Christmas can be a delightful time of year, full of family and friends and cheer. On the other hand, there’s a significant proportion of the population that finds Christmas tiresome, a painful reminder of our society’s obsession with consumerism and just how irritating family gatherings can be.
I am a self-confessed Scrooge. Granted, I love Christmas Day, and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones I haven’t seen for months (or sometimes years), but the lead up to the occasion, filled with gift-getting, gaudy decorations and terrible TV programming, really just ends up rubbing me the wrong way.
If I had to pick one thing in particular that really aggravates me about the season, it’s the music. Unless I am taking the piss out of them, I generally loathe Christmas carols. I feel like I’ve listened to every possible interpretation, mostly during hours spent working in retail. From “Jingle Bells” to “White Christmas” to “Angels We Have Heard On High”, they all make me want to gouge out the eyeballs of whoever pressed play.
That said, there are some Christmas-themed tunes that have the ability to melt my cold, dead heart. Some of them are sweet, some are quirky, some are incredibly sad and some are new additions to my collection, but they have all managed to be something rare and delightful: a Christmas song that doesn’t make me want to flip festively decorated tables.
You can find the whole playlist here, but if you’re looking for extra goodies, they’re after the jump.
1. One More Sleep ‘Till Christmas – Kermit the Frog
If you haven’t watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, then you have never experienced a real Christmas. Even Scrooge himself can’t resist the charms of Kermit, Miss Piggy and friends, especially when the songs are as sweet and well-meaning as this one. (The “Scrooge” musical sequence is also a highlight.) Be warned, however, as this movie is going to pull on all of your heartstrings, and if you’re a small child, might give you a bit of a fright. A true classic if ever there was one.
2. Christmas on Zombie Island – Kepi Ghoulie
This is one of my more recent discoveries, and I must confess that 90% of the reason I love it is for its reflection on the retail apocalypse and the fact that it conjures up images of the Undead wearing tacky Christmas sweaters and reindeer antlers. If you were looking for a way to make The Walking Dead any cooler (tough call, but stick with me), taking out a zombie Santa would have to be right up there. It’s pretty much all my television fantasies summed up in one thought.
3. River – Angus Stone
Taken from one of my favourite compilations of all time, No Man’s Woman, comes this cover of the Joni Mitchell Christmas classic. Rather than the opening of the original, which blatantly screams to the world that it is set in December, Stone’s version is significantly more subtle, with the acoustic guitar’s lilting rhythm perfectly complimenting the delicate, soothing and reflective string arrangement. One of those rare occasions where the cover is just as good as the original.
4. White Wine In The Sun – Tim Minchin
If there was ever to be a Christmas carol for the left-wing Antipodean atheists among us, Tim Minchin was always going to be the man to write it. This incredibly beautiful piece reflects on all the best bits of the Australian Christmas, and will undoubtedly bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face. Add the fact that Minchin donates all proceeds from December sales of the song to the National Autism Society (you can buy it here and here), and you have a perfect summary of the spirit of Christmas: family, love and giving to those in need.
5. 2000 Miles – Adalita
I could very easily have placed the Pretenders original version here, but I love Adalita so intensely that I simply had to put her cover here instead, as performed on a Rockwiz Christmas special a few years back. If ever Hollywood decides to make a movie about the life of Chrissie Hynde and they don’t cast this lady in the lead role, I will have officially lost all faith in the movie industry.
Again, this is a tune that doesn’t scream its Christmas credentials in the opening bars, and like “River”, is a beautiful reflection on the pain that can come with the season should you not be able to spend it with the ones you love.
6. Christmas Woman – Sufjan Stevens
I love when a random Spotify search brings me to a delightful new tune, and this is an example of when one of those situations goes completely right. The bright, jaunty woodwind and percussion immediately makes me happy, and the choir vocals are brilliant, reflecting on the mixture of cultures and their interpretations of what makes a modern Christmas.
7. Cold White Christmas – Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
I have my magnificent pal, Alex Bennetts to thank for this one. It’s a bit of a downer, but judging from my selection so far, that seems to be a running theme with Christmas songs that I enjoy.
It’s not too dressy, it’s pretty easy to relate to, and it sounds nice. That’s about all I have to say on the matter.
8. Christmas Island – The Andrews Sisters
I do love me some old-fashioned tunes, and the wartime sounds of The Andrews Sisters are easily one of my weaknesses. This tune first came to me by way of Jimmy Buffett, but I am quickly learning that ol’ Jimmy isn’t so kind to his Australian Spotify users, with this tune one of many currently missing from his catalogue. That said, I think I actually prefer this version, with its classic Disney strings and cheeky brass. Plus, those harmonies! I just want to wrap myself in their voices and get my hula on.
9. Grandpa’s Christmas Fiddle – The Barefoot Man & Friends
This is a bit of fun, just for the hell of it. Yet another tune discovered by the ‘random Spotify search’ method, this country tune is cute and homely, playing on the traditional stories and styles of the genre, with a festive twist. Then again, apart from the title and a passing reference to a Christmas tree, there isn’t much that marks this tune as one for the holiday season, so extra bonus points there.
Either way, kick your heels up and let out your inner hick, because this is a right little rip-snorter of a ditty, perfect for a Yuletide barn dance.
10. How To Make Gravy – Paul Kelly
It’s interesting that possibly the most Australian Christmas song there is also happens to be one of the saddest songs there is. Taking the form of a letter between brothers, Paul Kelly expresses longing, nostalgia, jealousy and remorse, while also bestowing upon us a family recipe. That’s a lot for a song that lasts only four and a half minutes, but somehow Kelly manages to get through it all with sincerity, kindness and tact, making this tune a true Australian classic.
And that’s a wrap! (Like presents… Geddit?) You can find the whole Spotify playlist here, and if there’s anything we’ve missed out, please drop us a line and let us know!
The team at Cheaper Than Rubies would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas! We’ll be taking a short break, with Noni’s next playlist ready for New Years Eve. Until then, stay in touch! You can reach us on Facebook, Twitter and in the comment section below.