20 Songs to Shake Up Your Christmas Playlist

December 21, 2016

 

 

I began compiling this list was to include five or six Christmas songs that strike a chord with me, but over the last few weeks it snowballed to include other songs that relate to the festive season, for various different reasons. Some songs are sentimental, some beacuse of their creative takes on Christmas classics, some that just deserve more recognigion than the usull sparkly tinsel clad radio hits we hear so frequently and others that are just a bit of fun. Whatever floats you boat this year hopefully yule find at least one song in the list that stays with you through the Christmas Holidays.

 

 

1. Christmas Biscuits - Mark Geary & Glen Hansard

Released in 2013 in aid of The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a charitable organization in Ireland with a mission to tackle poverty in all its forms through the provision of practical assistance to those in need. This song is just a small part of the work Glen and Co continue to do each year to help those less fortunate. Only this week, together with a plethora of Irish talent they began a movement to occupy a state owned empty property in Dublin to house the homeless in Dublin city. You can watch Glen talk about this here.

 

 

2. Christmas Wine - Declan O’Rourke

Declan is one of Irelands golden voices. I use to warm up driving to gigs singing along to Declan’s debut Album “Since Kyabram” and I told him this when we got to hang out a few year ago in Austin, Texas during SXSW. A super talented songwriter who regularly performs arrangements of his work with a full orchestra. Declan is charming, witty and funny. A true entertainer. The first time I heard this song was live at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. You could’ve heard a pin drop.

 

 

3. Christmas Won’t Do Without you - Tess Henley 

From Seattle WA, Tess has grown to become an incredible artist. We met back in 2012 at SXSW when Tess and her brother Carson were performing a ton of shows together, and we shared a few great days catching each other performances. We recommend new acts to each other that were performing in Austin for the festival. Tess introduced me to Allen Stone and I intruded her to Ed Sheeran! Tess is world class. I love the Christmas song. Full of soul.

 

 

4. Maybe this Christmas - Ron Sexsmith

I just love this song. Ron Sexsmith delivers a meaningful message . It’s bitter sweet, asking us to reconnect with people, suggest this Christmas could be your last. Make it count.

 

“maybe forgiveness will ask us to call

Someone we've loved

Someone we've lost

For reasons we can't quite recall”

 

 

5. Christmas was better in the 80’s  - The Futureheads

This post-punk song will be stuck in your head till the new year.

As an 80’s kid I have to stand by this song. It has the line:

 

“the snow was deeper in the 80’s”

 

And it was. At least where I live. The big snow of ’87 is how it's still referred to in these parts!

 

 

6. Shining Light - Ash

Alright, so not strictly a Christmas song, but it still lends itself the sentiment of Christmas. I love finding the meaning of lyrics in songs, and those that can be interpreted in different ways are very clever.

check out the lyrics:

 

“Roman candles that burn in the night,

A constellation once seen,

Over Royal David's city”

 

 

7. Bing Crosby, David Bowie - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth

We lost David Bowie this year. It still hurts. At least there's a legacy from the man of great music to explore over and over again.

From the 1977 TV special Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas,  I always found this song an odd colaboration that just works so well despite the mismatch of diverse artists. Against all odds it happened, Bowie reluctant to sing Little Drummer boy as he wan’t a fan of the song but insisted he was only doing the show because his mother was a fan of Bing Crosby. The counter melody of Peace on Earth was crafted and the collaboration was born. I always imagined the conversation with David, “Please lose the dress and the lipstick and it’ll all be fine!”

 

 

8. A Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney

I had to mention the Beatles in some way. In 2011 I got to see the legend himself and his band at Dublin’s 3 Arena.  It was mid December and begging to feel Christmassy around the city. The band struck up this song and the snowflakes on the screens around the Arena began to fall. It was magical.

On that tour McCartney invited local youth choirs onstage each night for the chorus. It just added more sparkle to the moment. Here’s a live version from the tour. Nice one Macca!

 

 

9. Christmas Time in Washington - Steve Earle

Sometimes it’s hard to choose what to listen to in the car while driving a long trip. Steve Earle’s –El Corazon is my go to album. Never fails to impress me. I hear something new on every listen. Recently this song stood out more than others in light of the recent U.S. election. Nothing traditionally festive about this song but lyrically it’s pure genius and cuts while being sung with that raw Texan accent of Steve's.

