Christmas is a festival of light and joy. As such, those into darkness and sorrow often feel excluded. Party-planners may find themselves asking, “How do I get my congenitally unmerry guest into the holiday spirit?”
We reply: add the following five Christmas carols to your playlist, and even the grinch laid out on the couch will stand up and sing – or at least sit up and nod before collapsing into a ball of self-pity.
1. iLiKETRAiNS – Last Christmas (Wham! cover)
Despite being by Wham! – a band whose name includes a friggin exclamation point – “Last Christmas” is a real downer. iLikeTRAiNS’ slow and sparse rendition highlights the pathos of the opening couplet: “Last Christmas I gave you my heart / But the very next day you gave it away.” Play this one for the heartsick at the holidays.
2. Apocalyptica – Little Drummer Boy
True to their name, Finnish cello metallists (yeah, it’s a niche genre) Apocalyptica approach “Little Drummer Boy” as if his entrance signals the end of the world. If party-goers pooh-pooh this ominous selection for lack of Christmas cheer, remind them of Matthew 10:34: “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” This is the sound of that sword descending down the chimney and aiming for your throat.
3. Lycia – We Three Kings
Gothic icons Lycia effectively conflate the Three Kings of Orient with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on this dancefloor-emptying, reverb-laden dirge. I mean “dancefloor-emptying” in the most positive way; this is premium fodder for holiday brooding over a warm cup of eggnog and a story by H.P. Lovecraft.
4. The Raveonettes – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love cover)
The Raveonettes cover Darlene Love‘s plaintive 1963 ballad with their characteristic layer of melodic distortion. The downer line “We’re singing ‘Deck the Halls’ / But it’s not like Christmas at all” will achieve depressing resonance if played after a singalong to “Deck the Halls.”
5. Halford – We Three Kings
To end things on an upbeat note, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford will blow the star off your tree with his rousing, speed metal rendition of “We Three Kings.” Yes, Virginia, there is a guitar solo.
Check out our full archive of Christmas covers here.