Music

10 Christmas songs that are actually cool

We want to wish all of you a Happy Christmas from all of us here, and share with you the greatest gift of all: music, damn good music.

As Christmas creeps around again, you might start to become filled with dread for the moment you set foot in shops filled with crying children, broken dreams, and Mariah Carey. Fear not, all you f**king grinches, for it is time you put on some Christmas music and fill that stocking-sized hole that this year has left in your heart.

Here is a list of Christmas songs that’ll have you feeling like you sprinkled a bit of love powder on your nan’s potato bake while no one was watching. From this year and beyond, it’s got it all.

Jimi Hendrix Santa

Calexico – Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

Calexico have breathed new life into the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Christmas classic Happy Xmas (War Is Over) with a soulful new rendition. It’s part of their album, Seasonal Shift, out now via Spunk! Records.

The track personifies that familiar end of year feeling – of reflection, of ceremony, and of recognition – appreciating the changes the year brought, for better and for worse. Seasonal Shift is filled with covers, special guests, and goodwill, and it can be streamed as of today if you like what you’ve heard. Check it out here.

Courtney Barnett – Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)

This brilliant Courtney Barnett number represents the shift that can be felt in relationships, just as drastically as the changing of the seasons. The feeling of being unwanted, “like a Christmas tree on boxing day, thrown away. Why don’t you feel for me anymore”. 

What Courtney does so well is say so much with so little. Even with only three verses, she can equate the slow demise of romantic infatuation to that of a useless decoration.

The Big Moon – Carol of the Bells 

The Big Moon really wanted to make sure the haunting side of Christmas wouldn’t go ignored for the sake of the kind of consumer-driven love anthems we traditionally see in modern Christmas songs. The shrill harp and piano build into the choir of voices and nervous orchestral motion. If there was one Christmas song that sounded like a Billie Eilish hit, it would be The Big Moon’s rendition of Carol Of The Bells.

Phoebe Bridgers – If We Make It Through December

Pheobe Bridgers‘ take on the Merle Haggard’s “goofy country” Christmas track was one of the most welcome covers out there this year.

After releasing her incredible album Punisher, she found herself on a spree of covers from Simon And Garfunkle to McCarthy Trenching to The Goo Goo Dolls – and more. Let this dazzling and emotional slow dance wind down your family Christmas kick-ons, because we’ll all make it through December, guys. Pheobe gives me certainty in that, at the very least.

Stella Donnelly – Season’s Greetings

If you’ve ever had a cool aunty, and you’ve spent Christmas with that cool aunty – you’ll blissfully relive that feeling with this Stella Donnelly Christmas track that oozes Australiana spirit. If you’ve ever brought your partner to Christmas when you really shouldn’t have, maybe this will strike a chord. Mum and dad are fighting, your uncle Mark is drunk as hell, and your brother isn’t taking his bonbon loss well. A track for every time of year.

LCD Soundsystem – Christmas Will Break Your Heart

The depressing LCD Soundsystem Christmas anthem that James Murphy sang himself every year for eight years finally saw the light of day when the band found themselves in the same city to record the damn thing before December was already over and inspiration had died. The song originally had 75 lines of lyrics but the band said they “cut down to 8 to keep the suicide rate in check”.

Thank father Christmas they did, I don’t think my heart would’ve been ready to have broken a further 67 times.

Weezer – The Christmas Song

Weezer is one of the few bands that can make any style of music work for their sound – and this song is no different. Another one that can be played at any time of year that fits right into their discography. If you’ve ever spent Christmas alone, this is the holiday pop-punk song for you.

Sufjan Stevens – Amazing Grace

Sufjan Stevens‘s version of Amazing Grace sounds like none that I’ve ever heard before – as if the song was rooted in folk and ragtime music rather than a gospel hymn. The harmonies mixed with the softly strummed banjo are enough to end any argument at Christmas dinner. Do yourself a favour and listen now, our time is short, friends.

Jacob Collier – The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)

Jacob Collier had a whirlwind 2020, winning four Grammys and cementing himself as one of the most iconic figures in modern jazz music. Collier stretches the genre to fit his soulful mesh of sounds, making for some of the most entertaining live performances from a genre known so much for listening and reflection – now turned into one full of audience participation and as much vigorous movement physically as musically.

His version of The Christmas Song narrowly beat out Mac DeMarco and Kirin J Callinan’s take for the spot on this list from the sheer creative spirit and willingness to blend tradition and contemporary. Honourable mention to Mac and Kirin though, check theirs out here.

Paul Kelly – How To Make Gravy

A song that needs absolutely no introduction. If you don’t think this song is the best Christmas song ever, we just can’t be friends.

How To Make Gravy is a generation-defining song and will go on to inspire countless musicians, regardless of how much you like gravy (a lot in my case). The heartfelt pen from a loved one in the big house, wondering that ever-present question, if you’ve ever lost a loved one, who will fill the void at the table?