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. A few favorite cds:

    Enya – And Winter Came

    Evergreen – Mandolin Music for Christmas

    Loreena McKennit – A Midwinter’s Night Dream

    Sarah McLachlan – Wintersong

    Gregorian – Christmas Chants

    Leon Redbone – Christmas Island

    Shawn Colvin – Holiday Songs and Lullabies

  2. I’d add River by Joni Mitchell.
    My friends and fellow music grads and I formed a seasonal ensemble just to play arrangements of Christmas/Wintery type music that wouldn’t drive us mad.

  3. White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin is pretty much my favorite Christmas song ever, and quite un-traditional.

  4. Someone has surely said the go-to Christmas album of my mid-twenties generation buddies; The OC Chrismukkah mix? I am a Christmas grouch but love this album so much I listen to it in June so much. Maybe it’s the good Seth Cohen memories it brings back…

    Also, as an Irish person I find it so funny to see people list Fairytale of New York as non-overdone, I was just thinking today how I wish it was played less because I love it so much but am sick of it already this year – it’s played on Irish radio stations like ten times a day at this time of year! Thanks harlequin for The Chieftans suggestion, I had never heard of it and it’s amazing!

  5. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas albums yet– they’re my absolute favorites (all of them are good, but IMHO the best is “A Fresh Aire Christmas”) and have been since I was little.

    I also want to put in a special mention for Barenaked for the Holidays, the Barenaked Ladies holiday album. It’s a fabulous, funky mix of traditional carols (including THREE Hanukkah songs) and original songs– I particularly like “Elf’s Lament”.

    I’m going to have a lot of fun listening to all the songs everyone has posted… 🙂

  6. Jethro Tull – The Christmas Album. I’m a huge Jethro Tull fan, this album has the same feel as all the others, but it’s also defnintely festive without being too carol-y.

  7. My three suggestions are the CD “Merry Mixmas” (which is a bunch of modern remixes of old songs), Sarah McLaughlin’s holiday CD, and “Walking in the Air” (the theme song to the animated movie “the Snowman”, based on the book by Raymond Briggs.)

    • This is such a shot of nostalgia for me–we watched that animated Snowman movie in my fifth (?) grade class, and I never knew its title, but the song was just so beautiful and haunting that it stuck with me. You made my night by reminding me of that, and motivating me to go search the internets for it… (For those of you looking, according to Wikipedia, the version used in the animation is sung by Peter Auty).

  8. I am a punk lady and although the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is a great modern one, I like renaissance era Christmas music the best! The Waverly Consort did one called A Renaissance Christmas Celebration in the late 70’s that I remember from early childhood and even have on my iPod this month!
    Other than that, I’ve been listening to beautiful, slow music that has nothing to do with Christmas, such as Codeine and Low.

  9. Dar Williams “Christians and the Pagans” is awesome. I think it is one of my favorite Christmas/Yule themed songs of all time.

  10. I’ve been listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas album “Songs for Christmas” a lot lately.

    Suuuuuuuuuuper hipster.

  11. Three main favorites this year:
    Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses
    Oi to the World by the Vandals
    and the newest wonderful holiday song by Dropkick Murphys: The Seasons’s Upon Us.

  12. Bruce Cockburn’s album entitled: Christmas

    It has some old favourites as well as more obscure songs, and they all receive interesting treatments.

    I particularly like his version of the Huron Carol sung in the original Wendat.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_gwCmXKWhw

    Also quite interesting is his version of Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes (Angels We Have Heard on High) , played on the dulcimer, harmonica, and drum.

  13. I have a friend who puts together a new mix of offbeat and hard to find Christmas music every year for his friends and family. It always runs a wild gamut from soul to polka to honkytonk to rockabilly and everything in between but it totally works. You can listen to it on 8tracks on his blog: http://christmasindecember12.blogspot.com/

    Also, Sound Opinions on NPR did a great show on soul Christmas songs last week and you can download the mix their guy put together now through the end of the year. Personal faves: Marvin Gaye’s “Purple Snowflakes” and James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” but it’s all great stuff: http://christmas.soundopinions.org/

  14. I’m a big fan of The Mediaeval Baebes “Mistletoe and Wine” album (for those who enjoy the roots of the holiday) and Abney Park’s “Dark Christmas” album (for those with gothier/steam punkier souls).

  15. Last year I ordered the album “A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector” and I think it’s AMAZING! It features The Ronettes, Darling Love, The Crystals, etc. They do a lot of standards (including the dreaded “Rudolph”!) but it’s got a great 60s vibe that freshens up all those classic Christmas tunes. I highly recommend it for background music, especially if you’re having a retro-themed wedding ^^

  16. Pink Martini for sure! My favorite holiday song is Brenda Lee’s version of “Marshmallow World”. “Oi to The World” by No Doubt is another fave.

  17. I love love love trans-Siberian orchestra, they also put on an absolutely amazing live show. Also, Gary Hoey has 2 Christmas albums, and they are amazing. His version of God rest ye merry gentlemen is to die for

  18. I highly recommend anything by Heather Dale. She’s got an album of Christmas music called This Endris Night. Some of the songs are available on YouTube, and they are all available for download on her website: http://www.heatherdale.com

    If you want to sample her music before buying, she has released a completely free album called “Perpetual Gift”. It has, among other things, two of her Christmas songs on it: The Huron Carol and The Holly and the Ivy. It’s available for download here: http://heatherdale.com/product/perpetual-gift-full-album-download/

  19. This is a playlist I made of mostly pagan/winter tunes. There is a couple of well known oldies, and paradies 😛 My favorite is solstice carol by the wyrd sisters.

  20. I’m addicted to Ottmar Liebert’s christmas album Poets and Angels–it’s all classical guitar versions of christmas hymns and classics, including the most enjoyable version of “jingle bells” in existence.

  21. I adore holiday novelty music, & the very best one I’ve heard is “Christmas Rhapsody” by Pledge Drive; made by a group that’s friends of friends. It’s a perfect riff on “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Vid is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rwbg3z_rNk

    And you can download the MP3 for free at http://www.doubtfulpalace.com/artists/PledgeDrive/xmasrhaplyrics.html

    On a more serious tone, I love the two gothic holiday albums issued by Projeckt Records featuring bands like Faith & the Muse & London After Midnight doing traditional & pop xmas/wintery songs. They’re on Amazon at
    * Dark Noel, Vol. 1
    * Excelsis, Vol. 2: A Winter’s Song

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