Listen Here: Happy (Or Not) Holidays

Listen Here is a monthly playlist picked and curated by members of the Deadshirt staff around a certain theme. This month’s theme is “The Holidays,” with a playlist selected by several Deadshirt staffers and curated by music editor Julian Ames.


It’s December, and we’re right in the thick of the holiday season, so just about everybody is trimming trees, buying presents, and drinking eggnog. The Deadshirt staff decided to pull together and make a playlist of some of our favorite songs to listen to during this time of year. What follows is a playlist of songs chosen by Sam Paxton, Mike Duquette, David Lebovitz, Max Robinson, Dylan Roth, Madie Coe, and Julian Ames. We hope you enjoy the playlist and it makes your holiday season that much better. Happy Holidays!

“Last Christmas” – Wham!
Alright, let’s get the “full disclosure” shit out of the way: this year, I thought it would be fun if “Last Christmas” came back out on vinyl for its 30th anniversary, something I ended up making happen. That idea came out of plain old respect for this song, written by a 21-year-old George Michael overflowing with so many hooks (seven U.K. Top 10 hits from 1982 to 1984, the last three of which were chart-toppers) that he penned a lovelorn Christmas song for a single B-side and watched it become one of the last great holiday pop songs. Even if I haven’t spent every day since Thanksgiving lovingly holding the only Wham! single with my name in the credits (you bet your ass I have), that Linn drum/Yamaha DX-7 combo would never fail to give me some strong yuletide feelings. – Mike Duquette

“Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses
Holidays are stressful. New Wave rock goddesses The Waitresses know this, and luckily they wrote a song that any twentysomething urbanite can relate to. Psuedo-rapped (it’s a pun get it GET IT) by frontwoman Patty Donahue, “Christmas Wrapping” is underscored with hard guitars, a tap-tap-tapping piano note and what’s probably one of the best saxophone stings-turned-bridges in pop rock history. The song’s central parable, the narrator’s ultimately failed plan to spend Christmas alone, is cute and sweet but without the sentimentality of many celebrated X-Mas jams. – Max Robinson

“Wonderful Christmastime” – The Shins
I will defend Paul McCartney’s wacky, overly saccharine holiday contribution to my dying breath. Sure, it’s out there — the spacy synth hardly evokes anything resembling the Christmas spirit — but I’ve always been delighted to hear it come on the radio as a goofy, jarring tonal shift from Burl Ives or Eartha Kitt. So when The Shins recorded a cover of it for 2013’s Holidays Rule compilation, I was absolutely on board. James Mercer reimagines the song with reverb-drenched organ, sleigh bells, and thick harmonies, and the bopping bassline and sparse arrangement evoke Sgt. Pepper’s era Beatles. Frankly, it’s hard not to have a wonderful Christmastime when you’re grinning ear to ear. – Sam Paxton

“Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley
Look, if you’ve ever listened to the radio around Christmas, you know this song. Elvis is generally hit-or-miss for me, but I love “Blue Christmas” (so much so that I will shamelessly tell you my band covered it last year for a holiday compilation), and it doesn’t really feel like the Christmas season has arrived until I hear this song. It’s the sad-sack cousin to every cheerful holiday tune, but Elvis’ rockabilly swagger and the swinging backing vocals elevate it to a wistful, charming reminder that this time of year is better with that special someone. So this Christmas, get blitzed on eggnog (Chef Sam recommends adding bourbon), grab the people you love the most, and drunkenly belt out your best impression of The King, baby. – Sam Paxton

“We Three Kings” – Ella Fitzgerald
I re-discovered this gem just this year while desperately searching for music that wasn’t cheesy and fit the theme of a jazz age Christmas party for a gig. While most of the songs on this Deadshirt playlist are originals, there’s something that needs to be said about this classic jazz cover. Fitzgerald’s warm and husky vocal styling over a relatively simple arrangement of piano and harp give you arguably the classiest and sassiest rendition packed into only two minutes. I feel like I should be sipping a sloe gin fizz and swaying in fringe, and I am 100% down. – Madie Coe

“The Christmas Song” – Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole’s 1946 time-honored version of “The Christmas Song” evokes a lot of feelings in its 3:12 run time. It sounds like the weird quiet just before midnight lull on Christmas Eve. There’s a really admirable simplicity to “The Christmas Song.” The understated vocals and restrained backing instruments give it this perfect air of loneliness and contentment. It’s the song equivalent of a genuine “Merry Christmas” from an old friend. – Max Robinson

