They start playing like clockwork on the radio every single time. You can recognise them from a mile away, and they draw you so quickly into a sense of familiarity, it’s kinda eerie. Don’t get us wrong – songs along the cadre of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey and “Last Christmas” by Wham! are all great, but let’s face it — you wouldn’t want to listen to them all the time. With that in mind, here are 8 Christmas songs that will certainly make you do a double take and a closer listen.
The Chemical Brothers – “Snow”
These English electronic maestros hit it right out of the park faster than you can say “unconventional” with this bleeping, screeching number. Stun your extended family when they come to visit by playing this song, like you’re celebrating Christmas in the bowels of a dial-up Internet modem.
Courtney Barnett – “Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)”
Bringing her trademark indolence and insouciance to the table, this one’s clearly meant for the day after Christmas, when you’ve had too much to consume and imbibe in the preceding days and nights and can no longer tell turkey bloat from indigestion and hangover from reality. Holiday cheer who?
!!! – “And Anyway It’s Christmas”
!!! – pronounced “chk chk chk” – have put it onto themselves to come up with this very danceable track, sounding like “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn (which is, by the way, the BEST SONG in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE), but adapted for Christmas. Also the kind of song you might hear playing in a Topshop during the December shopping season, as you wait for a surly salesperson to bring out a pair of shoes in your size.
The Killers – “Boots”
OK, we admit – this one’s actually quite sad on first listen, but it’s also inspirational in a way. It’s about coming back to your family after realising that you’ve made some bad decisions and ok this is too real I don’t think I can say anything snarky about this song so I’ll just stop here. And Brandon Flowers – oh, what a gorgeous man.
Hurts – “All I Want for Christmas is New Year’s Day”
Pardon the cemetery setting, pardon the weird characters, and pardon the icy chill you can almost feel from looking at the video still. But coming from a duo who perpetually dress up like morticians and sing the most dispiriting synth-pop songs, this song’s actually quite festive – so props to that.
Jimmy Eat World – “12.23.95”
If you’re stricken by Yuletide existential yearning to go back to simpler times, here’s a start – literally everything about this song is simply done, from the very, very uncomplicated lyrics and the floaty guitar, down to the title, so evocative of an epoch where literally most of us were infants, if not completely nonexistent.
No Doubt – “Oi to The World”
This cover of a punk holiday anthem (a phrase I’d never expect to string together) by The Vandals is done up in true No Doubt fashion: a fast, crunching electric guitar, a ska-inspired bass guitar bridge, and lots of Gwen Stefani throughout. The music video is a little questionable though – we don’t understand it either, much like the confused auto-rickshaw driver at 1:30.
Zee Avi – “No Christmas for Me”
Last but not least, the first Malaysian artist to break into the US music scene in the past 10 years (yes, she predated Yuna on that) – and also Malaysia’s closest approximation of Zooey Deschanel in her capacity as a singer – has this little number, part of This Warm December, a holiday compilation released waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2008 by Brushfire Records. Don’t be fooled by the obvious bleakness of the title – this song actually finishes on a super-sweet note.
By Zamir Zainal
Header photo: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Toronto Star