By Adia Miller
One of the greatest parts of the holiday season is all the different art you get to enjoy that season. From movies to music, the right artistic work can put you right back into that feeling of being ten years old, unwrapping the gift you’ve been begging to get for a year with all your loved ones at your side.
Anything from the lingering scent of peppermint coffee to just the crackling of a fireplace can put you back in that mood. But when it comes to being fully immersed in the spirit, little, if anything, can do it as well as the season’s music. Spanning genres, viewpoints, countries, and decades, this playlist has something to offer everyone.
“Graveyard of the Outcast Dead” by Frank Turner
Artist: Frank Turner is an English singer and musician who started in the all-punk band Million Dead. He now creates his own folk rock albums, collaborating with his backing band, The Sleeping Souls.
Song: Graveyard of the Outcast Dead comes from the album No Man’s Land and tells the tale of a real graveyard for brothel workers that closed in 1853. It focuses on a young woman who was buried on Christmas, and whose lover continues to bring flowers to her every Christmas eve. After many years of desecration, the graveyard was turned into a memorial garden titled “crossbones” and inspired Frank Turner to create this song.
“Here it is Christmas Time” by Kevin Bacon & the Old 97’s
Artist(s): The Old 97’s are an alternative Americana band from Dallas, Texas, and have released a total of twelve studio albums. Kevin Bacon is best known as an actor, but he also is one half of “The Bacon Brothers,” a musical duo formed by him and his brother Michael performing primarily country and folk rock.
Song: The song itself was written ten years prior by Rhett Miller and covered by Bacon and the Old 97’s in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney Plus. The Old 97’s also created a rock-parody song called “I Don’t Know What Christmas is (But Christmas Time is Here) ” which took Christmas customs and put it in an outsider’s perspective.
“This Christmas Day” by Amy Macdonald
Artist: Amy Macdonald is a Scottish artist who falls under the folk/rock indie/rock genre and has been creating music steadily since 2006.
Song: The song was inspired by Macdonald’s grandmother Ellen Blance who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was nine. In the work, Macdonald reflects on how Christmas and life has changed now that she’s passed on, because it’s just not the same. Sleigh bells and soft piano is contrasted with the singer’s booming contralto voice.
“Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues
Artist: Taking their band name from the Gaelic word meaning “a kiss,” The Pogues are a UK-based band who thrive in folk, rock, and pop, but always manage to add their own Celtic edge to every piece.
Song: The song tells of a couple who started out full of youthful dreams and love, but who have achieved nothing they wished and began resenting the sight of each other. Despite its dark meaning, the song’s folk-pop vibe keeps everything light hearted… until you start parsing through the lyrics. Paired with the singer’s Celtic accents, this is a song that stands out amongst the rest.
“Gloria” by MercyMe
Artist: MercyMe is an alternative Christian pop-rock band formed in Oklahoma in 1994.
Song: Originally written by James Chadwick, it was covered by MercyMe in 2005 in an alt. rock style as part of their The Christmas Sessions album.
“Merry Merry Merry Frickin Christmas” by Frickin’ A
Artist: Frickin’ A is a Cincinnati Ohio bred pop-punk garage band that grew to popularity with their release of a “Jessi’s Girl” cover.
Song: The 2004 song takes a much more cynical look at Christmas with unwanted relatives, bad behavior, and crappy gifts. Nevertheless, its rock style keeps everything lively and humorous.
“Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen
Artist: Queen is a 70’s British rock band composed of lead-singer Freddie Mercury, bassist John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Brian May. The band continues but without Mercury as he passed away in 1991 of AIDs and Deacon as he removed himself from the public light after his bandmate’s death. The lead vocalist position is now taken up by Adam Lambert, but when referring to Queen it all comes down to the legendary four who started it all.
Song: Written by Taylor and May, the song was released in 1984 to meager success as a music video never ended up being filmed. However, it checks both boxes of being a Christmas song, and being undeniably Queen, so you can’t go wrong with giving it a listen.
“A Christmas Duel” by The Hives & Cyndi Lauper
Artist: The Hives are a Swedish-rock band that spearheaded the garage band revival. They would later change their name to one younger audiences may know better: The Arctic Monkeys. Cyndi Lauper is an 80’s icon best known for her song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She’s known for her girlish voice and activism work as a LGBTQIA ally.
Song: The collaboration depicts a bickering, dysfunctional couple spending their first Christmas together filled with deceit, flippancy, and contempt. But that’s what makes it such a satirical, amusing, and rocky song showcasing this jarring relationship.
