The winter solstice is a time of joy and merriment. It’s a time to visit family, renew old friendships, and commune in a spirit of love, brotherhood and sisterhood with our fellow Homo sapiens. It’s no wonder, then, that this season has produced some of the most angst-filled music ever heard, and no one knows how to throw down the angst like a geek.
The irony is that, rather than being depressing, these songs can actually cheer you up far more than any saccharine gooey sweetness from Amy Grant or Josh Groban. Listening to these songs I’m thinking, “Hey, at least my life’s not as bad as this guy’s.”
So to help brighten your otherwise tense holidays, I offer these 10 little bittersweet chocolate nuggets.
1. ‘Chiron Beta Prime’ — Jonathan Coulton
Jonathan Coulton’s homage to those “let me catch you up on the family” holiday letters ties an unexpected twist when the family in question has been sequestered to an asteroid by our robot overlords. “Chiron Beta Prime” was originally written around Christmastime 2004 as a “Christmas song with a futuristic theme” for a friend to send out on a CD as a holiday card. It was officially released in 2006 as part of Coulton’s famous “Thing a Week” collection, which were all “open source” songs, allowing Mike Spiff Booth to make this nifty video.
2. ‘Post Apocalypse Christmas’ — Gruff Rhys
“Post Apocalypse Christmas” is part of former Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys‘ album “Atheist Xmas EP,” out this week.
3. ‘That Was the Worst Christmas Ever’ — Sufjan Stevens
This is one of the most beautiful and delicate songs on the list. With lyrics that deal with a dysfunctional family Christmas, it’s also possibly the most depressing song on the list. Released on Ding! Dong! Songs for Christmas, Vol. III recorded December 2003, it’s part of a multivolume epic Songs for Christmas series by Sufjan Stevens.
4. ‘Christmas Wrapping’ — The Waitresses
This song is the story of a young girl who has been chasing a particular man all year long, only to finally give up and decide to spend Christmas alone. My wife refused to listen to this song for years. Any time it would come on, she would insist that I turn it off, telling me it me it was too depressing. One time I finally made her listen to it, and its eventual happy ending. It’s now her favorite holiday song.
5. ‘Fairy Tale of New York’ — The Pogues
Any song that begins with the line “It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank” has my vote for best angsty holiday song ever! The song is a duet between The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan (worst teeth ever) and Kirsty MacColl, reliving an Irish couple’s coming to New York to fulfill their dreams, both real and imagined.