Christmas Music, that doesn't suck?
November 25, 2012 10:16 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me build a huge holiday playlist? I need Christmas music that doesn't suck. Preferably alternative/indie/folk/ish, 1990 through 2012. The newer, the better! Suggestions?
posted by 2oh1 to Media & Arts (70 answers total) 125 users marked this as a favorite
Sufjan Stevens - Silver and Gold
posted by hydrophonic at 10:20 PM on November 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Raveonettes' Christmas Song
posted by mannequito at 10:25 PM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Art Alexakis (of Everclear) doing Santa Baby!
posted by radioamy at 10:29 PM on November 25, 2012

Patti Smith's rendition of We Three Kings is pretty rad.
posted by Sara C. at 10:31 PM on November 25, 2012

Belle & Sebastian's Winter Wooskie

Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson's Winter Song

Summer Camp's version of Christmas Wrapping

Rilo Kiley's Xmas Cake
posted by littlegreen at 10:32 PM on November 25, 2012

The Fall - Christmastide (Not on YouTube). Sample lyric: "Jesus died at 33, A good age as any."

Cocteau Twins - Frosty the Snowman
posted by oceanview at 10:37 PM on November 25, 2012

A Very She & Him Christmas!
posted by meggan at 10:41 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okkervil River - Listening To Otis Redding At Home During Christmas
Palace Songs - Christmastime in the Mountains
John Cale - Child's Christmas in Wales (although the lyrics are quite oblique)
Big Star - Jesus Christ
Tribalistas - Mary Christo (It's in Portuguese. The lyrics sort of abstract the story of the Nativity and declare Santa Claus to be King of Carnival in heaven.)
posted by hydrophonic at 10:44 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oldies but goodies from the Free Design 1 2.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:45 PM on November 25, 2012

We Love Yule; the Indiecater Christmas series.
posted by dekathelon at 10:46 PM on November 25, 2012

Projekt's Excelsis series has some incredible music, some amusing stuff, and some things that might be subjectively uninteresting/awful.

Worth every penny.
posted by batmonkey at 11:01 PM on November 25, 2012

This is more on the upbeat pop-punk side of alt, but some standards around our house for holiday parties:

No Doubt's Oi to the World (or the original version by The Vandals)

Mighty Mighty Bosstones This Time of Year

Bad Religion and NOFX doing Silent Night

While looking for these songs, I also found this list of alternative Christmas songs.
posted by erst at 11:13 PM on November 25, 2012

How about a whole album?

Stocking Stuffer, by The Fleshtones!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:28 PM on November 25, 2012

Rudolph and Someday at Christmas by Jack Johnson

O Come All Ye Faithful by Weezer

Maybe one of Brian Setzer's Christmas albums?

And these are more pop-metal, but I always recommend Metal XMas (which includes Run Run Rudolph with Lemmy, Dave Grohl, and Billy Gibbons) and Twisted Sister's Twisted Christmas (Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas).

Both albums are on Amazon mp3 for cheap right now, and they're a lot of fun. Well, maybe except for the Chuck Billy rendition of Silent Night.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:08 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sufjan Stevens has released two different CDs of Christmas songs. I like his version of I saw three ships.

Strawberry Sleighride by Pizzicato Five

Nora Jones: I Don't Miss you at all.

KT Tunstall did this version of Mele Kalikimako (Christmas in Hawaii)
posted by rongorongo at 12:26 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Smith & Burrows (Tom Smith of The Editors and Andy Burrows of We Are Scientists) did a fantastic Christmas /winter themed album last year - partly covers and partly original. The whole thing is great but I particularly like This Ain't New Jersey. Apologies for not link, I can't work out how to do it on my phone.
posted by *becca* at 12:26 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Christmas" by the Posies -- one of the bleakest Christmas songs ever. I love it.
posted by litlnemo at 12:46 AM on November 26, 2012

Metafilter's own Stick This In Your Sleigh And Ride It compilation.
posted by mannequito at 12:59 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

In that case, there's also this MeFi compilation.
posted by litlnemo at 1:27 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bitshifter's version of Let it Snow makes me laugh.
posted by rongorongo at 2:26 AM on November 26, 2012

Maybe a bit too traditional, but Blackmore's Night's I saw three ships

Eels, everything is going to be cool

The Maine Santa stole my girlfriend

Relient K I hate Christmas parties

My favourite ever christmas song, god rest ye merry gentlemen by bare naked ladies.

