It may well be the starkest festive song ever recorded.
"Things Fall Apart" was written and recorded by Cristina Monet-Palaci for the ZE Records Christmas compilation of 1981 (this is the second of 3 songs from that record label on this list...they really released some great music). Her biography on the Ze Records website notes Richard Strange's spot-on assessment of her: "In a sassier, zestier, brighter, funnier world, Cristina would have been Madonna."
Trust me, this ain’t no “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer", instead it's an anguished tale of the festive season spent amongst vacuous city-dwellers, heartbroken but unsurprised by another failed romance with a commitment-phobic lover ("He said he couldn't stand in my way, it's wrong. "Way of what?", I asked, but he was gone"). Cristina, bless her, recounts her doomed attempts to find a little Christmas cheer with “Things Fall Apart.” The song begins with a musical box melody that fades into a brittle reverb before the guitars begin adding their acid into the mix. Her fatalistic vocals then start their laser focus on deadpan observations on how she is fated to careen through life never fitting in with “the crowd” and living “alone again, alone.” Underneath it all, the nihilistic rhythm section purrs like a cat waiting to pounce, probably just like the cat Cristina heads home to feed. "I caught a cab back to my flat. And wept a bit. And fed the cat". Merry FUCKING Christmas!
A very sad and poignant footnote is that Cristina died on April 1st, 2020 of COVID compilations. I wonder what would have happened if the sassier, zestier, brighter, funnier world that Strange referenced had existed. Would we have lost this person and so many others in the United States this year?