your Text Message) – Dragonette
Modern Christmas songs can’t get much more modern than a track about receiving, and returning, a crappy text message. That is what this song is about, and Dragonette executes it with perfect dismissive aplomb, delivering a literal “fuck you” right there in the chorus: “Merry Xmas says your text message/ But you’re late by a day or two/ So mine says thanks a lot – fuck you”, to which, later, the backing vocal of “No regrets/ for a moment!” are added. That, in all honesty, is a terrific text to send to your boy/girlfriend who’s sent you a late Christmas greeting via text message. It’s probably a great response to anyone who does such a thing, but hey, we live in a society and that kind of vulgarity, while wonderful, is to be placed carefully. That is: not recommended for your grandmother, for instance. But you knew that.
4. I Wish It Was Christmas Today – Julian Casablancas
This song was originally performed by Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Tracy Morgan and Chris Kattan on Saturday Night Live. Fallon got the band back together (well, just him and Sanz) in 2009 on Late Night and resurrected the track, adding Julian Casablancas (of the Strokes) as lead vocal. Casablancas subsequently released the song on his own as a single in late December of that year. It’s about what you’d expect from a song that debuted on SNL: “I wish it was Christmas today/ Santa’s bringing goodies to the boys and girls/ In every nook and cranny in this crazy ass world/ I want it, I want it.” And so forth. You get the idea.
5. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Cat Power
Cat Power released this single in 2013. It is exactly as advertised. It’s short, sparse, and a bit fuzzy, with Cat Power on the vocals – in other words, the perfect arrangement for the saddest classic Christmas song of all time.
6. My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)
Probably you know about this one already, so stop me if you’ve heard this one before, etc. etc. It’s off the 2009 Gift Wrapped compilation. It belongs on your list mostly for the virtue of being a New Year’s song that’s not Auld Lang Syne, but it happens to be quite a lovely little song, too. Spektor’s voice in other places can push the twee meter a bit far, but it sits nicely here, whispering along some friendly and warm vocals while, at times, a darker soundtrack of sirens and gunfire plays in the background. It’s a bit on the nose, but the message is clear: it’s worth staying happy and hopeful about each other, and the year ahead, despite the occasional bleakness offered by the world. Or something.