“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes
Indie folk duo Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” is a simple and beautiful track from the band’s debut studio album, “Fleet Foxes.” Other famous artists have covered this song – Birdy and Pentatonix are two of the most notable – but none can quite capture the wintry magic of the original.
“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” – Ramones
Always a punk rock favorite, the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” is an upbeat plea from the persona to his significant other: “I loved you from the start, ‘cause Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s hearts,” Joey Ramone reasons. This would likely be a good tune for convincing your girlfriend to give you a second chance, even though you drank a little too much egg nog at her family’s Christmas party.
“Toymageddon” – Yo La Tengo ft. Ira Glass & Eugene Mirman
Telling the tale of “the Christmas toys came to life,” Yo La Tengo’s “Toymageddon” is a mix between song and skit. The verses are playful and smooth, and sandwiched in between them is a dialogue featuring NPR’s Ira Glass and voice actor Eugene Mirman (who you might recognize as Gene in the popular animated show “Bob’s Burgers.”) This track is ideal for scaring the small children you know into not asking for as many toy robots and My Little Pony figurines this year.
“Carol of the Bells” – the bird and the bee
Arguably the most bewitching cover of this holiday classic, the bird and the bee’s “Carol of the Bells” is a perfect score to accompany touching old wooden bannisters in your grandmother’s house while you don your favorite holiday cocktail dress.
“Christmas Unicorn” – Sufjan Stevens
Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’ “Christmas Unicorn” is brimming with references to the origins of Christmas and the consumer-driven holiday has become. If you’re looking for Christmas music with a little substance, this is the track for you.
“Santa’s Beard” – They Might Be Giants
No, this isn’t a cover of the Beach Boys song of the same name. Let’s be honest – one version of any Beach Boys song is enough. “Santa’s Beard” is a quintessential They Might Be Giants number; it’s punchy, silly and only about two minutes long. If you’re the type of person that wants to add some goofiness to your holiday season, this is a great addition to your Yule playlist.
“Green Grows the Holly” – Calexico
Americana indie rock outfit Calexico gives this traditional English carol a warm, exquisite update on the 2012 holiday compilation “Holidays Rule.” It’s the perfect combination of modern and traditional, making it just hip enough for you and just classic enough so that it doesn’t annoy your mom.
“Tyrannosaurus Rex for Christmas” – The Lovely Eggs
This English pop duo is comprised of married couple Holly Ross and David Blackwell, and boy, do they know how to write a perfectly shrill Christmas song about dinosaurs. This number is driven by a simple beat and Ross’ almost childlike vocals as she demands to receive a Tyrannosaurus Rex as a present. It’s fully PG, making it a deceptively cool song to share with the little ones at your family gatherings.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (Mangini vs. Pallin Remix)” – Ella Fitzgerald
This remix brings a contemporary flair to this seasonal favorite by the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. It’s versatile enough to play at any of your winter holiday parties, so you don’t have to save it specifically for New Year’s Eve unless you really want to. That’s your business, music hoarder.
“December is For Cynics” – The Matches
Are the winter holidays just not your style? Are you too cynical and non-conformist to enjoy your family Christmas party? Would you rather be listening to rare vinyl with a cooly apathetic expression on your face? This pop-punk anti-carol by The Matches may just be your anthem. “So to hell with holiday romantics,” lead vocalist Shawn Harris declares defiantly, accompanied by a drum march electric guitar screeches. If you agree, I suggest you add this song to your winter playlist immediately.