Christmas is fast approaching, and let’s face it: as great as Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby are, you’ve been listening to them for long enough, and you might just blow up your radio if you have to hear them one more time. Have no fear! Below is a CD’s worth of songs perfect for making a fresh, fun Christmas mix that everyone at your house will be happy to hear.
1. Billy Idol’s “Yellin’ at the Christmas Tree”
Billy Idol put out an entire Christmas album (Happy Holidays) years after this track was released. If it’s any indication of how the album sounds, the videos for the songs involved him in a smoking jacket with an old-fashioned microphone. They seemed almost like lounge singer tunes. This one, however, is classic Billy Idol rock, and it’s some of the most fun you can have listening to Christmas music.
2. Eyeshine’s “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
If you are or have ever been a fan of Power Rangers or anime, then you’re familiar with Johnny Yong Bosch’s voiceover and acting work. What you might not be familiar with is his band Eyeshine. In addition to their amazing “normal” albums, the band also released an eight-track Christmas album (Xmas) that features this fun take on a Christmas classic. Each cover is different from its original, so you’ll know every song but never get bored.
3. KT Tunstall’s “Fairytale of New York” ft. Ed Harcourt
note: live video below features James Dean Bradfield
You’ve never heard a Christmas song like this one (unless you’ve heard the original and slightly more offensive version by The Pogues). This wonderful duet starts with two young lovers moving to New York to live the dream and ends with the same lovers at each other’s throats throwing lines like “Happy Christmas your a**, I pray to God it’s our last”. What more convincing do you need to go grab Ms. Tunstall’s Christmas album (Have Yourself a Very KT Christmas) and enjoy this tune (and other “Very KT Christmas” songs)?
4. Black Prairie’s “(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man with the Bag” ft. Sallie Ford
Featuring more than half of The Decemberists, Black Prairie’s Christmas tune doesn’t even sound like a Christmas song if you aren’t paying attention to the lyrics. Featuring accordion and banjo (The Decemberists’ trademark), this song sounds like bluegrass mixed with New Orleans jazz and should be an essential part of every Christmas playlist…and the other songs on this album (Holidays Rule) are more than okay too.
5. The Decemberists’ “Please Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas”
Speaking of The Decemberists, how does a band whose catalogue often features death and heartbreak celebrate Christmas? With this song, of course. With a heavy accordion backing, this country rendition of Please Daddy is sure to keep you humming along joyfully to the saddest Christmas song ever. The Decemberists, Jimmy Eat World, Marcy Playground, and several others contributed to an rock Christmas album (Alternative Rock X-Mas), similar in nature to the songs so far in our list but all on one album already!
6. Alphabeat’s “X-Mas (Let’s Do It Again)”
If you’re not familiar with Alphabeat then you really should be, and this song is the perfect introduction. Their “X-Mas (Let’s Do It Again)” single is quintessential Alphabeat (poppy, catchy, 80’s, awesome) with a slight Christmas twist! This will be an instant favorite and will have you throwing a Christmas dance party before long with everyone else saying, “Let’s do it again!” (See what we did there?)
7. Panic! at the Disco’s “White Christmas”
Done in the style of the classic Home Alone version (we know that’s how you remember it), this is really Panic! at the Disco‘s Brendon Urie’s bread and butter vocally. His voice was practically made for these mellow jazzy tunes, and if you ever doubted that, you won’t after hearing this wonderful rendition.
8. Plain White T’s “Christmas Won’t Be The Same Without You”
Let’s face it, Plain White T’s Tom Higgenson can write catchy pop tunes like no one since Paul McCartney. This is the perfect example of that. He’s here to prove that just because it’s a Christmas tune it doesn’t mean it can’t have a catchy hook and a head-bopping beat! This ear worm is one you’ll be humming long after Christmas has passed (sorry about that).
9. Bastille’s “Tuning Out”
That’s right, Bastille released a Christmas song on the Deluxe edition of their “Bad Blood” album. A few seconds into this song and you realize that it’s a cool, eerie, electronic version of “O Holy Night”, and it’s pretty amazing and haunting.
10. Five Iron Frenzy’s “You Gotta Get Up! It’s Christmas”
The most popular band you may not have heard of, Five Iron Frenzy is pretty much the king of the Ska world, especially after their resurrection and subsequent new album last year. This is the perfect style of music to do a Christmas song, and the lyrics will have you laughing and nodding – everyone has lived this song at least once or twice.
BONUS: The Head and the Heart’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
The foil to “Fairytale of New York”, this romantic track is a charming duet between two shy would-be lovers as they finally make their moves and try for a New Year’s romance. Like most of the songs in this collection, it doesn’t sound much like a Christmas song musically, but that’s part of what makes it so appealing. And really, who hasn’t had an unspoken love for someone, afraid to put it into words? Add in the eerie ending refrain, and you’ve got a piece of Christmas/New Year’s perfection.
I dare you.