When it’s seasonally appropriate, I love all types of Christmas music. I don’t care if it’s the hokey Andy Williams stuff or the cash-in “Last Christmas” covers or the well-meaning but wrong-headed charity songs that don’t realize that it totally does snow in Africa because there are mountains. But if there’s a particular sub-genre of Christmas music I love the most, it’s sad-bastard indie rock that’s only tangentially about Christmas.
If you didn’t realize that was a particular sub-genre of Christmas songs, I direct you to some of my favorites: “Xmas Cake” by Rilo Kiley (on perhaps my favorite Christmas compilation ever), “Christmas TV” by Slow Club (from an amazing Christmas EP that has the best “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” I’ve ever heard), “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop” by Frightened Rabbit (which looks like it’s free right now if you have Amazon prime), plus any of those Sufjan Stevens Christmas originals (though I’m especially partial to “Get Behind Me, Santa”). And even though “Christmas Number One” by the Black Arts (aka Black Box Recorder and Art Brut) sounds mostly happy, it does sort of criticize the way holiday music is slapped together in August in hopes of making money in December (and it laments the loss of Top of the Pops).
So, every year, I seek out more sad-bastard indie Christmas music to add to the ever-growing playlist. Here are the best selections for 2014.
“Ho Ho Ho” by Liz Phair
Phair told Stereogum: “I tried to contrast chirpy, cheery elements with a depressing story line, a là David Sedaris’s SantaLand Diaries, the Waitresses’ Christmas Wrapping,’ and that timeless classic, ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.’” Yeah, that sounds about right. “Ho Ho Ho” is available on Amazon’s All Is Bright compilation.
“On Christmas” by Dum Dum Girls
“When Christmas Comes”
Los Campesinos! already realeased one Christmas song from their holiday EP, “Kindle a Flame in Her Heart,” but the rest, including “When Christmas Comes,” are as melancholy as Indie Christmas gets. Plus, since we bought the record, the band sent us a Christmas card, and it’s hanging up with the rest of the cards from our friends and family. “When Christmas Comes” is available on A Los Campesinos! Christmas.
That should keep you in a funk that’ll last through New Year’s. Merry Christmas!