If you're tired of listening to the same old Christmas songs like "The Little Drummer Boy", "The Twelve Days of Christmas" or even "Wonderful 'I just got a new synthesizer' Christmastime" every year here are some relatively new and not so new songs that might be an alternative.
During the week before Christmas I'll listen to each of these songs between 10 and 20 times, possibly more since I don't keep an exact count. I play them at home off of my computer, they're in a mix on my iPod and on a CD in my car. There are some classics I'll listen to as well as part of that group but I most look forward to hearing these songs.
First a few honorable mentions - I liked "Christmas TV" by Slow Club much more last year but I think I'm getting tired of it. My enthusiasm for "Santa Lost a Ho" by The Christmas Jug Band is waning although I did enjoy performing it with the kids last summer.
I'll also mention a song I'm supposed to like that I don't - "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues and Kristy MacColl. People think it's cool. For me, it's just too boring. It gets all lilty and Irish and I get a little excited but then that part's not much better.
We're counting down from 10 to 1 for no particular reason.
10. Come On Christmas - Cheap Trick
At this point I'm going to assume you know something about music and won't describe the history of every band on this list. Cheap Trick altered their song "Come On Come On" and made "Come On Christmas." It was released as part of the "Sex, America, Cheap Trick" box set in 1996. They did a really nice job of it so much so that I like this song a lot more than "Come On Come On." Maybe it's because the "Come On" parts don't sound so nasally. Also, it's somewhat humorous that a song that was blatantly about wanting sex was turned into a desire for Christmas to arrive.*
*Deftly avoided use of the word come.
9. 2000 Miles - The Pretenders
Now we start the Queen Bitterlunia* portion of the list. This one's been around for a while, since 1983 to be exact. It only mentions Christmas four times as somewhat of an aside but that's good enough for me to listen to it this time of year. You've heard this one before and maybe thought it was boring. I think it's a great song about longing. According to Mr. Wikipedia it's written for James Honeyman-Scott**, the group's original bassist who had died of a drug overdose the year before.
*One of the bulldog's many nicknames.
**It wasn't until now that I realized "Honeyman" wasn't his nickname.
7. Last Christmas - The Cocktail Slippers
6. Santa Is Coming Home - The Cocktail Slippers
Wait, what do you mean not the Wham version!?! Well, Wham's original version of "Last Christmas" is ok but a bit too 80s for my taste. Not that I don't love the 80s. But this song is taking on a life of it's own. I don't know this for a fact but it seems like it's been covered more than any other Christmas song released in the 80s (Wonderful Christmastime (bleahhh) was released in '79 and All I Want For Christmas Is Youuuuuuuuuuuu was released in '94.) This version by the Norwegian band The Cocktail Slippers appeals to my power pop sensibilities.
Meanwhile, "Santa Is Coming Home" tells the story of a woman who hooked up with Santa and is now waiting for him to show up again as she hasn't seen him in a year. It's a nice concept followed up with a really good song - one that when I originally made this list was in the Honorable Mention section above but moved to the list because I've liked it so much this season.
6. Christmas Is Coming - The Payolas
The Payolas are a Canadian band that never really broke it big in the States. You can read about them here. This song continues our series of Christmas downers with another story of a long year and longing. The upbeat music belies the message of not-Christmas-cheer. This guy's having a rough go but his head's still up and he misses someone on Christmas. It must stink to write a song that no one can relate to.
5. Father Christmas - The Kinks
As we continue on our bitterness theme here's the oldest song on our list. Add me to the list of people that write reviews of this song that state: of course you wouldn't expect Ray Davies to write a straightforward Christmas song would you? Instead he takes the point of view of a guy playing Santa Claus who gets mugged by some poor adolescents who won't have much for Christmas. They wish for basic needs like food and money. It's Ray's usual combination of humor and pathos.* Fortunately for me, I really like the music so the message doesn't overwhelm me.
*I had to look that word up just to make sure I used it right. Still not sure that I did. Depends if humor is a subset of pathos.
4. Santa's Beard - They Might Be Giants
Continuing our Christmas of bitter, we present this one by They Might Be Giants. This is about a guy who's wife may be cheating on him with a guy who dresses up like Santa. Apparently it happens every Christmas season and it's driving him crazy. It's a nice "absurd premise logical conclusion" They Might Be Giants song. It's really catchy too.
3. I Wish It Was Christmas Today - Julian Casablancas
Speaking of absurd, here's a song that was originally in a Saturday Night Live skit. Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes, recorded it on his solo album Phrazes for the Young. You can, at least temporarily, see the original SNL version here and and updated version here. The Casablancas version is really enjoyable and makes me happy. Guess what, we're done with the bitter!
2. (It Must've Been Ol') Santa Claus - Harry Connick Jr.
This is probably the least "rocking" song on this list but too bad, it brings me joy. It's a tale told by a boy near adolescence as he expresses his skepticism about Santa. Well, guess what, he has an encounter. A pretty fun encounter I might add. (And I did.) It's a joyous song about Christmas with a jazzy New Orleans sound. It's really bouncy and catchy.
1. Christmas All Over Again - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Petty released this on the first "A Very Special Christmas" CD in 1992. Even though I was in the target demographic for that CD I ignored it and didn't really pick up on this song until much later. This is a fun song about the joy of Christmas. It's about all the different enjoyable things that go on during the Christmas season.