And of course, the wonderful Didn't I get this last year
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:02 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love Sufjan Stevens' "Come On Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance" and Death Cab for Cutie's version of "Baby Please Come Home."
posted by justonegirl at 3:11 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans"?
posted by chaiminda at 3:30 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

See also the answers to this similar question from 2010.
posted by misteraitch at 4:50 AM on November 26, 2012

Over the Rhine has a Christmas album. I believe it's called Sore Angels and is sort of alt-country, folkish. Pink Martini's Christmas album is more jazzy but fun.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:54 AM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Annie Lennox's Chrismas album from a couple of years ago is excellent!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:43 AM on November 26, 2012

In the indie folk vein, Beta Radio released a short EP last year that I loved and another this year that I've yet to dig into. Those are here.

I'll cop to not having listened to this yet but my buddy and his wife just put this out on bandcamp. I imagine it's pretty stellar.

And speaking of Bandcamp, maybe just hit up the 'Christmas' tag there?
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:48 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really recommend trawling through the NoiseTrade offerings by running a search on "Christmas." I've been at it for a while. It's a pay-what-you-want model where you can download free, and if you like what you hear, easily "tip" the artist $1 or whatever you like. There is a ton of indie-inspired DIY and small-time recording here and a lot of it is quite good, though you have to search through. I especially like Beta Radio: The Songs the Season Brings, Vol. 2. There's also a Vol. 1 which is great, but I can't find it, so maybe they only want to offer the new one this year.

Last year I added Kate Bush's album 50 Words for Snow to my Christmas collection and I love love love it. It's a little weird (it's Kate Bush) but atmospheric and beautiful and Decembery without dripping with Christmas imagery.
posted by Miko at 5:50 AM on November 26, 2012

Run-DMC's Christmas in Hollis
posted by elizardbits at 6:00 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan is really a great Christmas album, against all odds.

They are neither new, nor lyrical, but John Fahey's Christmas albums are outstanding.
posted by OmieWise at 6:16 AM on November 26, 2012

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. On preview I see this has already been recommended so heartily seconding!

Sarah McLachlan's haunting cover of "River".

"Calling to Say" by Serena Ryder
posted by yawper at 7:33 AM on November 26, 2012

Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick (of the Long Winters) just put out a Christmas album called One Christmas At a Time and it's pretty great. You can listen to a couple of the songs on the site before buying the whole thing.
posted by bedhead at 7:48 AM on November 26, 2012

Seconding Dar Williams, The Christians and the Pagans. Love that song.

Jonathan Coulton, Chiron Beta Prime, is a funny, dark, but ultimately kinda sweet Christmas song.

And back in the '90s, my friends and I had a lot of fun with the album Horny Holidays, by Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors. It's better than that title, I promise!
posted by kostia at 8:26 AM on November 26, 2012

Poi Dog Pondering's Mele Kalikimaka is a great listen (they partner with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for the song)
posted by 1367 at 8:39 AM on November 26, 2012

Pink Martini's Joy to the World
posted by ridingtheranges at 9:21 AM on November 26, 2012

-Soulful Christmas
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Aint No Chimneys in the Projects

Clarence Carter, Back Door Santa

Rufus Thomas, I'll Be Your Santa, Baby

-More Twisted Sister Christmas:
Heavy Metal Christmas

Oh Come All Ye Faithful
-Dark side of the Christmas Season?
Pogues & Kirsty MacCall, Fairytale Of New York

Mother Berta's Coming To Town (originally I think by Steven Posch)
-Sexy Christmas
Albert King, Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'

Jimmy Carter (not that one), Trim Your Tree

Pansy Division, Homo Christmas

Sarah Taylor & Bill Mumy, Ive Got Some Presents For Santa

*See Clarence Carter, Rufus Thomas above

LeBon Lebon, All I Want Is Megan Fox For Christmas

Karla Devito, Santa Claus is Comin' To My House
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:25 AM on November 26, 2012

