imaginary holiday party 2007
I like to have holiday music playing unobtrusively for parties, but we’ve all heard “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” a thousand times by mid-December. I’d prefer fairly neutral “winterish” music as opposed to strictly Christmas.

I’m wondering what ideas people have for non-sucky, non-overdone, holiday music? I know this could be a tall order, but I know the Homies probably have some rocking suggestions. -Meg

I’ve taken to the interwebs to find some of my favorite non-sucky holiday tunes. Some of them are just about winter and therefore not holiday-specific, some of them are Christmas-y as hell. Hey, I even found some Hanukkah songs! And a lot of them are so non-overdone that they’re songs you may not have ever heard before, from artists you’ve even never heard of. And some of them are songs you’ve heard a lot, but from artists that make them sound new again. Grab a cup of cider and have a listen…

Christmas-specific tunes

The Cold December Night album is full of “melancholy interpretations of Christmas songs envisioned by various members of Michael Bublé’s touring band.”

Hanukkah-specific tunes

Or check out the whole Hanukkah Rocks album.

Generic holiday tunes

Winter-themed tunes

The whole Fleeting Heart album is awesome, if you like indie folk rock.

Okay, music-loving Homies… what are you putting on YOUR holiday mix tape this year?

Comments on Non-sucky, non-overdone, holiday music

  1. Seconding Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun, though it might not play well with the very religious.:

    Also, Jonathan Coulton’s Chiron Beta Prime:

    Stephen Colbert’s “Another Christmas Song” is excellent.

    Eels “Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas” and “Christmas is Going to the Dogs” are both good (I prefer the former).

    I also like to mix in instrumentals with my Christmas/holiday playlists. DeVotchka, the Home Alone soundtrack (which always fills me with warm fuzzies), and this group I discovered in Scotland when I did a study abroad, Bellevue Rendezvous, who have really holiday-appropriate but not CHRISTMASY!!! sound. Good for a nice in with hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows.

    • HA. It’s like that in Los Angeles too! That’s why I’m digging the winter-y tunes. It may not feel like winter, but maybe I can play these songs and pretend? 😉

  2. Ok. There are three.

    1. Nobody has mentioned Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa” song. I don’t know if it’s because it signals an ignominious slide into pitiable oddity for a former lyrical folk genius, but it’s funny as hell anyway.

    2. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Nothing else need be said.

    3. Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey.” Judging by my friends’ reactions, this song is popular only in the NY-NJ area. No one else seems to know what the hell I’m talking about when I sing it. (I grew up hearing it on the radio constantly.)

  3. Mele Kalikimaka is my fave chirstmas song too! probably because growing up there werent many songs that suited and aussie christmas (no snow or open fires here!)
    My mum has a huge collection of christmas CD’s including the South Park christmas album (the reason i love my mum!) and a couple of australian christmas albums. If you’re looking for something a bit different have a look for them! I also adore Trains Christmas song but then I adore train 🙂

  4. One of my favorites is Willie Nelson & Norah Jones version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. The She & Him version is also pretty rad. In fact, I’m listening to A Very She & Him Christmas right now!

  5. The Pogues “Fairytale of New York” is particular favourite in my parts for vague Christmas-sentiment but good fun Celtic-ness. I also have a soft spot for the Hanson Christmas album which is a good throwback to younger years.

    AND this one is MOST important. Duke Ellington’s nutcracker available on the disc “Three Suites” or iTunes. It is jazzy yet Christmassy yet classic ALL AT ONCE!

  6. So I’m normally a fan of really terrible Christmas music–think Regretsy’s music list–but I’ve figured out that I have to include good stuff in the playlist or people leave the room. 😀

    My favorite, favorite, favorite beautiful winter song and version is Robert Downey, Jr. singing “River”. It was on the Ally McBeal Christmas album, and it gives me chills every time.

  7. My sister and I sprinkle South Park’s holidays songs throughout our holiday CDs. My favorite is “Christmas Time in Hell”. They’re one part flip and another part sincere about the holiday.

    For dinner parties we put on Pandora and I create a station with Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Brown Christmas Album and let it go. We’ve heard some amazing jazz renditions of favorite songs but they’re mellow enough not shove themselves into your brain.

  8. I’ve been telling people for at least the past 10 years that the greatest Christmas album ever is “Christmas with the California Raisins”. It’s been out of print for ages, but so many fond memories from my childhood come out when I listen to it. You can find them on youtube. It’s your standard overdone Christmas fare, but the arrangements are delicious. Soulful, a little jazzy at times, and very late 80s/early 90s (and awesome). The only one that’s not great is the Rudolph Rap.
    Here’s the cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas” (which is great on its own): [youtube

  9. Generally, I hate, hate, HATE Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but Rockapella’s rendition (the Out Cold version, not the Comfort & Joy version) is SO GOOD. I can’t find it on the internets anywhere, and it’s not on iTunes that I can see, either. But it’s a mash up of Rudolph and Up On The Rooftop (kind of) with lots of percussive voices. Their You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch is also fabulous.

    Other than that, my favourite Christmas albums are:
    The Essentials’ Remember December
    Fred Penner’s The Season
    Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas (Coolest God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen ever!)
    The Irish Rovers’ It Was A Night Like This, which seems to be so old you can’t find it anywhere 🙁

  10. I love the silly Christmas songs. My kids go crazy for Fountains of Wayne’s ” I want an alien for Christmas”. There’s also one by Blink 182 I won’t be home for Christmas (I think that’s the title) that is great.

  11. I second the suggestions for Brian Setzer Orchestra & Michael Buble.

    Sting has a great winter (not precisely Christmas) album called If on a winter’s night … –it’s oriented more around the season than specifically Christmas. ‘Christmas at Sea’ is a Robert Louis Stephenson poem set to a traditional Scottish tune, for example.

    Some other favorites:
    The Roger Whittaker Christmas Album, particularly ‘The Governor’s Dream’

    The Chieftains, Bells of Dublin; particularly ‘The Wren in the Furze’ for any Celtic fans

    The Blind Boys of Alabama, Go Tell It On the Mountain!; particularly ‘Last Month of the Year’ and ‘Go Where I Send Thee.’ Also, the most salacious version of ‘Away in the Manger’ you will ever hear, it’s hilarious.

    Christmas Around the World from Putamayo Records, particularly ‘St. Nicholas’ (Cajun with zydeco accordion) and ‘Joyeux Noel’ (Haiti). I love enthusiastic French songs, & these are particularly bouncy.

    A Christmas Together, John Denver and the Muppets; particularly ‘Peace Carol’, ‘Where the River Meets the Sea’ & ‘The Christmas Wish.’ The MUPPETS! With John Denver being earnest & sappy, but he’s so earnest because he’s John Denver, so it works.

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