8 Unconventional Christmas Music Playlists and Albums

Nothing sets the festive mood for a holiday get-together like a good playlist. Unfortunately, Christmas music can sometimes seem – how to say – creaky after six weeks of rehearsal?

There’s only so many times you can hear Dean Martin deliver smooth “silver bells” without getting the jitters. And, excuse me, just because it’s the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t mean we’ve all suddenly become Michael Bublé fans.

Let’s face it, Mariah Carey has been carrying the load for way too long. And yes, every year some big-budget pop star or otherwise — usually Ariana Grande — releases a sugar-coated melody about Santa Claus. But, if you’re genuinely fed up with the classics after weeks of hearing them on repeat on CVS, or if your music regime in months other than December isn’t exclusively old time or aggressively pop-y, where do you turn?

People, you have options. Here are playlists and albums — selected with a millennial bias — to play at your holiday gatherings. Hopefully, they’ll have you hitting the eggnog in a good way.

1. Let public radio guide you

NPR and local public radio stations have the task of entertaining the culturally discerning masses, which is an even more difficult task on Christmas Eve and Christmas. The national outlet and local stations have playlists meant to get your mind set with unconventional tunes. Check out the NPRs Christmas edition of his weekly Viking’s Choice playlist. DJ Lars Gotrich warns listeners to “Expect the unexpected as holiday classics – your Gene Autrys and Darlene Loves – play alongside sweet, silly, dark, sassy and jaw-dropping originals and artist covers drone, indie rock, reggae, punk, R&B, hip-hop, pop, metal and everything that rings the bell. Let’s make the Christmas party weird, y’all .”

I personally have to recommend my local NPR station, KCRW, for their holiday playlist. DJ Travis Holcomb hosted a Christmas edition of his show “Freaks Only”, who saw holiday songs like Bootsy Collins, Big Freedia, Norm MacDonald (RIP) and DMX (also RIP 😢). DMX’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is the perfect Christmas song, after all.

2. A tasteful robot picked them up

Pro Tip: If you search Spotify or Apple Music (depending on your choice of streaming platform) for Christmas music + your favorite genre, the recommendation algorithms will hook you up! Personally, I will turn Spotify’s “Indie Christmas” Playlist, which has holiday covers and originals from artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens, The Shins, Andrew Bird, and more. Am I ready to share my feelings with “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes? You bet your ass covered in pajamas I am!

3. Become a maniacal pixie dream girl

A Very His and Hers Christmas was the Christmas twee album to top them all when it was released in 2011. This week, the duo – consisting of indie darlings Zooey Deschanel and Mr. Ward – reissued the album with a tenth anniversary edition. Zooey D gets a lot of hate but her honeyed voice is beautiful and the nostalgia for the classics sets the mood without being too much conventional.

4. Get off the rails

There are extremely strange Christmas albums, people. Want a somewhat spooky psychedelic punk-inspired soundtrack? Try the 2013 compilation album with Iggy Pop, Psychic Ills and other weirdos called Psychedelic Christmas. Fancy a disco remix of Christmas classics? Mirror Image Christmas Disco got you covered. Or you can always pass the baton to the king of the camp, John Waters, and put on his compilation album A John Waters Christmas for something that is both delicious and horrifying. Head toward Flood Magazine for more fantastic selections.

5. So you want to give in…

Maybe you just want to hear Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande after all to get that warm, fuzzy feeling. If so, can we suggest… movie soundtracks! the love, in fact soundtrack will deliver Mariah’s classic, but it also has a lot of other songs that aren’t exactly Christmas songs, but we’ve come to get in on the holiday spirit just because love, in fact the vibe is so strong. Take the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”: it’s not, in fact, a Christmas song! Corn love, in fact basically turned into one. So google soundtrack + your favorite holiday rom, and let the good feelings flow.

George L. Hernandez