We all know how it goes over the festive period. Radio stations, offices and work parties all play those all-too-familiar Christmas songs on a constant repeat. At Spectral Nights, we have bad memories from 10-hour shifts at a famous supermarket where the same CD was on a loop throughout. There was no restbite from this relentlessely happy assault on the eardrums and it’s no exaggeration to say these were dark days, especially with the anger Christmas shopping evokes in customers of all ages. Unbeknown to the general public, there is a life of Christmas songs beyond Cliff Richard. The likes of Low and Sufjan Stevens have shown you can write great festive music, so here’s our top five from recent years, excluding those two as everyone likes them, right?
5. Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler – Zombie Christmas
Any song that mixes 25 December with the Undead gets our vote. Opening with a quick blast of ‘Silent Night’, the song soon starts to evoke the spirit of The Nightmare Before Christmas. If Jack Skellington had grown up listening to new-wave punk. Tim Wheeler’s riffs complement Emmy’s soft vocals perfectly and the dual vocals add an extra dimension as the duo talk about kicking those zombies back to hell.
4. The Futureheads – Christmas Was Better in the 80s
With all of The Futureheads’ trademarks intact – short running time, beautiful harmonies, a melody that’s impossible to get out of your head after just one listen – this is a great song for those of a certain age, those who grew up in the glorious decade of the 1980s. The piano-led opening may hint at a maudlin ballad but soon there’s a shout of ‘Hallelujah’ and the song will make you yearn for the simpler times before you had to do the Christmas shopping yourself. A time when the only thing you had to worry about was whether there were enough carrots for Rudolph and just who was drinking Santa’s beer…
3. Slow Club – Christmas TV
Is it really a Christmas song? We say that as it can be enjoyed at any time of the year,but it still remains one of of the finest love songs of the last decade. Charles and Rebecca duet over the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar and talk of staying together one more night, watching Christmas TV and how they’re “hoping something good might grow out of this mistletoe”. Just sublime.
2. Julian Casablancas – I Wish It Was Christmas Today
Julian had a reputation for being a bit difficult and perhaps a bit moody but that all changed in 2009 when he followed up his terrific solo album with ‘I Wish It Was Christmas Today’, a song that started with jingle bells and then mixed the traditional Strokes sound with a more electronic undercurrent. Julian sang about Santa’s sleigh making its way to the USA and just not caring what the neighbours say and it really evoked the true spirit of Christmas – basically having one big party. The fact that he played it in the middle of summer at the 2010 Glastonbury Festival makes it even better.
1. Reuben – Christmas is Awesome
A festive track with a difference, Reuben’s attempt to gatecrash the Christmas compilation CDs featured Jamie Lenman’s trademark screams, crunching riffs, hilarious lyrics, bad jumpers and a children’s choir. With a chorus that stated ‘Everybody is welcome, yeah, Christmas is awesome’, it also summed up the spirit of Yuletide in a way so simple, that it’s a wonder no one had ever thought of it is a greetings card tagline before.