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10 Great Alternative Christmas Songs
Christmas songs and Christmas carols are an incredibly important part of Christmas. But when the season hits it is easy to become tired of the same old songs. This list is going to change that. I am using the term “alternative” simply to describe songs outside what you normally hear, rather than as a definitive genre of music. So, if you enjoy Christmas but are over listening to the same tunes, here are some others to check out.
I stumbled across a video of this song on the internet and have been unable to track down when it was recorded or what album it is on (if any). What I can tell you is that it is a wonderful song and exactly what you would expect from Ben Folds Five. A delightful yet chaotic pop tune filled with frivolity. The song tells the story of an unfortunate and lesser known incident in Christmas history when Santa got his “fat arse stuck” down the chimney.
The Firemen are a two man band featuring Paul McCartney and Youth from Killer Joke. Their recent album, released two years ago, was received with universal acclaim. This particular song was the third single released from that album. There are some doubts about whether or not this is a true Christmas song. However, with lyrics about “winter coming”, “snow falling”, “bells ringing out” and a real uplifting joyous tune, it’s close enough . Plus it’s allot better than Wonderful Christmastime.
Unfortunately Bob Dylan’s record company won’t allow his songs to be embedded via youtube, so here is a link to listen to it. The clip above is Dylan reciting The Night Before Christmas. Bob Dylan left those “serious” music critics baffled and nervous last year when he announced that he was working on a Christmas album. Music buffs were horrified; after all protest songs, autobiographical songs, open ended lyrics and bluesy rootsy music is considered “cool”. Christmas songs on the other hand are “uncool” unless done by an ex-Beatle with an anti-war message attached at the end. The reality is that Dylan, for the last two decades, has been making great music, with the main inspiration being traditional songs that have been passed on through generations; this is just another example of his love of such music.
Without doubt the only Christmas song that contains the lyrics “Chop it off! Chop it off! Chop it off! My penis, chop it off”.
Death Cab for Cutie have been darlings of the indie scene for some time now. They were asked to submit a recording for the 2004 compilation album “Maybe This Christmas Tree”. Their decision to play it straight with respect to the original, results in a delightful tune which is beautifully sung. I think you will agree the vocals on this track are top notch.
I am not a huge Jack Johnson fan, however this song suits his trademark acoustic twang. A very relaxed and laid back version of the Christmas classic, featuring an additional verse questioning if Rudolph should have been so quick to forgive the other reindeers, after all those many years of taunting.
The Bird and the Bee play a progressive and diverse mix of jazz influenced electronic music. They have taken a Christmas song, originally composed in 1916 for a classical choral group and transformed it into a great piece of psychedelic pop.
The Bright Eyes stepped into the studio in 2002 to record a charming thirty-five minute Christmas album with all proceeds going to the Nebraska AIDS Project. The album stuck to well known Christmas songs and traditional carols. The songs are full of great arrangements and a strong sound. The vocals of The Bright Eyes seem to be perfectly suited to a song like this.
From 2001 to 2006, Sufjan Stevens recorded five separate Christmas EPs. Featuring a mix of traditional carols, instrumentals and original compositions, these EPs were originally only intended as gifts for friends and family. In 2006, he bundled the five EPs together and released them as a full length album. This particular song has all the traits that make Sufjan so popular, including great hooks, fun lyrics and a superb melody.
Tim Minchin is an Australian comedian, however in this song he takes a more serious and sentimental tone. Some may object to the idea of an atheist Christmas song; in particular lyrics such as “I would rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu”. However in the end, its hard to argue against the message of the song. Despite not being religious, despite acknowledging the over-commercialization of Christmas, he still loves Christmas because it gives him a chance to get the family together. Being an Australian myself, I fully understand the joys of spending Christmas drinking “white wine in the sun”.
This bonus item is less a bonus as it is an alternative from the alternatives. The coventry carol is a beautiful Christmas carol dating from the 16th century which is not as well known as it should be. It describes the massacre of the innocents part of the Christmas narrative in which Herod orders the murder of all boys two and under. The carol is the lullaby sung by a mother who laments the impending murder of her son. It is my second favorite carol of all time (with the first being O Holy Night) and you should definitely add it to your list of songs to play this Christmas. Merry Christmas one and all! [JFrater]