When this issue hits the stands, I estimate I'll have heard "Jingle Bell Rock" about 3,001 times this year. It's probably the least odious of the holiday tunes that were rote before the glut of cloying, over-emoting pop and country disposables decided the world couldn't live without their versions of it and similar Xmas songs, so full of compulsory seasonal cheer.
That's not to say that it's not fun to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with the kids. But even classics can be played to death, so let's bypass "Rock" and "Rudolph" and find some fresh meat.
Palma Violets, "Last Christmas on Planet Earth"
(Single, Rough Trade, 2015)
"Rudolph/ got shot down/ flying over/ Georgia"—Hey! That's more like it. Check out PalmaViolets.co.uk for a virtual Advent calendar. No chocolate, but tons of virtual goodies from the band.
Hobart W. Fink, "White Christmas"
(Post Hummus EP, Burger/Wiener/All Scene Eye, 2015)
This Los Angeles grunge trio makes a serious racket—like the crazed grunge punk of Therapy? meets Sonic Youth noise, giving these less-is-more lyrics extra punch: "Got a religion/ Got a persistence/ Gotta deliver/ Shit every Christmas/ Gotta go where spirits live/ Got an accountant/ Reading the paper/ Got empty house, now/ Got any takers?/ If you didn't fuckin' love me/ You'd see how white I feel/ If you didn't live above me/ You'd see how white I feel." This is one creepy tune, like a note Santa left before going postal.
Frontier Ruckus, "Bathroom Stall Hypnosis"
(Sitcom Afterlife, Quite Scientific, 2014)
This is a breakup tune, but the video's set during Christmas. The plot: Kid's crazy mom flushes her Christmas candy stash down the toilet. Kid retrieves it, eats it, then Dad pops in and they go out and have a sugar-fueled great time until the kid snaps and kills both parents, thinking they're piñatas and eats candy straight from their heads. (I know—I'm a little misty, myself.)
Money, "A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic's New Year"
(Suicide Songs, Bella Union, 2015)
From the upcoming sophomore release by this Manchesterian group, this song at first seems to be heading into My Morning Jacket's "Wordless Chorus" territory. Then it becomes a mashup of pre-sandpaper Tom Waits and Rufus Wainwright. You know the scene in the Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol, where he wakes up on Christmas morning, all full of holiday spirit? Imagine if the world decided it was too little, too late and Scrooge decided to step in front of a horse-drawn carriage and end it all. This'd be great for that scene.
Southern Culture on the Skids, "Silver Bells"
(Single, SCOTS.com, 2015)
Every other version of this Christmas chestnut is blissed-out audio Xanax, a song that gets even Grinches in the mood. SCOTS's bouncy countrypolitan take, released just for Xmas 2015, plus some (real) eggnog will get everybody off the couch.
Fuzz, "Burning Wreath"
(II, In the Red, 2015)
Another non-Xmas tune. But the lines "beneath the burning wreath/ hot coal melted soul/ pays the toll/ and breaks the mold" could be about a bad boy reaping what he'd sown during the year.
Gehennah, "Sathana Claus" and "Merry Shitmas"
(No Fucking Christmas 12-inch, Primitive Art Records, 1997)
You want a War on Christmas? Well, boom! These Swedish metalheads give Santa horns to go with that already-red suit and basically take a big Swedish meatball on the holiday in general.
Robert Pollard, "What Begins On New Year's Day"
(Indie for the Holidays, Amazon Prime, 2015)
There are 26 other songs on Amazon's free-to-Prime members compilation, and they're all by great acts like Langhorne Slim, The LeeVees & Matisyahu, Rogue Wave, Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff, the Rev. Horton Heat. But this one, from Guided by Voices genius Pollard, is the best. Because it's Pollard, dropping lines only he could write: "Calender queen/ Mother Numerical/ doesn't believe/ in throwing Christmas cards away."