20 Recent Christmas Songs That Don’t Suck
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So this is Christmas, and what have we got? The same old songs we’re sick to death of. By Sunday, there won’t be a single human alive who won’t scream if they hear yet another rendition of “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night”… and if we hear that annoying song about the little girl who wants a hippopotamus one more time, we’ll get her one, knowing full well hippos are Africa’s most dangerous animal.
But worry not! Hornet’s magic elves have cobbled together a wonderful Christmas party playlist full of songs you may not have heard! They’ll keep your holiday rockin’ rather than ending in wild hippos and bloodshed.
1. “Carol of the Bells” by The Bird and the Bee
Of the traditional carols, this is one of the least over-exposed. The Bird & The Bee cover this classic ably — and Inara George sings the lyrics with a beautiful wistfulness, despite them being mostly about bells. She’s got that knack.
2. “White December” by Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue released her first Christmas album last year, and it’s pretty great. Especially this doo-wop-tinged original, “White December,” bringing forth memories of Phil Spector — memories of his classic A Christmas Gift For You LP, that is, and not his being a murderer.
3. “Deck the Halls/Sleigh Ride” by The Moog Cookbook
The Moog Cookbook (the duo of Roger Manning from Jellyfish and Brian Kehew, who has performed with Air and The Who) make cover albums with throwback arrangements. Their three albums, The Moog Cookbook, Ye Olde Space Bande and Bartell are all classics, and this surprisingly rockin’ version of “Deck the Halls” comes from Bartell.
Their 21st century music tries to evoke a ’60s feel, and their rendition of “Deck The Halls/Sleigh Ride” actually sounds like that vintage.
4. “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens’ acoustic guitar and banjo-led number is for all the people who are celebrating Christmas, whether they feel like it or not. Remember, no matter how bad your Christmas may be going — this song reminds you, it could always be worse.
5. “Merry Christmas from the Family” by Jill Sobule
Written by Robert Earl Keen and covered by quite a few country and alt-country artists, here’s a version of “Merry Christmas From The Family” by someone who isn’t terribly related to either the country or alt-country scenes! Most people remember Jill Sobule from her song, the superior version of “I Kissed A Girl”, but her entire discography is full of gems.
If you’ve never heard this southern-fried classic, the Montgomery Gentry version is pretty good too, but Jill Sobule is where our money’s at.
6. “Office Christmas Party” by Los Abandoned
“Office Christmas Party” is one of the only songs about the time-honored tradition of regrettably hooking up at the office party. Sadly, Los Abandoned were a one-and-done band — they broke up shortly after the release of their underrated debut album Mix Tape. Had they stuck around, who knows what other traditions Los Abandoned would write about…
7. “Homo Christmas” by Pansy Division
The legendary queercore band Pansy Division of course had something to say about Christmas. “Homo Christmas” is a catchy, bouncy powerpop song about getting plowed for the holidays — and we’re not talkin’ snow. Unlike other Christmas songs about sexy times, doesn’t beat around the bush — delightfully explicit lyrics like “You’ll probably get sweaters/Underwear and socks/But what you’d really like for Christmas/Is a nice hard cock” really get to the heart of what the season’s all about.
8. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by Asobi Seksu
Santa brought you shoegaze for Christmas! This is Asobi Seksu’s cover of the Ramones classic. While not as rockin’ as the original, Asobi Seksu puts an interesting twist on the original — and until My Bloody Valentine finally makes a Christmas album (you know they’re working on it), Seksu’s version is the next best thing.
9. “New Year’s Revolution” by Graham Parker
Graham Parker is often compared to Elvis Costello, which makes sense: A few members of Graham Parker’s backing band, The Rumor, played on Elvis’ first album, My Aim Is True. Like Elvis, Graham Parker doesn’t stick with one genre — this one has a bit of a Northern Soul feel.
10. “Santa Claus” by The Sonics
At this point, The Sonics’ “Santa Claus” is becoming a rock Christmas standard, covered by acts like Belle & Sebastian, They Might Be Giants and more. The Sonics are one of the original garage/punk bands — and they’re back together after breaking up in 1966. As many versions as there are of this song, it’s hard to beat the original’s bratty energy about being ignored by Santa.
