Playlist: Alternative Christmas and New Year Songs

Supermarkets polluting your ears with Cliff’s drippiest ditties? Strike back with Stuff’s seasonal selection

We can't be the only ones who are thoroughly sick of bad End-of-the Year music.

From Cliff's Mistletoe And Wine to Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas, there's plenty of it about. 

So here at Stuff Towers we've created our own playlist of festive tunes.

In it you'll find everything from punk covers to outstanding originals - and at the bottom we've even got tips for writing your own festive ditty.


A Gun For Christmas - The Vandals

Not content with just this one festive song, the Vandals went and recorded a whole punk rock Christmas album (Oi To The World), and it’s completely brilliant. Go on, turn up your stereo and have a little mosh around the tree – just be careful not to pogo all over your presents.

Jesus Christ - Big Star

This joyous, jangly ode to the big man himself would be at home on any happy-clappy Christian rock album. Instead, it sits incongruously in the middle of Big Star’s Third, one of the bleakest records ever made. One suspects that the sentiments behind it might not be entirely sincere.

Silent Night - Christopher Lee

This is possibly the loudest version of Silent Night you’ve ever heard, full of shredding guitars and topped with a wizard baritone. Legendary thespian Lee, who sadly died in June, came late to the metal scene – at 91 he became the oldest ever artist to make the Billboard singles chart with Jingle Hell.

Post Apocalypse Christmas - Gruff Rhys

Imagine the horrors of Fallout 3 set against a jaunty tune by him out of Super Furry Animals and you have this. “Deep inside the concrete bunker, post apocalypse bunker /We lick our wounds to kill the hunger, post apocalypse Christmas.” More mulled wine, vicar?

I'll Be Killing You (This Christmas) - Loudon Wainwright III

An anti-NRA protest song might not sound too twinkly, but this one’s melody is irresistible. Inspired by a shooting in 2012, its mix of dark humour (“Santa’s packing heat this Christmas”) and sleigh bells mean it hits home without upsetting everyone.

Like Herod - Mogwai

Admittedly the Yuletide elements of Like Herod begin and end with the title, but the poor chap always gets overlooked in carols. You’d think going around killing babies was somehow anti-festive. But he gets a look-in here courtesy of this classic ‘quiet, quiet, quiet, OH SO LOUD’ Mogwai track.

Christmas Was Better In The 80s - The Futureheads

Just before the Futureheads went full ‘a capella’ and slid into obscurity, they donned their skinny ties and knocked out this blast of nostalgic post-punk – sure to spark an argument with your uncle about whether their cover of Hounds Of Love is better than the original.

Christmas In Hollis - Run-DMC

When Run-DMC were asked to record a Christmas track for a Special Olympics benefit album in 1987, they initially refused, thinking it would wreck their street cred in one corny swoop. Instead, a sample of Clarence Carter’s funky Back Door Santa provided us with an unusual seasonal classic.

Hark The Herald Angels Sing - The Fall

Mark E Smith may be indie’s answer to Ebenezer Scrooge, but when it comes to Christmas he’s a big softie. The Fall have recorded several festive songs over the past 40 years, including a ragged take on Jingle Bell Rock and this, a merry gem with falsetto backing vocals.

Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence - Ryuichi Sakamoto

Don’t bother listening to any of the loungey pap he’s done since, but Sakamoto’s original theme for this deeply cheerless 1983 film has a haunting charm. The film stars David Bowie as a POW who’s a bit of a rebel rebel, and Sakamoto himself as a camp commandant with issues.

Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas - Eels

Not all alternative Christmas songs are dark-hearted or wrapped in knowing irony. Mark ‘E’ Everett proves there’s still a place for power-chord optimism with this fine bit of tinsel. Most importantly, it includes the lyric “Baby Jesus, born to rock”.

Slade slayers - How to write a christmas song

Everyone knows the classic Christmas song building blocks: mistletoe, chestnuts, zombie reindeer. But how to mould these overfamiliar staples into original lines? The Song Lyrics Generator will do the heavy lifting for you.

Once you have the trunk of your melodic tree in place, it’s time to add sonic baubles. Freesound has hundreds of royalty-free sound effects, from sleigh bells to ‘Santa falling down a chimney’. Add them to your loop library in Garageband. 

No more do your epic poetry and melodic gems need to be captured in separate apps. Hum (iOS) lets you add notes and lyrics to your audio recordings, and filter your creations by key and tuning.