Welcome to The Soundtrack, a column where we plumb the depths of our musical knowledge to bring you the best* (subjective) music to listen to for very specific life situations. This week, we tackle a loaded situation: introducing your partner to your family on Christmas.
It is Christmas, my dudes. Well, not quite, but it’s only a couple paychecks away (so if you haven’t shelled out for presents yet you better get cracking). For many of us, Christmas is less of a religious holiday and more of a chance to visit your family and eat ridiculous amounts of fresh fruit and ham on the bone. It’s the only day of the year where it’s socially acceptable to regress deep into the safe memories and rituals of your childhood while simultaneously getting completely sloshed before lunch. Of course, there are pratfalls to watch out for – racist grandparents, the unbearable sticky heat, and most notably, the dreaded litany of “soooooo how’s your love life?” enquiries. Let’s be honest here, that question isn’t really a comfortable one to chat to your Aunt Rachel about even if yours happens to be going well. But maybe you’ve decided to grit your teeth and jump right into the deep end – by introducing your paramour to your clan. On Christmas Day. Sure, love makes you do crazy things but this is downright tumultuous. The mood has to be just right – comforting for all parties, interesting enough to be a point of conversation if all else fails, showcasing your partner’s ultra-cool tastes but still something your ‘rents are going to dig. We gotchu!
Summer Flake – Son Of A Gun
Summer Flake, aka Stephanie Crase, makes wonderful washed-out music that is both 1) very cool and 2) beloved by Double J listeners, so this one is neatly appropriate for all involved. You want to be able to set a tone that’s breezy and unchallenging for your parents, but still something you and your babe would listen to, allowing a comfortable first introduction for everyone. Son Of A Gun is sonically quite timid, so it won’t encroach on your space while you’re making all the rounds upon arrival. Crase’s lofty vocals, a floaty guitar – it’s all extraordinarily lovely despite its quite emotional lyrics. It’s like taking a nap in the sun, which is, as we all know, what you’ll be doing once you’ve all sufficiently stuffed yourselves with mum’s patented potato salad. If you’re feeling a little uncomfortable or have some trepidation about this introduction, you can hold onto the chorus hook like a handy little mantra: Don’t turn on me, members of my family who have been known to say exactly the most inappropriate things at precisely the absolute worst time. Hum it under your breath while praying nobody brings up anything untoward, like your wild younger years or that time you peed your pants way past the age that’s actually ok.
BadBadNotGood – Time Moves Slow
If you’re like me, maybe you shamefully grew up thinking that jazz was weird and boring and liking it made you Lisa Simpson. By now, you should realise that jazz is weird and AMAZING, and that being Lisa Simpson is an actual #lifegoal anyway. If you haven’t arrived at this true conclusion yet then BadBadNotGood will take you there. Subdued and ambling, Time Moves Slow isn’t unlike something the older members of your family would have listened to on the radio way back when. Its unmistakeable modernity reveals itself a little more as the track progresses, but things never get too out-there, making it a great salve – a marriage of two worlds. Plus, Samuel T. Herring’s voice is as entrancingly silky as they come. By this point, it’ll likely be lyrically appropriate as well: time certainly does tend to move slow when you’re anxiously watching everyone’s body language and internally begging with some universal force that this is going well.
The Goon Sax – Anyone Else
This one might skate right on the edge of what your family would be into, but just preface it by saying the frontman is Robert Forster from The Go-Betweens‘ son and they’ll be chill about it. There’s something to be said about the perfect amount of jangle in a song, especially if you’re going to play it in a romantic or romance-adjacent situation. It lends a Wes Anderson-esque touch that’ll help you gloss over any foibles that occur with a deadpan blank stare and a long sip of your drink. Bonus points if you’re wearing bright yellow or heavy eyeliner. See, it’s not so bad that someone just asked a super awkward question. It’s quirky! Your life is full of misadventures and idiosyncracies! In all seriousness though, The Goon Sax are a national treasure and have so much crossover appeal when it comes to different ages that you’re actually being musically irresponsible if you don’t play them for your family.
Crowded House – Weather With You
This is what I call an intergenerational banger. I’d like to say something to the effect of “if you don’t know the words you’re unaustralian”, but as Flight Of The Conchords pointed out at the ARIAs, us Aussies have a very annoying habit of claiming successful NZ musicians as our own, so I won’t. I’ll just say that if you don’t know the words you probably suck as a person. There. Much less inflammatory. Anyway, your parents probably gave Into Temptation and have their buzz on a little by this point and so do you, so now is the time for a nice, bonding sing-along, creating your own little Private Universe. Something So Strong like music really works as a social unifier, and the older people at the table will just adore that “the youths” are still fangin’ Crowded – although, let’s be real, It’s Only Natural. As you sit there on the porch under the sweltering yet Distant Sun, eyes twinkling with the effects of too much bubbly and paper hats lopsided, you’ll relax, knowing this day can only improve because your grandma totally brought her famous Chocolate Cake.
Wham! – Last Christmas
If you try to make a Christmas playlist without either this or Mariah Carey in it, Santa gives you coal in your stocking, and I’d much prefer normal things like sunscreen, socks and a new toothbrush. I guess you could sub in Mariah for this if you wanted to, but I guarantee you that more of your family will appreciate Wham!, unless you have some homophobic relatives. I’ll let you be the judge on this one. Honestly though, for this Very Specific Situation, the whimsical drama of this one works better than the grandiose begging of All I Want For Christmas. But hey, I don’t know your life.