Non-sucky Christmas songs to take back your ears

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Wanted: Frosty the Snowman © by kevin dooley, used under Creative Commons license.

Scenario: I’m having a holiday party and need party-music-that-sounds-cool-but-also-wintry.

Scenario: My cube-mate’s been playing Christmas tunes since Dec. 1. If I hear Mariah Carey sing All I Want for Christmas is You once more I will snap. I’d like to take over the airwaves with my own mix for a day — what’s a good list to work from?


Offbeat Home has solutions to all the scenarios — songs to stream and songs to buy that are full of jinglebells.

Albums I love

Snoopy vs. the Red Baron is still my family’s traditional Christmas record. It’s a faux radio drama telling the tale of Snoopy’s Christmas truce with the Red Baron. $9.49 on Amazon.

The Maybe This Christmas albums got me through working retail at Christmas time. Full of Death Cab and Ben Folds songs, it’s definitely not traditional holiday music.

Stream for free

Rhapsody has a fantastic playlist called Indie Winter Wonderland — and they offer a free trial, so it’s perfect for seasonal listening.

Rdio also offers a free trial. I made a playlist we can share and collaborate on. Cool, yeah? It kicks off with Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear, a totally bizarre Christmas song about a bear who gets in the holiday spirit. From there it’s got a mix of stuff I hope you will like!

If you have an Rdio account, feel free to collaborate on the playlist — and pop any suggestions you’d like into the comments.

Comments on Non-sucky Christmas songs to take back your ears

  1. I made a mix back in high school called “Non-Crappy Christmas Music.” I still bust it out on vacation. Fave? “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues.

    I also love listening to classic recordings of Christmas standards (think Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.) which are generally more tolerable than their pop counterparts.

  2. Oh, Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses is a super must (my favorite Christmas song, EVER). Also, Natalie Merchants song Children Go Where I Send Thee is awesome, off of the “A Very Special Christmas, vol. 3” album (the entire album is great). And Robert Earl Keene’s Merry Christmas from the Family is another one I love.

  3. Pandora’s “indie holiday” station plays a pretty good mix as well!

    As for albums I’m loving Rev Horton Heat’s We Three Kings and any of the Brian Setzer Orchestra xmas discs!

  4. The only Christmas music I like is classic stuff from Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. Because those Christmas songs sound like how they were meant to sound.

    All the pop stuff and modern stuff just sounds annoying. The only current song that I like is The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan’s “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings”. It’s got a very Canadian Folk-y tune.

  5. We just discovered and are enjoying the Zooey Deschanel Xmas album “She and Him” and I love the 80’s new wave xmas stuff like the waitresses and band-aid and wham! (yes i am old)

  6. A few different suggestions with a few different vibes:

    There is the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. That tends to be fairly non-offensive. Same goes for The Nutcracker.

    My own personal fave from childhood to now is John Denver with the Muppets: A Christmas Together. Seriously, we had this on record, then cassette, then CD. Really, any of the Muppet holiday songs are fine by me (soundtrack to Muppet Christmas Carol or Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, e.g.)

    Loreena McKennitt has at least two holiday/winter CD’s for a sort of new-agey feel. Most of the songs are traditional carols.

    I like the Josh Groban Christmas album, but I am guessing you have probably heard a lot of it if your co-workers have been playing holiday tunes since the first.

    There is a three-disc industrial/Goth holiday album called Excelsis featuring many artists and songs. But since it’s for an office party, know your audience.

    For individual songs there is “The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams (again, know your audience), “Atheist Christmas Carol” by Vienna Teng, “Candlelight and Mistletoe” by Mary Beth Maziarz, “Mistletoe” by Colbie Caillat,” and though it does get a fair amount of airtime, I do dig David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”

    Good luck!

  7. Sufjan Stevens put out a multi-disc Christmas album (Songs for Christmas) a few years ago that has fun, indie versions of traditional Christmas songs, but also a bunch of original Christmas songs. It’s the only Chistmasy album I listen to.

  8. I second Pandora’s Indie Holiday station…currently I’m really into the Electronic Holidays Pandora station and I’m going to play that at our party tomorrow…it’s nice background music that isn’t overtly religious (mostly because there aren’t many lyrics to be heard, hence Electronic…)

    • omg, thank you so much for pointing out to me that Pandora has holiday stations. I have been listening to the Electronic one all morning since I read this. 🙂 Cheers!

  9. I grew up listening to Johnny Mathis, choral music, and Peter, Paul and Mary every Christmas and those are still the versions that get me in the mood for the holidays… I think my brain has been rewired to accept only those versions; there are very, very few modern interpretations I like. Although I do miss living in Orlando, FL where El Burrito de Belen was played over and over around the Christmas time. What’s up with that, Albuquerque?

  10. My current favourite Christmas song is “White wine in the sun” by Tim Minchin, although I really don’t think you can beat a bit of Bing Crosby or Dean Martin!

  11. KLEZMONAUTZ! Their album “Oy to the World” works well for my Jewish/Christian/Unitarian Universalist/Athiest family. Klezmer versions of popular Christmas tunes. It’s awesome.

  12. I’ll second the rec. for the Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’. My absolute favourite Christmas song ever. On the slightly subversive, know your audience, side, I like ‘A Christmas Song’, by Jethro Tull, and ‘The Rebel Jesus’, by Jackson Browne (I’m particularly fond of the version with the Chieftains).
    For instrumentals, ‘We Five Kings’ by Jethro Tull, and ‘The Bells of Dublin’ or ‘Christmas Reel’ by the Chieftains. In fact, any Christmas songs from those two groups.

  13. I like Elvis’ christmas songs. And The Ramones. The old jazzy classic Chrismas songs are the best, as well as Charlie Brown christmas. Reliant K also has a pretty good christmas album if you like the alternative sound.

  14. Bright Eyes did a Christmas album.
    No, really. It’s awesome for relaxed slightly downbeat music at Christmas.

    Also, i love the new Glee Christmas album but i might be biased by my general love of Glee. XD

  15. A website called The Line of Best Fit puts out annual Christmas albums called “Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada.” It’s mostly indie Canadian bands singing non-traditional tunes.

  16. I recommend, personally, the many Christmas songs recorded by Ella Fitzgerald. Not annoying, timeless classics and sung by the great Ella, so you know the singer’ll be good.

    The only downside is that sometimes it makes your home feel like a Starbucks.

  17. I’m not really answering your question at all… but, but, I just got so excited about good Christmas songs and wanted to say that White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin is amazing. My fave for Chrissy.

  18. OMG! I worked at Tower Records back in 2005 and that Christmas I played the Maybe This Christmas Tree disc so many times that my boss sent me home with it and told me never to play it in the store again. Shorty thereafter it disappeared and I forgot the name of the album… Until today when I saw this post and my day was made! THANK YOU!

    • This is my friend Mike’s definitely non-sucky Christmas album. Free download.

      I especially like the original song “Prince of Peace” which features the lyrics “he compared his father to a mother hen, so why we denyin’ gay rights again? pave the way for the prince of peace. the messiah has come, join the wedding feast. tell your father, your daughter, your cousin, your beast, pave the way for the prince of peace.”

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