I'm an unabashed Christmas music lover, but I understand that "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" might seem a bit grey in the hair after 65 years of play.
That "O Holy Night" might be a bit much for the atheist in your life.
That "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is annoying on the first listen, let alone the 1,000th.
For all of the sick-and-tired, here are a few Christmas-ish songs that might suit your holiday a bit better. From me to you. (Check out the Spotify playlist below to listen right from your browser.)
For the traditionalists looking for a different take:
Silent Night by Timbre
Timbre twists a song that's already delicate and personal into something that'll tiptoe over your heartstrings. The singing reaches operatic pitches but is rendered small by the delicate notes and minimalist chorus. I can't help but imagine a mother singing this to her child as she lays him down to bed on Christmas Eve.
Runner up: Carol of the Bells by the bird and the bee
What if we stopped trying to pretend "Carol of the Bells" was a metal song (I'm looking at you, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and made it a bit downbeat? Here's your answer.
For the irreverent:
Jesus the Reindeer by Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler
Dancer. Prancer. Vixen. Comet. Cupid. Donder. Blitzen. Rudolph. Jesuuuuuuuus! Everybody knows that Christmas is all about a reindeer who flies through the snow, right? Listen closely for references to "Friends" and "Don Quixote."
Runner up: Christmas With You Is The Best by The Long Winters
The Long Winters suggest skipping it all and having a "non-traditional non-denominational celebration." I dare you to sing along and deliver the "I want to give you a present" line without winking at the nearest good-looking person.
For the people who like pretty, jangly Xmas tunes:
Lady December by The Concretes
In their earnest and vulnerable ode to the only tolerable snowy month, The Concretes call on us to forgive and forget. Gentle drums and small synths are almost as sweet as the cherry wine mentioned by the backup vocalists.
Runner up: Lady December by the Sweptaways
Lady December is undervalued, so it's on my list twice. The Sweptaways, a 20-woman pop choral group, add a bit of a punch to this tender tune.
For fans of instrumentals:
Joy To The World by John Fahey
John Fahey does more with a single acoustic guitar than an entire orchestra. If I heard a busker playing like this, I'd throw him a twenty and bring him a hot apple cider.
Runner up: Hark The Herald Angels Sing by Jon Graboff
An acoustic guitar and a stand-up bass turn a solemn hymn into a jaunty tune that's perfect for a cookie-baking marathon.
For the "srs bsns only plz" types:
Fairytale of New York by The Pogues
The Pogues tell us the story of a man reminiscing about a failed relationship in the drunk tank, from a kiss on the corner while the NYPD choir sings to the crushing loss of a shared dream. In the UK and Ireland, it's often cited as the best Christmas song ever written, and for good reason. Just don't expect a happy ending.
Runner up: Gift X-Change by Calexico
If you're feeling a little lost this holiday season, Calexico has penned a beautiful map to help you find your way.
For the naughty:
Jingle My Bells by The Boy Least Likely To
"Jingle my bells / It's Christmastime / I'll jingle yours if you'll jingle mine." Nothing like the gift of a little shared pleasure over the holidays.
Runner up: Santa's Beard by They Might Be Giants
It's cute when your kid sits on Santa's lap. But it's a different story when wife is up on his knee.
For the drinkers:
Your Christmas Whiskey by The Minus 5
I was bummed about not making it home for Christmas last year. So I went to ABC Liquor and bought a 10-year single malt bottle of Bushmills. The rest of my season was like the song says, "Christmas is the warmest time of year / A woozy smile from ear to ear."
Runner up: See You Next Year by Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler
Consider this a modern take on Auld Lang Syne—one that acknowledges the alcohol-fueled revelry of New Year's Eve.
For the music snob:
Xmas Time is Here Again by My Morning Jacket
There aren't a lot of serious artists tackling holiday albums right now. It's too easy to fall into kitsch and camp. Southern bands seem to have figured it out, though. Louisville-based My Morning Jacket's beautiful 5-track Christmas EP deserves a place in the home of even the biggest Scrooge.
Runner up: Little Toy Trains by Jessica Lea Mayfield
Roger Miller didn't exactly have a smash hit on his hands when he released "Old Toy Trains" in 1967. But Jessica Lea Mayfield's modern take might just get there eventually. The compilation album the song comes from is full of great Christmas tunes and benefits the Honeycutt Foundation, which helps educators who are recovering from cancer.
For the energized:
Father Christmas by The Kinks
It's by the Kinks. It's about gangs of kids seeking social parity by robbing Santa Claus. It contains a reference to Steve Austin. What else do you need to know?
Runner up: Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight) by The Ramones
I wish someone had played this at my family's Christmas Eve parties in the '90s.
For the person who can't stand Christmas music at all (points for trying):
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis by Tom Waits
You know from the first line, sung in Waits' weird baritone, that you're in for something a little different from the other Christmas tunes. The song tells the story of a down-on-her-luck hooker who may or may not be pregnant/imprisoned. It really doesn't have anything to do with Christmas.
Runner up: That Was the Worst Christmas Ever by Sufjan Stevens
This is more of a Sufjan Stevens song (you know what I mean) than a Christmas song. Beside a few references to snow and firewood, and a depressing note on Silent Night at the end, there's little holiday cheer on offer. Still a great song.