About this Playlist
In a world benighted by war and climate change and cost-of-living crisis and my local football team facing relegation and possibly financial collapse this season, I can’t help spending eleven-and-a-half months of the year wearing my cynicism like a well-tailored suit, scoffing at blind optimism and scoffing even more at those who dare to indulge in it. But lo and behold, as the calendar nears the end of December, I find myself ensnared in the auditory web of Christmas music.
In this season of humbug, even the most resolute curmudgeon is seduced by tradition and in our house that means Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great’s superb This is Christmas album – by turns silly and poignant, jolly and pensive. And each year we manage to add a few more unconventional Christmas songs to the family’s selection box. Because for every ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ or ‘Last Christmas’ there exists a cacophony of unconventional Christmas melodies that march to the beat of a different drum – even if that means an inexplicably good version of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ or ‘Last Christmas’.
Unconfined by the saccharine sweetness of the yuletide anthems that ring through the aisles on every arduous shopping trip, making your heart ache for the poor employees who spend weeks listening to it on an endless loop, the internet has a trove of alternative Christmas tunes that embrace the odd and unlikely.
From the whimsical ‘Baby Jesus Was the First Glam Rocker’ by Glam Chops to the transgressive charm of ‘A Christmas Duel’ by The Hives and Cyndi Lauper and the apocalyptic/tongue-in-cheek ‘Christmas is Awesome’ by Reuben, my festive playlist isn’t an alternative to the conformity of caroling, more of a rest from it. It’s a celebration of Christmas that side-steps the commercial and the religious, coming from leftfield, yet unashamedly festive.
This is also a time for thinking of absent friends and remembrance of those we have lost. In December 2023, that inevitably means the genius musical storytelling of ‘Fairytale of New York’ after the recent departure of Shane MacGowan, but you already know that one from many, many mainstream playlists. So this selection opens with perhaps my favourite ever Christmas song, Low’s transquil and enigmatic ‘Just Like Christmas’, which has taken on an added bitter-sweetness since the untimely loss of singer Mimi Parker in 2022.
As Nigel Blackwell sings, on Half Man Half Biscuit’s brilliantly-named album Trouble Over Bridgewater:
See how we yawn
At your bile and your scorn
It’s a beautiful day
‘Peace on Earth’ has been played
Make a noise with your toys
And ignore the killjoys
‘Cos it’s clichéd
To be cynical
So, until it’s time to start feeling hopelessly disappointed in humanity again, it’s time to acknowledge the diversity of festive music in a playlist where each note is a reminder that Christmas is celebrated in myriad ways, a symphony of difference.
- Just Like Christmas – Low
- Christmas Time Is Here – This Is The Kit
- Maybe This Christmas – Ron Sexsmith
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Rufus Wainwright
- christmas will break your heart – LCD Soundsystem
- Carol Of The Bells – The Big Moon
- A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) – Glasvegas
- Post Apocalypse Christmas – Gruff Rhys
- She Came Home for Christmas – Mew
- Last Christmas – Jimmy Eat World
- All I Want for Christmas Is You – 2005 – My Chemical Romance
- Countdown to Christmas – Glam Chops
- Christmas Is Awesome – Reuben
- Christmas Was Better In The 80’s – The Futureheads
- It Ain’t Christmas Yet – Ben Kweller
- A Christmas Duel – The Hives
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – The Beths
- It’s Clichéd to Be Cynical at Christmas – Half Man Half Biscuit
- I Wish It Was Christmas Today – Julian Casablancas
- Baby Jesus Was The First Glam Rocker – Glam Chops
- Can’t Wait for Christmas (feat. Me Innit) – Loose Tapestries
- Zombie Christmas – Emmy The Great
Image by Jon and AI
Like this playlist? Click here for Festive Funk from The Hoof, click Suck My Dickens for A mildly amusing X-mas story, More Than Less Than Zero for a holiday playlist set in Southern California, click Asshole Santa and experience the spikey outer-shell of Christmas, or follow this link to Winter Days if you just want a snowy seasonal playlist.