A good holiday get together is like a good song. Christmas music can sometimes feel grating after six weeks of repetition.
Dean Martin can only deliver "silver bells" without getting the willies. It's the most wonderful time of the year, but that doesn't mean we all have become fans of Michael Bublé.
Let's be clear, Carey has been carrying the load for a long time. Every year, Ariana Grande comes out with a song about Santa Claus. If you're sick of the classics after weeks of hearing them on repeat at the drugstore, or if your musical diet in months other than December isn't exclusively old timey or aggressively pop-y, where to turn?
People, you have choices. Here are the albums and playlists that will play at your holiday gatherings. Hopefully, they'll make you hit the eggnog in a good way.
1. Public radio is your guide.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas, it is even harder for NPR and local public radio stations to entertain the culturally discriminating crowd. The national outlet and local stations have different styles of music. The Christmas edition of NPR's Viking's Choice is available. "Expect the unexpected as holiday classics, your Gene Autrys and Darlene Loves, play alongside saccharine, silly, somber, saucy, and stunning originals and covers by artists across drone, independent rock, punk, R&B, hip-hop, and other genres," says DJ Let's make the holiday weird.
I recommend my local NPR station, KCRW. The DJ hosted a Christmas edition of his show, which featured holiday songs from the likes of Bootsy Collins, Big Freedia, Norm MacDonald and DMX. The perfect Christmas song is "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" by DMX.
2. The robot picked these.
If you search for Christmas music on Apple Music, the recommendation system will hook you up with your favorite genre. I'll be playing the "Indie Christmas" playlist, which has covers and holiday-ish originals from artists like Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens, and more. Is it time for me to get into my feelings with "White Winter Hymnal"? I bet you covered my butt.
3. Go full manic.
The Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas was the best of the bunch when it came out in 2011. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's album was re-issued with a tenth anniversary edition. Zooey D gets a lot of hate, but her voice is beautiful and the nostalgic takes on classics set the vibe without being too conventional.
4. Go off the rails.
There are some very strange Christmas albums. Do you want a soundtrack that's spooky, weird, and punk? The album features Psychic Ills and other weird people. Is there a disco version of Christmas classics? Disco Nol has you covered. You could always give John Waters the reigns and put on his Christmas album A John Waters Christmas, which is both delightful and horrifying. Flood Magazine has more freakastic selections.
5. You want to give up...
Maybe you just want to get that warm and fuzzy feeling when you listen to Ariana Grande andMariah Carey. If so, may we suggest a movie soundtrack? The Love, Actually soundtrack has a lot of other songs that aren't Christmas songs, but we've come to associate with the holiday spirit because of the strong vibe of the soundtrack. The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" is not a Christmas song. But Love turned it into one. Let the good feelings flow with the soundtrack and your favorite rom com.