Miscellaneous - An Alternative Christmas Carol

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 4 / 12 / 2010

Miscellaneous - An Alternative Christmas Carol

In 'Gimme Indie Rock', in which he looks for the best in indie rock, Jamie Rowland provides an alternative list of Christmas carols


If I were being a really cynical bastard, I would probably say that, by and large, Christmas songs are rubbish. They are annoying, gimmicky, syrupy, inane and criminally over-played. Even the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’, which I think most people would agree is in-and-of itself a good song, has become tainted by radio and party DJs whose imaginations stretch no further than cracking out their 1997 'Now: That’s What I Call Christmas' compilation on November 1st and not putting it away again until New Year’s Eve. But in actual fact, I love Christmas; I love the atmosphere surrounding it, the big family dinners, the giving and receiving of gifts, that feeling of a year coming to its conclusion. And I do have something of a soft-spot for Christmas songs and all their staples – sleigh bells, a touch of melancholy, talk of Santa and having a generally jolly old time. But do we really have to put up with the same set of songs EVERY YEAR??? If you share my frustrations, fear not. For this year I am getting right up in Christmas’ face and putting it to order with a selection of alternative Christmas music to brighten your festive season. Think of it as my gift to you at this very special time of year (that means it will now be a bit awkward if you don’t buy me a present back) My first pick comes from a band who have been plugging away on the underground scene for a good six years or so now; currently heavily pregnant with their second album, last Christmas Middlesbrough-residents and pretend Northerners Das Wanderlust released a free-to-download Christmas song called ‘Someone To Pull Crackers With’. I am recommending this song not only because it’s free, but because it’s a thoroughly festive-sounding affair complete with sleigh bells, choir, possibly an oboe (or something similar) and lyrics about two people meeting and getting together at Christmas and sharing all the joy and loveliness of that holiday – and the outro features the sound of festive frivolities; people laughing and cheering, glasses chinking….ah, it makes me feel all warm inside! If you find all that a little insipid, then perhaps the 1996 compilation 'Christmas on Death Row' will be more up your street. Featuring the likes of the Dogg Pound, Michel’le, Nate Dog & Butch Cassidy, J-Flexxx and O.F.T.B, this is the festive rap album par excellence. The best known track is probably Snoop Doggy Dogg (as he was known then) with ‘Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto’ which, while perhaps not the most traditional of festive songs, does have a funky-ass bass line courtesy of Isaac Hayes’ ‘Do Your Thing’. If you plan on spending this Christmas sippin’ on gin and juice, I can’t think of a better soundtrack than this. Perhaps one of the most famous of Christmas records in the alternative world is Low’s seminal 1999 album, 'Christmas'. It would be seriously remiss of me not to at least give this a mention, and if you’ve never heard it before, do yourself a favour and have a quick search for ‘Just Like Christmas’ or ‘Taking Down the Tree’. As you might expect from Low, it’s not always upbeat, but it is undoubtedly brilliant, and I would argue a benchmark for anyone thinking of producing a Christmas record. Of course, there are countless others who have had a go at writing a x-mas hit; The Ravonettes with ‘The Christmas Song’, the Flaming Lips’ ‘Christmas at the Zoo’, Slow Club with ‘Christmas, Thanks For Nothing’ – all great picks for your alternative playlist. But the final artist I want to focus on is Sufjan Stevens, because over the years he’s proved himself to be a bit of a Christmas fanatic, releasing a few new festive tracks seemingly every year, and always capturing a great balance between humour, the importance of family and the spiritual side of the holiday season. If I had to pick one song? Probably ‘Come On, Let’s Boogie to the Elf Dance!’ for it’s ludicrously fun title and suitably jolly sound. Just a small selection then, but hopefully this will give you a few ideas to help freshen up your Christmas period this year – listening through these songs has certainly got me feeling festive! If you think there’s anything glaringly obvious I’ve overlooked or you have a favourite you’d like to put forward, do put it in the comments section below. Merry Christmas everybody!

Visitor Comments:-

388 Posted By: Jon Rogers, London on 31 Dec 2010
Hi Lisa, Check out the Cocteau Twins' version of 'Frosty...' Enjoy. Jon
387 Posted By: Brian John Mitchell, Raleigh, NC, USA on 22 Dec 2010
For those interested the five free Christmas compilations from Silber are all available at - www.silbermedia.com/christmas
385 Posted By: Lisa Torem, Chicago on 21 Dec 2010
Hi Jamie, 'Blue Christmas' by Martina McBride and Elvis (recorded post-Elvis) is my favorite. Now, if some funky group could cover 'Frosty the Snowman' we'd be all set. Lisa

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