If you can find the Rock4Choice Christmas album, it has Henry Rollins doing the Night Before Christmas and Luscious Jackson playing the hell out of Queen of Bliss and some other goodies.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:39 AM on November 26, 2012

Also, the compilation of various old time Christmas tunes from Dust-to-Digital, Where Will You Be Christmas Day?, is great.
posted by OmieWise at 9:51 AM on November 26, 2012

Low's Christmas album is a given, every holiday Ronettes and Darlene Love song for sure, Elvis' "Santa Claus is Back in Town", James Brown, Dolly Parton's "Hard Candy Christmas", and the Spinanes' "Den Trawler" (my personal favorite).
posted by ifjuly at 10:00 AM on November 26, 2012

Nightmare before Christmas soundtrack (they're not all Christmassy, but at least half are delightfully creepy Christmas)
Last Christmas -- Wham!
Christmas Wrapping -- The Waitresses
and if you enjoy country music, I recommend Hard Candy Christmas -- Dolly Parton, Shimmy Down the Chimney -- Alison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris' Christmas Album.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:06 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

SoMaFM is a listener-supported streaming radio station that has three Christmas streams:

- Christmas Lounge: "Chilled holiday grooves and classic winter lounge tracks. (Kid and Parent safe!)"

- Christmas Rocks!: "Have yourself an indie/alternative rock holiday season!"

- Xmas in Frisko: "SomaFM's wacky and eclectic holiday mix. Not for the easily offended."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:11 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Florence + the Machine's cover of Last Christmas is pretty great
U2's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is from 1987 but THE BEST CHRISTMAS SONG EVER
The Killers do a Christmas song every year -- I like Boots a lot
posted by jabes at 10:16 AM on November 26, 2012

Morphine - Sexy Christmas Baby Mine
posted by Elysum at 12:02 PM on November 26, 2012

Response by poster: Lots of excellent suggestions! Death Cab for Cutie's version of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is one of my all time favorites.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:55 PM on November 26, 2012

Hawksley Workman's Almost A Full Moon is pretty much the only Christmas-themed album I can listen to.
posted by valleys at 12:58 PM on November 26, 2012

I'm not surprised that Sufjan Stevens was the first comment in the thread. What that guy does to Christmas music just awes me - sometimes he's ironic and satiric, and other times so deeply heartfelt... He can wrench heights of sincerity out of the most ancient of chestnut songs, and he can even make my atheist self "feel the spirit." (His "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" has made me weep before.)
posted by dnash at 1:18 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

(I just saw something somewhere online that said that the 5-disc 58 track Sufjan Stevens Christmas collection is on iTunes for a whopping $14.99. So anyone who is intrigued by all this Sufjan Holiday Cheer should probably jump on that...)
posted by Sara C. at 1:26 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tracey Thorn, of Everything But the Girl, has a new Christmas album out this year - And I love it. (Amazon link to MP3 purchase, only $5.99 for the whole album) It has a couple originals, ("Joy" is lovely) and some unusual choices from other modern songwriters. (Green Gartside, of Scritti Politti, wrote one of the tunes and sings on another).
posted by dnash at 1:33 PM on November 26, 2012

I think Christmas with Weezer is one of my favorites. They manage to make Weezer songs out of 6 holiday classics. (via boypublisher)
posted by girlpublisher at 4:32 PM on November 26, 2012

It's not exactly a Christmas song, but Galaxie 500's did a lovely cover of Yoko Ono's "Listen, the Snow is Falling."
posted by hydrophonic at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just remembered - there's also an album called Maybe This Christmas that has a lot of contemporary-ish artists on it. Not every song is amazing, but Happy Christmas by Sense Field is one of the good ones.
posted by meggan at 11:44 PM on November 26, 2012

I would also recommend Over the Rhine, but would go with the earlier album called The Darkest Night of the Year.

