Christmas is finally here, which means you finally have an excuse to keep playing holiday music. Sure, your local dial, retailer, or Uber driver has likely been doing so since Halloween, so we understand if you’re a little tired of the same old Christmas sounds at this point.
Honestly, there’s a lot of bad Christmas music out there. Once an artist is big enough, they’re often baited into trying their hand at “Little Drummer Boy” (let’s leave that to the late great Sharon Jones, please) or the like, if not persuaded to make an entire album of poorly covered holiday dribble. We agree that some songs just scream December and can be repeated over and over again (Vince Guaraldi comes to mind). Others haven’t aged well (I’m thinking of you, Baby it’s Cold Outside). Oh, and honorable mention to The Boss and his outstanding work.
So we’ve taken the festive liberty of assembling ten esteemed tracks for the season — a healthy mix of lesser-known tracks and timeless classics.
Arguably the best original Christmas track of its generation, this groovy number is part of an exquisite record from 2015 aptly called It’s a Holiday Soul Party. The hook-filled track from the late Sharon Jones further immortalizes the immensely gifted singer and her standout band.
Pretty much an untouchable in the canon of holiday music, this Beach Boys track blends the zest of early surf-rock with the feel-good nature of Christmastime.
Sometimes you just want a warming track that builds into a full chorus of joyful voices. You want that even more so when its led by Beatles legend John Lennon.
Chuck Berry energized everything he touched. This 1958 track is as good today as it was the day it dropped, having embedded itself in pop holiday culture (with Home Alone being one of its best landing spots to date). It swings and feels like a constant playful duel between the piano and the guitar.
Not every Christmas song has to be a happy one, as this number from indie royalty Beach House suggests. It’s a time of ups and downs, especially in 2020. Feel it all with this emotive and resonating song that does so much with so little, sonically speaking.
This outstanding cover by New Jersey guitar god Delicate Steve has a tiki feel to it. There’s swagger, syncopation, and sunny guitar lines galore — enough to imagine an unlikely dusting of snow on some Hawaiian beach come Christmas Eve.
Long before Saturday Night Live made it iconic, this track by Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas captured the youthful eagerness that comes with peeling off the days of the advent calendar. Like any holiday classic, it’s tremendously catchy, plus it adds a little NYC pop-punk grit for good measure.
Listening to this song, you’d never guess it came out in 2018, but that’s the case with most of the work of rock ‘n’ roll revivalist JD McPherson. This title track to a great holiday album showcases the musician’s bluesy vocals and expert musicianship.
Indie stalwarts The Shins can play a festive tune. The glowing vocal harmonies and sleigh bells make it a snowy, cheery, accessible track for even those with a Scrooge side.
The best track from the best stop-animation Christmas special ever has to make the list. It’s a silky smooth take on a holiday classic, fit with smoky vocals, plenty of bounce, and oh so much cheer. Enjoy!
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