Top 10 Rock/Alternative Christmas Songs That Don't Suck

The Flaming Lips
Kyle Dean Reinford

The Flaming Lips performs at the Warner Sound showcase at SXSW

…And one Hanukkah Song (we did our best!)

Let’s get this out of the way: there are an awful lot of terrible rock covers of Christmas songs. Lots of genres are guilty of this, but being that Relient K and Bowling For Soup have both done entire Christmas albums, modern guitar music needs to take a long look in the mirror: “Do I really want to write this sped up, punk cover of “Run Rudolph Run”? 

But there are some good ones! Some of these holiday rock songs were intentional (written for Christmas compilations or films); others are album tracks that just happen to talk about Christmas. And we tried to keep it fairly recent, too. Do you really need to be reminded that the Kinks wrote “Father Christmas”? And we kept the covers to a minimum, though there is one killer cover of “Father Christmas.”

Fall Out Boy, “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” - Early Fall Out Boy tracks are rife with girl-fueled angst and lengthy, pop culture-fueled titles. This acoustic b-side from the Take The To Your Grave Era combines both; Patrick Stump sings, “Don’t come home for Christmas, you’re the last thing I want to see underneath the tree.”

Ryan Adams, “New York, New York” - Ryan Adams opened his second solo with this heartwarming, Hammond organ-addled New York ode, whose second verse goes, “I remember Christmas in the blistering cold in a church on the upper west side.” The video is forever enshrined in New York lore for depicting the World Trade Center in the Manhattan skyline just four days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sky Ferreira, “Omanko” - “I’m gearing up for a Japanese Christmas,” Sky Ferreira sings on this on this billowy interlude-of-sorts from her 2013 album Night Time, My Time. Coupled with the grainy video shot by Cole from DIIV, it’s got an irreverent, punks-go-to-Japan vibe to it; just don’t say “omanko” in front of anyone who speaks Japanese and is easily offended. 

Eels, “Christmas Is Going to the Dogs” - The band best known for “Novocaine For the Soul” delivered this little nugget, which first popped up in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack. “E” sings the cozy indie pop tune from the dog’s perspective and ends it giving “a big surprise, my gift to you” to its master.

Jimmy Eat World, “12.23.95” - On their pre-“Middle” prog-emo opus Clarity, Jimmy Eat World toyed around with synthetic beats and glistening, pre-Postal Service emo synthesizer on this album interlude. Ironically, the band often abbreviated as JEW recorded two other Christmas-themed songs -- late '90s non-album single “Christmas Card” and a cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” for the O.C.’s Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah mix. 

Christopher Lee, “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing” - Acting legend Sir Christopher Lee -- never forget the Sir -- lived to be 93 and spent most of it being more metal than you. Back in 2012, he became the oldest living performer to enter the Billboard charts with a metal Christmas carol called “Jingle Hell” and he got back in the pummeling, yuletide spirit two years later... 

Bad Religion, “Father Christmas” - The old punks had so much ironic fun with 2013’s Christmas Songs that they decided to come back for round two this year, covering the Kinks’ stick-it-to-the-rich classic. Political punks do not like income gaps!

The Hold Steady, “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” - Stressing about bringing your boy/girl home for the holidays to meet the parents? THS frontman Craig Finn sings about bringing his girlfriend home for Christmas to meet his folks in Minnesota, only to run into his old punk friends who like to get high in their bunker by the river. The title pretty much sums it up.

Blink-182, “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” - “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” is only 42 seconds long and it got glory on an actual full length, so we’ll go with this hooky non-album single, recorded in 1997 with pre-Travis Barker drummer Scott Raynor. Mark Hoppus sets the tone with the opening line, “Outside the carolers start to sing / I can't describe the joy they bring / ‘Cause joy is something they don't bring me.”

The Killers feat. Elton John & Neil Tennant, "Joseph, Better You Than Me” - The Killers have been Christmas caroling for a long time. 2016 marks the 10th straight year they’ve shared a new holiday single, each time benefiting Bono’s (RED) foundation. With plenty to choose from, we’re going with the undeniable star power and grandiose vocal display of this 2008 track. And if you’re looking for more, the Killers just compiled all their holiday songs on a new set called Don’t Waste Your Wishes.

That’s ten songs as promised; but hey, let’s not forget Hanukkah: