Like commercial radio ruining an otherwise good song, there’re only so many times we can hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” as we go about our Christmas preparations, before it begins to grate on our festive spirit. But that doesn’t mean dampening the mood entirely; after all, what’s the happiest time of year without a few jingling bells? We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 Christmas picks that you won’t hear bludgeoned to passive consumption by shopping mall PA systems.
Yoko Ono & The Flaming Lips – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Who wouldn’t want to be invited to a Christmas party with Yoko Ono and The Flaming Lips? On top of the whacky decorations that Wayne Coyne is sure to have brought to the shindig, hearing two of the music world’s weirdest artistes team up for a psychedelic reimagining of Ono’s peace-loving tune with the late John Lennon would have us swaying merrily in more ways than one.
Los Campesinos! – “When Christmas Comes”
We’ve all come to expect the months leading up to Christmas as another opportunity for record label fat cats to churn out stale pop renditions of our beloved festive favourites; so when indie label acts like Los Campesinos! come along with new, uplifting tunes to revive our dwindling spirits, we can’t help but feel there’s hope left in the future of Christmas music.
Karen O – “Marshmallow World”
The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s vocalist has done some interesting covers over the years, but we never could’ve guessed that she’d be putting her own spin on a commercial jingle for Target. While the singer-songwriter’s carol for cash might dishearten diehard fans, it’s hard not to feel the infectious joy of her unrestrained punky vibe to the reimagined classic popularised by Bing Crosby.
The Killers & Jimmy Kimmel – “Joel, the Lump of Coal"
It’s hard to escape comic efforts to make us laugh at Yuletide, and often, the novelty numbers make us cringe rather than cry with laughter. The Killers, on the other hand, are now well-seasoned in Christmas tunes, and they’ve figured out that the formula to make us smile by simply not trying too hard. Teaming up with revered funny-man Jimmy Kimmel, their latest merry melody centres around a cute lil’ lump of coal – but the band sporting colourful Christmas sweaters is an infinitely cuter sight to see.
Dum Dum Girls – "On Christmas"
New York rockers Dum Dum Girls know that Christmas isn’t all warm and fuzzy feels for everybody. In the same vein as Wham!’s winter staple “Last Christmas”, the quartet hits all the right notes with their wistful synth-pop track, resonating sombre moods for lonely souls during the season of reunion. If there were ever a song reserved for moments gazing solemnly out of frosted windows, this would be it.
Ice Choir – “Cut Down The Tree”
Retro Brooklynites Ice Choir bring it all back to the quintessential '80s with a winter wonderland synth gem. Conjuring images of fireplaces, evergreens and turtleneck sweaters (those can stay in the '80s, thanks), the bells and chimes of this dreamy carol is sure to fit in seamlessly with your Dad’s old Christmas records. And to show they’re not about making a quick buck, the group is donating all proceeds from the track to the homeless to brighten up their year. Now that’s what we call the spirit of sharing.
DJ Snake – “Bird Machine (feat. Alesia) [Jingle Bells Version]”
Despite it looking like a fairly lazy move by DJ Snake, the tweaked trap hit is one of the few tracks that get booties moving at Christmastime. Sure, there’s not a lot that makes this is a festive tune aside from the obligatory “Jingle Bells” hook, and one could easily miss the jingle while fist-pumping to the club anthem at messy end-of-year celebrations – but we don’t exactly think it’d be appropriate to shuffle and twerk to “Silent Night”.
Grandaddy and Band of Horses – "Hang an Ornament"
While Band of Horses fans are waiting patiently for a new album, the band kindly presents a holiday gift to tide us over with the album’s producer and Grandaddy frontman, Jason Lytle. The slow acoustic number combines moody synths and soothing harmonies to produce a track that sounds undeniably like Christmas. Though we’re not advocates of thrashing Christmas tunes beyond enjoyment, we could easily give this one a few extra spins while decorating the tree.
Nikki Lane – “FaLaLaLa Love Ya”
So this is what Christmas in America’s South sounds like! Young South Carolinan singer-songwriter serves up what can only be one of the more interesting spins on Noel with plenty of country flavour. While it’s a light-hearted departure from her outlaw sound, which had a helping hand from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the playful tune shows that even outlaws can be all smiles for the happiest time of year.
Sam Smith – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
It may be hard standing in the shadow of a giant like Frank Sinatra, but Sam Smith delivers this Christmas classic with the soul and respect that it deserves. As with everything else the young Englishman has put out, Smith’s delicate and angelic timbres on this timeless Judy Garland melody proves his versatility once again. Excuse us while we curl up and cry.