Monday, December 22, 2014

Have Yourself a Melancholy Little Christmas

Christmastime is here, and with it comes a heaping helping of Christmas cheer. The stores are decked out in tinsel and glitter, and carols ranging from "Frosty the Snowman" to "All I Want for Christmas is You" fill the airwaves. If you love this sort of cheeriness, then this is your time. However, if you are a little holidayed out and needing a respite from this unrelenting merriment, don't despair. There are a surprising number of songs that are of a more lugubrious mood.

"Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
This song technically isn't a Christmas song, but it is a winter song, so it counts in my book. I love the simplicity of the melody and the arrangement as well as the fact that the lyrics manage to be plaintive without being cloying. While I might not recommend listening to it in the depths of winter (especially if you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder), it is a lovely and reflective escape from the sometimes maddening glee that seems omnipresent this time of year.

"Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
For a song that has a rather upbeat tempo, the lyrics are incredibly bitter. The surprising juxtaposition results in a great (and angry) song to drown your sorrows to while muttering, "Ho, ho, hell" to yourself.

"Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon
If "Winter Song" is contemplative and "Fairytale of New York" is bitter, then "Christmas in the Trenches" is downright heartbreaking. Much of the sadness comes from the fact that, while it is fictional, it tells the story of the real-life Christmas truce that occurred during World War I. Every year when I hear it for the first time, I tear up (this has happened to me more than once while I was driving).