Around our house, the little lady loves her Christmas music. Correction: we ALL love Christmas music. Time was, yours truly was a curmudgeonly Scrooge when it came to Christmas tunes. My basic argument: lots of holiday songs are schmaltzy and overwrought from beginning to end. (Exhibit A: “Santa Baby” by Madonna) or they’re undone by ridiculous lyrics, like “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, that yuletide ode to the personification of wind conversing with livestock about astronomy. See what I mean?
But over time, Sunny’s appreciation for holiday music rubbed off on me and I’ve learned to embrace — even love — Christmas music. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, we’re pretty much ear deep in Harry Connick, Jr., Elvis, Amy Grant, Mariah Carey, and a host of other artists, ringing in the holidays. We’ve accumulated all of the classic cuts, but sometimes you get a little tired of the same songs by the same artists.
So here’s a sampling of some Christmas Alternatives, different takes on some holiday standards to liven up your iPod this holiday season. Each track has been carefully selected for uniqueness and time-tested by our expert team of holiday music critics. Enjoy!
Angels We Have Heard On High – David Crowder Band. Two minutes of foot stompin’, banjo bliss. The song’s never sounded better.
Jingle Bells – BNL. “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Robin laid an egg. The batmobile lost its wheel, the Joker got away…” Man, I miss these guys.
Blue Christmas – Harry Connick, Jr. Tough to top the King’s version, but Connick’s iteration takes the cake as the bluesiest version of the song ever.
The Christmas Song – Martina McBride. Martina’s Christmas album has been a staple around our home for years, but her rendition of this classic is absolutely beautiful.
The Christmas Waltz – She & Him. I love anything these two record, but their latest Christmas offering is a real winner.
Last Christmas – Taylor Swift. Tired of the synth-heavy Wham! version of this song that’s ubiquitous on Lite FM this time of year? Check out Taylor Swift’s fresh revisioning.
Holly Jolly Christmas – Michael Buble. Personally, I think he tries to hard to emulate Harry Connick, Jr., but this is one of the stronger songs on Buble’s recent Christmas album.
Joy To The World – Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan’s epic 4-disc 2006 album contains many neo-classics. This is simply one of them.
Silent Night – Johnny Cash. This sparse recording highlights Cash’s traditional baritone, which sounds tailor-made for this song.
Silver Bells – Meaghan Smith. I’d listen to this voice sing the phone book. As good as it gets.
Sleigh Ride – Los Straitjackets. Think Hawaii Five-O drum roll meets “House of the Rising Sun” guitar licks.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Weezer. This traditional fave gets the emo treatment, thanks to Rivers and the guys.
Winter Wonderland – The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Dean Martin recorded my favorite cut of this track, but Setzer’s swinging interpretation is pretty lively.