“Can I Interest You In Hanukkah?” – Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert
This gem comes from A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!, the 2008 Christmas special by the soon-to-be Letterman 2.0. During this part of the special, Jon Stewart visits Stephen and tries to pitch the holiday of Hanukkah. It is the most accurate comparison of Hanukkah and Christmas put into song – we all know that Hanukkah is kind of a drab, dinky holiday in comparison with the bright lights and jolliness of Christmas, but we love it anyway. It is, indeed, “Not Our Least Unfavorite Time Of Year.” HANUKKAH FUN FACT: Israeli dreidels use different Hebrew letters. In every other country, the letters on the side are an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayeh Shah – “A Great Miracle Happened There.” In Israel, the Shin (ש) is replaced with a Pey (פ), making the acronym Nes Gadol Hayeh Poh – “A Great Miracle Happened Here.” Also, anyone want a dreidel? We’ve got, like, a few hundred and it’s a problem. Take one. – David Lebovitz

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
Even if you’re a weirdo like me who shrugs at most pop hits and spits venom at the rest, you have to confess that you love this song. There’s a reason this cut has become part of the annual Christmas radio canon. It fits perfectly in its time (1994) but also evokes the classic Phil Spector-produced A Christmas Gift For You (1963), which combined creates a timeless quality that’s essential to keeping your Christmas tune on the airwaves twenty years later. It’s sweet, the kind of sweet you can really only handle during the holiday season. It’s sickeningly catchy, but it only gets played for six weeks out of the year, so you’re not exposed to it long enough to learn to hate it. If you hate it anyway, I honestly don’t know what to do with you. You don’t deserve Christmas. – Dylan Roth

“Step Into Christmas” – Elton John
How does a modern pop artist get their Christmas song to become a classic? There’s two possibilites: write something that sounds like one of your hits regardless of the season, or ape A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector until you make it. Elton John, in the middle of publicizing his double-album masterpiece Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1973, did both, with producer Gus Dudgeon and Elton’s killer live band (guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson) doing their best Wall of Sound impersonation on a track that could’ve fit on any of many hit Elton albums in the ‘70s. – Mike Duquette

“Xmas” – Jesse Malin
For most of us, the holidays are a joyful time, but for some people they can be a bit stressful or even lonely. Those feelings are captured pretty well in Jesse Malin’s somber yet beautiful “Xmas.” The catchy melody, violins, and sleigh bells keep me coming back to this song during the holidays even if it is about a guy trying to make amends with a past lover. – Julian Ames

“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Wanna celebrate Christmas like a freaking badass? This is how you do. Trans-Siberian Orchestra did things to holiday music that we didn’t even know were possible until the late ’90s. So, if you could use a little dose of rock between the insipid Christmas pop pegging your ear as you stand in line to buy the last iPhone 6 and the the sounds of the Christmas station that your parents think is really classy to put on when guests are over, they got you covered. Sometimes spreading holiday cheer means sharing a tune with a buddy that you can headbang to. – Madie Coe

“The Bells Are Ringing” – They Might Be Giants
This song is a staple for me around the holidays. With its bells, choir, and chorus that turns into rounds, it’s a given that this is meant for the holidays. But since this is They Might Be Giants we’re talking about, this actually turns out to be the weirdest Christmas carol ever. Instead of being about any particular holiday, this song is about…uh I don’t know…bells that hypnotize people? Maybe it’s an indictment of the commercialization of holidays like Christmas? Or maybe it’s a comment on the infectiousness of the holiday spirit? Either way the song sounds really good and it gets me in the holiday mood. – Julian Ames

“(I’m Spending) Hanukkah In Santa Monica” – Tom Lehrer
Tom Lehrer — perhaps the greatest musical satirist of the last century — produced a relatively small body of work, but his whip-smart catalog rightfully remains revered decades after he stopped performing. Here we find him at his Borscht Beltiest, with the anthem for Jewish snowbirds everywhere. HANUKKAH FUN FACT: the events that Hanukkah commemorates — the end of the Maccabean revolt — is not found in the Hebrew bible. While the Books of the Maccabees are regarded with much historical interest, they are not officially part of the Jewish canon. As such, it’s more of a historical holiday than a religious observation. LEARNING IS FUN. – David Lebovitz

That’s Deadshirt’s hand-picked Holiday playlist – now, you tell us what songs you listen to during the holidays. Comment below or hit us up on Facebook!


Post By Deadshirt Staff (691 Posts)

Deadshirt's writing staff is dedicated to bringing you thoughtful and entertaining media commentary. We're mostly indentured, which means we can pass the savings on to you!