Even if you don’t take part in Christmas (whether it’s because of religious reasons, a disdain for the hyper-commercialized culture surrounding it, or you’re just a miserable bastard), you can at least appreciate the fact that, if you only for a day, the world seems to slow down just a little. The streets are emptier, social-media notifications seem more infrequent, and the possibility of receiving work-related emails after-hours momentarily diminishes. And hey, in an age where our smartphones have all but genetically fused with our fingers, that’s something even this Jew can all celebrate.
In that spirit, we’ve put together a playlist of songs that may be (directly or tangentially) about Christmas, but they’re nobody’s idea of a traditional Christmas song. Sure, some of them actually chronicle the birth of a certain future messiah, but in Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” Alex Chilton announces his arrival with all the matter-of-fact nonchalance of a newspaper birth notice, while Lou Barlow’s beautifully blasphemous “Mary” posits that the whole immaculate-conception deal was concocted by JC’s mom to disguise the fact she was knocked up by the man next door. (Neil Young goes one further by suggesting, “Maybe the star of Bethlehem/ Wasn’t a star at all.”)
Other songs here delve into the dark side of the season, be it portraits of drug addicts with no capacity for holiday cheer (The Fall’s “No Xmas for John Quays”), or cautionary tales about beaten-up department-store Santas (The Kinks’ “Father Christmas). Or there are songs where Christmas is merely invoked as the fantastical backdrop to animal-liberation missions (The Flaming Lips’ “Christmas at the Zoo”) or as an ironic counterpoint to scenes of everyday urban malaise (Run the Jewels’ “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”). And then are the abstract instrumentals (Mogwai’s “Xmas Steps” and Aphex Twin’s “XMAS_EVET10[thanaton3mix]) whose Christmas connection may not amount to anything more than a randomly applied song title, but nonetheless carry a palpable wintry chill.
So if you’re the sort of person who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Santa hat, or you have a burning desire to tell the carollers outside to fa-la-la-la-fuck-off, here’s a Christmas playlist for atheists and assholes alike.