Low's Christmas album is also great, as are both of Sufjan's (the new one, and his first)
posted by beatmenace at 6:20 AM on November 27, 2012

This Warm December, A Brushfire Holiday Vols. 1 & 2

Volume 1
Someday At Christmas - Jack Johnson
Santa Claus is Coming To Town - Mason Jennings
All I Want For Christmas - Matt Costa
No Christmas For Me - Zee Avi
Stuck At The Airport - Money Mark
Christmas Baby - G. Love
Christmas Time - ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra)
The Man in The Santa Suit - Neil Halstead
Christmas - Rogue Wave
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer - Jack Johnson
Silent Night - Zach Gill

Volume 2
Party Hard - Zach Gill
Jingle Bell Rock - Rogue Wave
Christmas Blues - G. Love
In The Morning - Jack Johnson
Christmas Must Be Tonight - Bahamas
Home For The Season - Neil Halstead
Frosty The Snowman - Zee Avi
Let It Rise - Bahamas
Make Time - Money Mark
Winter Swell Blues - Paula Fuga
Christmas Cookies - G. Love
I Bet On Flying High - Matt Costa
Angel (Holiday) - Jack Johnson
posted by moons in june at 11:08 AM on November 27, 2012

The Killers do a Christmas song every year -- I like Boots a lot

Bonus, they almost always have some sort of Western theme and the proceeds go to charity.

My favorites are Don't Shoot Me, Santa and The Cowboys' Christmas Ball.
posted by psoas at 1:45 PM on November 27, 2012

Yo La Tengo put out a little Christmas EP a while back that included this nifty Dan Clowes art.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:12 AM on November 28, 2012

XTC - Thanks for Christmas. It's on the Just Say Noël compilation, which I haven't heard except for the Sonic Youth song, which you can skip.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:29 AM on November 28, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve by Better Than Ezra. My all-time favorite holiday song.
posted by cicadadays at 11:24 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tom McRae's version of Wonderful Christmastime.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:50 AM on November 28, 2012

Please, please (because I'm lazy), someone make this Spotify playlist.

Also, not really a "Christmas" song, but good nonetheless: Valley Winter Song by Fountains of Wayne.
posted by po822000 at 12:50 PM on November 29, 2012

Uhh.. No one has mentioned Vince Guaraldi yet?!

• The Definitive V. Guaraldi
• Xmas w/ the Vienna Boys' Choir
posted by jinkoh at 2:56 PM on November 29, 2012

I haven't listened to the whole thing yet, but the Rosebuds Christmas Tree Island just came out.
posted by cnc at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2012

Sufjan has been mentioned (many times), but if you mention him, you have to mention Christmas Unicorn. How many other 12 minute Christmas songs are there ... ?

And somebody mentioned it, but it deserves more than a mention.

The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" (Lightorama version)

Best Christmas song ever. Hands down.

And yeah, V. Guaraldi is pretty much my seasonal go to. Background music, non-offensive, nostalgic, competent, perfect with a hot toddy.

Also, I'm not really a Beatles fan, but I quite enjoy listening to the Beatles' Christmas messages on my local college radio station each year. Listening to them in chronological order is fascinating. Compare 1964 to 1965.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:51 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you need to clear your head of the droll, trite holiday songs, you might enjoy Whine and Missingtoe, with Hell Interface (aka Boards of Canada) providing the most audibly appealing song, and V/VM starting to invade your nightmares, and Butcher Claus putting the "dear christ" back into Christmas.

For more offbeat (but not that offbeat) winter holiday music, check out the Christmas tag on Fader. If nothing else, you might actually enjoy Pocketknife's Fader Holiday Mix, with songs ranging from The Knife and The Beach Boys to Ying Yang Twins and Tittsworth.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2012

At the risk of self-linking, I blogged two solid weeks worth of Free Christmas albums last year here. Highlights include chiptune masters George and Jonathan and the 8 bits of Christmas, mystery genius xmas movie soundtrack, the Hometapes compilation, all four of the Sounds Familyre Christmas albums (featuring Danielson Famile, Sufjan, etc.) and the Innocence Mission Christmas EP.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:18 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: sleeping bear: Thank you for self linking! Sharing is good.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:30 PM on December 4, 2012

Paul Kelly - How to make Gravy
posted by Under the Sea at 9:01 PM on December 20, 2012

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