20 Dec 2016 / Tyler Jenke
12 Modern Christmas Songs That Don’t Suck
We’re five days away now from the big event, folks, and by now, you’re probably sick of walking into your local Coles or Woolworths and hearing nothing but the same Christmas carols you’ve been hearing your entire life. The good news, though, is that Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ isn’t the most recent Christmas tune out there.
Despite a noticeable lack of decent Christmas tunes, bands the world over are still churning out some great Christmas songs – but thankfully, they’re not all horrible. Some are even, dare we say it, pretty good?
We’ve decided to take a look at some modern day original Christmas songs that manage to keep the spirit of the season alive, without ending up as cheesy garbage.
The White Stripes – ‘Candy Cane Children’
Back in 2002, between the release of their albums White Blood Cells & Elephant, Jack and Meg White decided to feel a bit festive and release a Christmas single. The typically garage-rock single has become a favourite of alternative rockers over the years, despite its seemingly dark undertones. Regardless, it’s a still a Jack White banger that deserves some attention.
Low – ‘Just Like Christmas’
Low are one of those bands who have managed to escape great commercial success over their lifetime. Instead, they’ve been moderately successful due to word of mouth, their music appearing on movie and TV soundtracks, or their cover of the Christmas tune ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. Well, from that same album came an original Christmas tune from the group. A little bit more uptempo than usual, Low’s ‘Just Like Christmas’ invokes the nostalgia and wonder of Christmas as a child.
Sufjan Stevens – ‘Did I Make You Cry On Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)’
Sufjan Stevens is an indie darling whose critical and commercial is well-deserved. 2015’s Carrie And Lowell saw him feature on many ‘album of the year’ lists, and his Aussie tour this year was frankly, bloody brilliant. Back in 2005, when his career was really starting to take off, he released his 4th (of 10, so far) Christmas EP.
One of the highlights on the EP was the somewhat depressing ‘Did I Make You Cry On Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)’. Focusing on a Christmas spent in a doomed relationship, the title of the song almost seems to relate how the listener is feeling once they finish off the song.
Everything But The Girl – ‘25th December’
Back in 1994, Everything But The Girl managed some worldwide success with the track ‘Missing’, from their eighth album Amplified Heart. If checked out that album and stuck around a few tracks past ‘Missing’, you would’ve come across ’25th December’. An emotional ballad that focuses on the emotional connections and dramas that can occur at this time of the year, it’s a tender song that scores some repeat listens from the heartbroken around Christmas time.
Paul Kelly – ‘How To Make Gravy’
Australia’s poet, Paul Kelly, proves that it’s not only the northern hemisphere who can monopolise Christmas songs. Released as an EP in late 1996, Kelly’s heartbreaking tale of a jailed man in the days leading up to Christmas struck a chord with Aussies all over, and has remained popular ever since. His ability to tap into the emotion, nostalgia, and memories of hot weather that folks associate with Christmas has lead to it becoming one of Australia’s few, yet best known, Christmas songs.
The Walkmen – ‘The Christmas Party’
At this time of year, Christmas parties are all the rage. Whether it be the infamous work christmas party, in which everyone gets just a little bit too tipsy, or whether it’s a family Christmas party where everyone gets a little bit too tipsy (with family), it’s a fun time that usually ends up a bit messy. Somehow, New York rockers The Walkmen managed to capture the very essence of that nostalgic, alcohol-fuelled Christmas party in a 3-minute song.
Manic Street Preachers – ‘The Ghost Of Christmas’
Released back in 2007, Manic Street Preachers’ ‘The Ghost Of Christmas’ focuses on just how lovely Christmas was when the band were younger. Admittedly, this track is a little bit more focused on the UK Christmas experience, but there’s plenty of us here in Australia who’ve had similar Christmas experiences.
Summer Camp – ‘Christmas Wrapping’
We’re all feeling it by now. Totally burnt out on the Christmas hustle and bustle, just ready to soak in those few sweet days away from work, and patiently waiting for the new year’s festivities to roll around. Back in 1981 when The Waitresses wrote this song, it seems like they were feeling it that way too. Written from the perspective of someone who is almost too exhausted by the Christmas rush to take part in the festivities, UK duo Summer Camp gave this much-loved track a more modern sound when they covered it a few years back.
Julian Casablancas – ‘I Wish It Was Christmas Today’
Back in 2000, a few years before he was a housefold name on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon joined up with Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan, and Tracy Morgan on Saturday Night Live to deliver one of the most infectious, childish, and popular musical segments that the show ever saw. In 2009, Julian Casablancas, frontman for The Strokes, decided to give a tongue-in-cheek update to the song. While it lacks the humour that the original tune does, Casablancas’ version feels like an authentic update of the song for the indie-rock audience.
Poly Styrene – ‘Black Christmas’
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, and frankly, if you look at the sparsity of Poly Styrene’s discography, she was almost neither. In 2010, the former X-Ray Spex singer returned from a long period of inactivity to release this Christmas single only 5 months before her untimely death. While embodying the indie and dup styles that she was famous for, ‘Black Christmas’ is a surprisingly upbeat Christmas tune, despite being about an American serial killer who would dress up as Santa Claus.
Los Campesinos! – ‘Kindle A Flame In Her Heart’
Indie-pop can be a pretty hit-and-miss genre, after all, it’s supposed to be quirky, catchy, and simple. Welsh rockers Los Campesinos! do all of that, but their music is far from simple. While it features a catchy chorus, the song’s lyrics predominantly feature a stream-of-consciousness recital of Christmases gone by. Romantic and nostalgic, like a good Christmas song should be, Los Campesinos! manage to convey a heartfelt message while managing to produce a song that’s pretty likely to get stuck in your head if you listen too closely.
Triple J – Christmas Number One
Christmas singles aren’t as big in Australia as they are elsewhere around the world. Thanks to Christmas singles, we now have songs like ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ by Band Aid, so depending on your attitude to that song, it’s either a blessing or a curse. Back in 2013, triple j took on the task of creating their own star-studded Christmas song.
Musicians featured on the aptly titled ‘Christmas Number One’ include members of Thundamentals, Joyride, Bertie Blackman, Thomas Rawle, Elizabeth Rose, Andy Bull, Abbe May, Phil Jamieson, Bree Tranter, Lindsay ‘The Doctor’ McDougall, Touch Sensitive, Lawrence Pike, Asta, and Lunatics On Pogosticks. Meanwhile triple j presenters Tom and Alex, Zan Rowe, Nina Las Vegas, Linda Marigliano, Tom Tilley, Dom Alessio, Doctor Karl, and Amelia and Ange from the triple j newsroom all feature, with a guest appearance from Bananas In Pyjamas.
If you’re wondering, triple j’s ambitious track did manage to reach number one on the iTunes charts, but as with ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, the public opinion of the song is a little bit divided. Some love it, some hate it, but all in all, with a display of Aussie talent of this magnitude, it’s impressive regardless of the songs quality.
Filed: Feature Editorial