An Alternative Musical Guide to the Holiday Season

By Sharon Zheng

‘Tis the season to renew interest in Christmas music by discovering new classics! While the traditional Spotify playlist presents a festive, joyful ode to the holidays, there could be a different treasure trove of contemporary releases that are quintessential and specially customised to your Christmas mood. Here’s a list of ‘alternative’ music recommendations to broaden your soundscape to novel, heartfelt dimensions:

“Christmas in L.A.” (The Killers ft. Dawes)

Whether you’re feeling homesick or wanderlust, “Christmas in L.A.” (The Killers ft. Dawes) is the perfect melancholic soulmate to whisk you off your feet during the holidays. The song is full of descriptive lyrics evocative of precise imagery. Lyrics like “Another Christmas in L.A / Another pitcher of Sangria / In an empty beach cafe” are expertly crafted to be profoundly wistful and sophisticatedly campy at the same time; as a result, the storytelling is consistently enthralling. Sprinkled with existential and reflective elements, “Christmas in L.A.” is a sentimental track that makes you feel cosy at home – wherever you are – by joining you in the mood. When Brandon Flowers and Taylor Goldsmith harmonise with great conviction at the end, embellished with accompanying backup vocals, it creates a warm, celebratory milieu and makes you feel embraced as part of a community; united as one. After all, one of the best ways to bring people together – whether virtually, in reverie, or in person – is the universal connectedness of music. 

“If We Make It Through December” (Merle Haggard / cover by Phoebe Bridgers)

Phoebe Bridgers’ rendition of Merle Haggard’s 1974 tune “If We Make It Through December” is as toasty as a pair of mittens and as velvety as eggnog. Similar to “Christmas in L.A.”, the lyrics are candidly hard-hitting with meticulously chosen words, with lines like “It’s the coldest time of winter / And I shiver when I see the fallin’ snow” caressing the heart with visceral emotion. What makes the song even more endearingly poignant is the vocal arrangement, coupling Phoebe’s ethereal balladeering with excerpts of orchestral, madrigal-like backing vocals making it that much more angelic. While the song appears depressing at first, it is more preferably inspirational, motivational, and hopeful for the felicity of the New Year. Equally, it could be the remedy to find solace in hard times; a warm hug in any cold situation.

And some more suggestions!

“River” (Joni Mitchell), “Step Into Christmas” (Elton John), “Winderlude” (Bob Dylan), “Someday At Christmas” (Stevie Wonder ft. Andra Day), “Present Without a Bow” (Kacey Musgraves ft. Leon Bridges), “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” (Julian Casablancas) and “Home For Christmas” (Kate Bush)

Hi, I’m Sharon! Currently, I’m in my third year of studying Management at LSE. I write about music, film, and television shows for The Beaver. One of my core interests is songwriting and in particular, I love exploring the poetry and storytelling behind lyrics. I am an aficionado for nostalgic, melancholic content, so I am always open to recommendations of emotional, soul-stirring material.Feel free to reach me at s.zheng22@lse.ac.uk or sharonxzheng on Instagram!

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