11. “Christmas Wish” by Takako Minekawa
Takako Minekawa was a Japanese child star who transformed herself into a brilliantly experimental pop musician. This is from her Japanese-only EP Baroque in Winter, and it’s a cover of the NRBQ 2007 song. Thankfully, Minekawa’s releasing music again after a long hiatus starting in the year 2000: Her most recent is 2014’s Savage Imagination, her second with collaborator Dustin Wong.
12. “Christmas Without a Prayer” by Sparks
While Sparks continue to prep their new album Hippopotamus and their upcoming film with Guy Maddin, 2016 was quiet for the band. But last year, not only did they release one of the best albums of the year they also did a Christmas single! Only Sparks’ tinkly piano and downtrodden vocals can really do justice to this song about being alone on Christmas; after all, they’ve had practice with the similarly downcast “Thank God It’s Not Christmas.”
13. “Evergreen” by mc chris
We love unconventional Christmas songs, especially “Evergreen”, one about buying drugs from a Christmas tree salesman. Christmas songs should cover all methods of celebration, be they legal in your town or not.
14. “Christmas Is Going to the Dogs” by Eels
There should be more Christmas songs from a dog’s point of view. There’s the deeply creepy “Christmas Puppy” by Dudley Dogg, Jr., and then this song by the Eels. Thankfully, this one doesn’t featured terrifying sped-up vocals and is actually funny and cute. Sometimes all we really want is to lie somewhere and chew.
15. “Feast of Lights” by They Might Be Giants
Hanukkah started on Christmas Eve this year, so why not include this song from They Might Be Giants? No stranger to dark holiday songs, “Feast of Lights” feels like an updated version of their demo-only song “We Just Go Nuts At Christmas Time” which is actually about dealing with divorce. Yeah, that’s what happens after you see mommy kissing Santa Claus…
16. “Countdown to Christmas Party Time” by The Three Wise Men
The Three Wise Men are secretly XTC. This was the flip-side to their holiday single “Thanks For Christmas” which you can sometimes still hear on the radio. Songwriter Andy Partridge said they recorded this song “to keep the single from warping“, but that doesn’t do the track justice — it’s actually a fun little dance song.
A fun bit of trivia: both sides of the Three Wise Men single were originally going to be recorded by the secretarial pool at their label at the time, Virgin Records — credited to The Virgin Marys, but the label got cold feet and XTC recorded it themselves.
17. “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas” by Pet Shop Boys
While the Pet Shop Boys might not exactly be synonymous with Christmas, this fan-club single is a nice little present. With climate change making for hotter Decembers, this song might be more and more relevant as time passes.
18. “I Don’t Have a Christmas Tree (Soylent Night)” by Mark Mothersbaugh
Speaking of odd choices to put out Christmas music, here’s an original song by Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO! In fact, Mothersbaugh recorded a full Christmas album, Joyeux Mutato, a mostly instrumental venture; “I Don’t Have A Christmas Tree” is one of its few vocal tracks. If you want more DEVOlution for your Christmas party, the full Joyeux Mutato album is pretty great… and there’s always DEVO’s own “Merry Something To You!” That song is super upbeat too.
19. “Ruby Left a Present Under the Christmas Tree” by Too Much Joy
There are a lot of great power-pop Christmas songs, and Too Much Joy’s “Ruby Left A Present Underneath The Christmas Tree” will remind you just how underrated this fantastic band is. There’s still time for this song, released in 2001, to be a world-wide Christmas smash, though! Make it happen!
20. “All I Want for Christmas…” by Shonen Knife
Shonen Knife together with Sonic Youth — for Christmas?! You better believe it — this great Christmas song is written by Naoko Yamano with Thurston Moore. It’s not even the only song they’ve made together — check out “Butterfly Boy” from Rock Animals. But first enjoy this nice, happy Christmas song from nice, happy Christmas people.
(featured image via WPWParksGal/DeviantArt)