 

"So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow"


 

10. Baby it’s Cold Outside - James Taylor & Natalie Cole

This song makes the list for sentiemental value. My daughter and I sang this together at my wedding as a surprise for the family and being a Christmas wedding, my daughter knew all the words only too well from the film Elf. She was only 10 at the time and completely stole the show by following up with Valerie (Amy Winehouse) and getting the whole house rocking!  We’d been practicing it together for a few weeks prior to the wedding and I discover the songwriting genius within it’s interwoven lyrics. It's been recorded so may times but this versions is really sweet. 

 

 

11. Someday at Christmas - Stevie Wonder

While we’re on duets this one is a cracker. This is an amazing vocal performance from the masterblaster himself Stevie Wonder and this live version features some vocal pyrotechnics from Andra Day. Very Cool.

 

 

12 AURORA - Half The World Away

This version of the Oasis anthem was recently used by UK department store John Lewis in their 2015 Christmas campaign and was adopted by my brothers living in Australia at the time as their happy lament of being the other side of the world for Christmas. So this is dedicated to everyone who can’t make it home to their loved ones this year for Chrismas. Enjoy the festivities wherever you are. (wipes tears away!)

 

 

13. Shake up Christmas - Train

One of my favourite bands, and this song is from one of my favourite albums Save Me, San Fransisco, the Album that also gave us Hey, Soul Sister. Train frontman Pat Monaghan has to have Irish connections with that name surely!

 

 

14. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Gavin James

This is my sitting in front of the fire on Christmas eve with a guitar and a glass of wine song. My attempt is rather disappointing compared to the exceptional talent of Gavin James tho.  This guy could sing the phonebook and it'd sound amazing.

 

 

15. I’m getting nothing for Christmas - Barry Gordon

I downloaded one of these “100 Christmas Songs” bumper albums for €5 a few years back and found this gem as track 54! Cheers me up every time. It's just a lot of fun with six-year-old Barry Gordon as lead vocalist and although originally released in 1955 it remains timeless today.

 

 

16. The 12 Days of Christmas - Straight No Chaser

Every December a charity radio station called Christmas FM begins broadcasting across the Irish airways and online around the world. Last year I heard this song for the first time on that station and was so impressed I text the station requesting it again! It's a great acapella performance. Check out Straight No Chaser doing it live.

 

 

17. Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea

This is for all my fellow musicians on the roads heading home after the busy season of entertaining the masses of drunken office bowsies and having to deal with all kinds of random craziness. It goes with the territory in fairness. But there's no better euphoria than sitting into the car after that last Christmas party gig, pointing the car for home and hitting the road with a bit of Chris Rea. Good job guys. Few pints, well deserved!

 

 

18. This Christmas - Picture This

This song rounds up a great year for a band that refused to be held back in 2016. Probably the newest song on the list, it's the questioning that really hits home with me, and the direct wish of hope:

 

"I hope that you find love, and all you're dreaming of, this Christmas.
And I hope that you find peace, and you're mind is at ease, this Christmas"

 

 

19. Walking in the air -Ryan Sheridan

This take on the iconic Snowman theme is correlative, original and haunting. It's always refreshing to hear a new take on something so familiar.  Ryan's cover on the song is true to the original yet creative and nostalgic with vocals, guitar, piano and percussion all performed by Ryan himself. 

 

 

20. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

 I've heard this song 1000 times. I'll listen to it another thousand time and I'll love it even more. It's got everything, a story, a duet, a trad band, swear words, a sing along, a slow dance, a waltz, a lament, and a chorus you can't resist. I think of closing time on New years eve down the local with friends and family, huddled together, all swaying along and wishing the song had another 5 minutes just to say in the moment. That's where the magic is.

 

 

Youtube Playlist Link

 

1. Christmas Biscuits - Mark Geary & Glen Hansard

2. Christmas Wine - Declan O’Rourke

3. Christmas Won’t Do Without you - Tess Henley 

4. Maybe this Christmas - Ron Sexsmith

5. Christmas was better in the 80’s  - The Futureheads

6. Shining Light - Ash

7. Bing Crosby, David Bowie - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth

8. A Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney

9. Christmas Time in Washington - Steve Earle

10. Baby it’s Cold Outside - James Taylor & Natalie Cole

11. Someday at Christmas - Stevie Wonder

12 AURORA - Half The World Away

13. Shake up Christmas - Train

14. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Gavin James

15. I’m getting nothing for Christmas - Barry Gordon

16. The 12 Days of Christmas - Straight No Chaser

17. Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea

18. This Christmas - Picture This

19. Walking in the air -Ryan Sheridan

20. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

 

 

Feel free to recommend more Christmas songs in the comments. I'll check them out and add them to the list.

 

 

Happy Christmas Everyone :) x

 

 

 

 

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