“Christmastime” by The Smashing Pumpkins
Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins are an American alternative band formed in 1988, though they didn’t hit it big until the 90’s. They continue to steadily release music and go on tours fairly regularly.
Song: Released initially as part of a charity album, Christmastime diverges from The Pumpkins other typically dark or cynical work by having a cheerful message at its core about spending time with your families during the holidays.
“Christmas is All Around” by Bill Nighy (Billy Mack)
Artist: Billy Nighy is an English actor known to younger audiences for works such as the Pirates of the Caribbean and Underworld series.
Song: Written and performed by the Troggs in 1967, the song was covered by Bill Nighy’s character Billy Mack in the beloved UK Christmas film, Love Actually, which has become a staple in many households across the commonwealth and the US.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” by Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan|
Artist: The Barenaked Ladies are a Canadian rock/pop band known for works such as Odds Are, One Week, and the Big Bang Theory theme. Sarah McLachlan is a Canadian soft-pop singer known for Angel, I Will Remember You, Possession, Adia, and When She Loved Me.
Song: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’s exact age is unknown, but its presence in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol puts its creation prior to 1843. This collaborative cover was made in 2004 and features on the album ‘Barenaked for the Holidays.’
“Father Christmas” by The Kinks
Artist: The Kinks are a 60’s era rock band that assisted the Rolling Stones and Beatles in the British Invasion. They now hold a firm place as a part of classic rock history and would help inspire many future artists such as Van Halen and The Pretenders.
Song: Written by the band themselves in 1986 as a single, it tells the story of a young boy whose father works as a department store Santa. After a group of cruel “kids” demanding money beats up his father, he vents his frustration as the narrator of this song.
“O Holy Night” by Bing Crosby
Artist: Bing Crosby was a triple threat performer that helped create classic films that are still watched and rewatched almost 100 years later. He was in works such as White Christmas, High Society, Holiday Inn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Song: Oh, Holy Night has been a classic Christmas carol since Adolphe Adam set the Placide Cappeau poem to music. Paired with Crosby classic crooning voice that sets you in a time long past, this may be a cover of a classic, but it still has the power to be a classic itself
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” by Johnny Cash
Artist: Johnny Cash is one of the most beloved country musicians to have ever lived. The Man in Black’s career spans five decades and numerous beloved original songs like Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line, and Hurt.
Song: The song itself comes from an 1849 poem by pastor Edmund Sear and would be set to music a year later. In the US a new tune was created, but the commonwealth realms tend to sing it to the tune of “Noel”. The song is a call for men to cease all fighting, lay down their weapons, and listen to the peaceful message the angels sing.
“Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees” by Elvis Presley
Artist: Elvis Presley, a.k.a. the King of Rock N’ Roll, was exactly as his title suggests. The King. His baritone voice accompanied rock and blues songs alike, as well as the occasional Christmas carol. He could belt and wail as well as he could murmur and croon, which has proven to work well in every song he sang.
Song: The majority of Elvis’s best-known songs are covers, but this song was specifically written for the singer as part of his Elvis’s Christmas Album. The song depicts the singer’s woes of being without a place to call home, and how the worth of Christmas has lessened for him with time.
“Mistletoe and Holly” by Frank Sinatra
Artist: Anyone who knows anything about music has at the very least heard of the great Sinatra. He was a singer and actor whose career spanned almost fifty years and many great works. His movie career included classics such as the original Ocean’s 11, Anchors Aweigh, and High Society alongside Bing Crosby. Some of his best-known songs are My Way, That Lady is a Tramp, Fly Me to the Moon, and I’m a Fool to Want You.
Song: Mistletoe and Holly was a 1957 song written by Sinatra himself that goes through a list of all the great things one can expect with the Christmas season, like singing, snow, and stuffing yourself with great food. There’s something just so comforting about Sinatra’s voice. It feeds well into the nostalgia you want from a classic Christmas song.
Shelter From the Storm: Bob Dylan
O’ Holy Night: Cary Brothers
I Believed you, William Blake: Frank Turner
Run Rudolph Run: Chuck Berry
White Christmas: Bing Crosby
Silver and Gold: Burl Ives
Home for the Holidays: Perry Como
Do You Hear What I Hear?: Straight No Chaser
The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball: The Killers
Pretty Paper: Willie Nelson
The Little Drummer Boy: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band (or Joan Jett & the Blackhearts)
O Come All Ye Faithful: Weezer