My sister has said to me a few times, “I hate Christmas music.” To me, this is a broad statement. Like all non-holiday music, Christmas songs are not created equal. Some of them are dark and acidic; some of them are airy and new age-y; some are like Snoop Dogg’s “A Pimp’s Christmas Song” or Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”. There is as large an umbrella of Christmas songs as there are songs that we play and enjoy when we’re not decorating trees and punching out angel-shaped cookies. And to reiterate that point, here are five of my favourite Christmas songs that are hip and interesting and not necessarily like the Bieber/Mariah Carey/Celine Dion-type Christmas jargon that we hear at shopping malls all over North America.
The Trews – Coming Home
A very, very, very indescribably Canadian take on the classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” theme; an ode to loved ones and snow, the quaintness of the tune combined with the badass-ness that is characteristically ‘Trews’ is an intimate mix of balls-out bar band rock and east coast, down-home charm.
Ryan Adams – Hey Parker, It’s Christmas
Recorded in Adams’ New York days, this song is as much a Christmas song as it is an anti-Christmas song; there’s a sort of… punch line, for lack of a better term, at the song’s end when Adams sings, in a spiny falsetto, “It’s Christmastime…. But it’s summertime…” The sentiments though, of the holiday season, of wishing Parker (Posey, one of Adams’ ex-girlfriends) was here with him; of icy streets; of sleigh bells. Yes, it’s a bit of an eerie, foggy tune but nonetheless, a very pretty if not unconventional song for the holiday season.
Leona Naess – Christmas
“Words are falling from your lips/like Christmas to my hips.” This line is one of two overt mentions of ‘Christmas’ in this whole song (the other being, “Like Christmas stays with you/
Walk through darkened streets as we lay true”). And yet, just that very mention evokes the negative, somehow lonely side of the holidays. If you’ve ever been brokenhearted during the winter season, put this on and it will make you feel better than any song about decking halls and sleigh rides, guaranteed.
Brooke Waggoner – Christmas Moon
Singer/songwriter/pianist Brooke Waggoner has a lovely girlish voice and what better use for it than on this haunting Christmas tune? Melodic and fresh, Brooke’s clear-eyed lack of cynicism can be felt and heard and will either make you cry, or make you shout out, “Merry Christmas, you wonderful ol’ Building and Loan!”
Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson – Winter Song
While this may not be a “Christmas” song and more of a “winter” song per say, it’s still reminiscent of that yearning for love – of any kind, not just romantically – at around the time of the holiday season. “December never felt so wrong/’Cause you’re not where you belong,” is one of the best lines in this gorgeous duet.