I toyed with words like “odd” or “eccentric” or “peculiar” to describe this list. But unconventional Christmas songs is the most accurate.

 

I’ve been knee-deep in holiday playlists as of late. It all started with my Christmas punk playlist, which you can spin up here if you missed it. Then I put together this short list of Christmas songs that are extremely popular which I actually can’t stand. It’s in 12-Inch Poll form, so take a look and cast your vote. Oh, and don’t forget “Christmas in Kenmore Square,” which I might actually include here.

 

The thing is, I have a LOT of holiday music in my personal library. I started to get into the breadth and depth of it with that punk playlist. And of course I’m sneaking some of those songs into the mix this holiday season on ROCK 92.9. But those songs are, on the hole, what you’d expect to hear on a rock station in December. “Father Christmas” by The Kinks and the like.

 

12 Unconventional Christmas Songs to Soundtrack the Season

A lot of these songs are tough to categorize by genre. Hence the “unconventional” tag. A few of them you might be familiar with, but I’m guessing the majority you aren’t. That’s OK. You’ve been listening to me on the radio for years, and you know I’m someone you can trust. If I’m taking the time to share these songs with you, they’re worth listening to. I’m not looking to waste your time.

 

I  hope the holiday season treats you well, and that you find peace. And that the world finds peace. A lot of that, sadly, is out of our own personal control. But something we can do is share songs and listen to them and sing them. I guess that’s a form of peace after all.

  • Mogwai "Christmas Song"

    Mogwai is a mostly-instrumental post-rock band from Glasgow. They are my favorite band in the whole wide world and this song is beautiful.

  • David Bazan "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

    David Bazan of Pedro The Lion’s take on the old Christmas classic. He takes poetic license with the lyrics and it’s lovely.

  • Pedro The Lion "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day"

    One more from Bazan. This time, he sticks to the script, lyrics-wise. But the arrangement has a warmth to it you don’t usually get with this song.

  • Red Red Meat "There's A Star Above The Manger Tonight"

    An original Christmas song buried on the indie band’s 1997 Sub Pop album of the same name.

  • My Morning Jacket "Xmas Curtain"

    I love when bands I love write new Christmas songs. From their 2000 Does Xmas Fiasco Style EP on Darla Records. Pick it up.

  • Jill Sobule "Merry Christmas From The Family"

    Robert Earl Keen wrote it, but Jill makes it her own. And I like her version the best.

  • David Hinckley "Jingle Bells"

    Dave’s an old buddy of mine and a Boston-area musician and educator. He’ll tell you he cribbed this take on “Jingle Bells” from somewhere else because he’s modest like that. No matter his inspiration, he turns this Christmas classic into a rockin’, rollicking holiday soirre.

  • Nick Lowe "Hooves On The Roof"

    Nick Lowe is a treasure. I recently discovered his holiday album as it was reissued in 2023 for its 10th anniversary. Every song on it is gold, and this one’s my current fave.

  • Akim & Teddy Vann "Santa Claus Is A Black Man"

    I found this gem on A John Waters Christmas years ago and it’s become one of my favorite-ever holiday songs.

  • Los Wonder Twins Del Rap “The Feast Of Steven”

    D-Tension rocks the mic, be it on stage or on the radio. This one-off holiday song from a former project of his is a seasonal staple in my house.

  • The Ethiopians "Ding Dong Bell"

    The annual Oedipus Christmas Eve broadcast is a tradition in my house. He’s provided me with so many unique holiday sounds over the years. This is one.

  • Mannheim Steamroller "Cantique De Noel"

    The music of Mannheim Steamroller is beloved holiday tradition for many of us. And some of their songs even sneak onto the playlists of stations that go all-Christmas during the season. But not this one. It might be my favorite rendition of “O Holy Night.”

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