By Fiona O’ Connell
There are only so many times one can hear the overly cheery, Christmas-centric heartbreak tune ‘Last Christmas’ blasting through crackling speakers whilst just trying to do your grocery shop in peace. Now I’m a huge Christmas fanatic (I’m that guy), but even I know when to say enough is enough. Now that’s not to say we shouldn’t play Christmas music. In small doses the overly cheesy, brilliantly structured Jazz Christmas classics are great – even some of the newer, poppier tunes have their merit. There is however, a strong case to be made for a wide array of, not necessarily Christmas music, but music that can make it feel like Christmas, conjuring up the same warm feelings without the sickly sweet sleigh bells. Here you will find an attempt to soundtrack an alternative type of Christmas for your enjoyment!
There’s something about folk music that has always resonated quite beautifully around Winter time. Why exactly that is I’m not entirely sure but one thing is certain – these bearded hipsters make a damn good tune to soundtrack your morning crunch through the snow. Some highlights include:
- White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
Not exactly a Christmas tune but certainly a Winter song. With mentions of scarves and snow as well as the faithful use of a tambourine throughout the entire piece, this song is a perfect accompaniment for your Winter walks.
- Berlin – Bear’s Den
Along the same lines in terms of atmospheric creation, this song feels like a warm hug. With the use of minimal plucked guitar patterns, the English folk three-piece conjure up a nostalgia for the cold weather, big coats, and a snow-covered Berlin. The opening to this track encapsulates the entire mood of the song; ‘The cold wind made your cheeks blow, shivering away under your coat. Berlin was all covered in snow, all I could offer was a hand to hold’.
Moving into the realm of instrumental works, there are many Winter-alluding pieces to choose from, as well as more stripped back arrangements of well-known Christmas tunes that help to set the mood this holiday season.
- ‘Snowfall’ – Idealism
For a whole load of crackly, low-fi Christmas goodness. Set to the backdrop of deliciously jazzy piano chords, this piece is reminiscent of the afore-mentioned classic Christmas jazz standards in its simple piano melody, whilst adding a syncopated electronic drum beat to keep it sounding hip and fresh, and all that.
- ‘The First Noel (Jazz Version) – The Evergreen Trio
A gorgeously simple rendition of this classic provides the perfect soothing background music to any cosy Winter evening. With slightly altered melody lines making the piece both jazzier and harder to instantly recognise, this piece oozes with nostalgia and the warmth that only such smooth playing of such a lovely tune could conjure up.
Sticking with the more jazzier realm of Winter-related pieces, I have included an entire section for more jazz-influenced pieces as there is something inexplicably Christmassy about the use of jazz chord progressions and chord voicings.
- ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily (Vocal Version)’ – Chet Baker
Now I know this isn’t a Christmas song. But there is something about the twinkly piano combined with smooth jazz vocals that screams Christmas to me! It’s laidback, it’s gorgeous, it’s effortlessly nostalgic – in keeping with all of my Winter/Christmas-Vibe-Evoking playlist needs!
- ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ – Larry Lovestein & Ariana Grande
It cannot be denied that Grande is no stranger to a Christmas tune. This song is one of her lesser known attempts but arguably her best. Teaming up with her partner at the time, Mac Miller (under his alter-ego Larry Lovestein), the pair deliver a soft and stripped back version of the classic. The intro to this song is what really sold this rendition to me. There is something about those soft, muted and jazz-influenced piano chords that evoke such a warm and entirely Christmassy feeling.
Finally, a very special mention must go to one of the loveliest Christmas-influenced playlists I came across on Spotify entitled ‘A Harry Potter Christmas’ which includes excerpts of beautiful orchestral scores which accompanied scenes of a snow-covered Hogwarts so beautifully. Happy listening!