Its the least wonderful time of the year. For the last month, nearly every department store across the country has rolled out its annual rotation of the same five Christmas songs, which will be played on a loop-the-loop either until Santa Claus brings toys to all the little boys and girls or you die of a brain hemorrhage. Numerous research studies have shown that if you play Christmas Shoes 20 times in a row, it causes listeners heads to explosion like the aliens in Mars Attacks .
To build your December a little less agonizing, the Daily Dot put together a playlist of 25 Yuletide tunes that wont stimulate you regret having ears. Christmas songs generally suck, but these exceptions to the rule prove your holiday season doesnt have to.
For your atmospheric convenience, theyre bundled onto a Spotify playlist. Youre welcome to skip ahead.
Acknowledging it is unavoidable: When it comes to holiday music, Mariah Careys 1994 hit continues to reign supreme, still a staple of Top 40 stations across the country. Its a modern holiday classic, a throwback to Phil Spectors Wall of Sound that benefits from Careys octave-defying pipes. If theres anyone who doesnt like this song, I have yet to meet them. Nico Lang
Sure, Mariah Carey fronted the last American classic with her Motown-inspired 90 s pearl. In the 80 s, however , no one came closer than George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. The Wham! duo planted a flag on Christmas 84, and in the subsequent 31 years, the seasonal staple has shown up on the Billboard charts for 11 of them. The earnest dramatism glides on an inescapable synth line and when Michael pipes in with that once bitten and twice shy zinger, tears at the office vacation party. Last Christmas is workplace despair, layered karaoke, and spiked eggnog. Ramon Ramirez
Tom Waits melancholy blues are the perfect antidote to forced vacation cheer. But what builds Christmas Card a particularly special sung in the Waits canon are the unexpected notes of grace he procures in the story of a prostitute writing an old flame from prison. His darkly comic lyrics underscore a poignant message of redemption: I’ll be eligible for parole come Valentines Day. NL
This side A, track one from the Kings 57 Christmas record arrives swigging spirits and swerving in a big, black Cadillac. Here, Elvis is Santa, and hes in town for one night merely, dames. The rockabilly cut is held together by a rollicking piano solo, Heartbreak Hotel tempos, and at its festive core, some appropriately sentimental and contrived, Bing Crosby-esque background singers. RR
Theres a reason that the indie Thanksgiving movie Pieces of April enlisted the Magnetic Fields for the soundtrack: Their music is a strangely perfect companion for any vacation gala. I would recommend The Book of Love and Strange Powers, but this track from Realism brings the bands trademark sardonic edge, specifically Christmas-centric line: All the world is turning prettily/ Everyone’s awaiting Sandy. NL
Nothing extrapolates those seasonal blues like muddy keys, throwaway Steve Cropper licks, and Atco Records horns. May your days be so merry, Redding sings on this samurai of a encompas, released posthumously in 68, a year after his death. Its familiar but pointed, constructing to a frenetic nosedive of howls cruelly cut off by the eras insistence on three-minute singles. RR
For something a little more conventionally cheery than Tom Waits or the Magnetic Fields, appear no further than XTCs Thanks for Christmas. The new wave band was one of the most critically beloved acts of the 1980 s( insure: Senses Working Overtime ), and here they offer up the rare track that both Pitchfork and your grandmother could agree to love. NL
The best Christmas songs skip the tired process of describing the climate and adornments and bite right into the human experience of traveling and collected relatives. We know Gayes understated and underrated 72 original features magnetic crooning, but its also a beautifully written offering. Inspired by the backdrop of Vietnam, co-author Forest Hairston noticed yellow ribbons tied around trees to honor captives of war. Gaye took the baton and sprinted. RR
When it comes to great Christmas songs, Aimee Manns catalog is an embarrassment of riches. On 2006 s One More Drifter in the Snow , Mann encompasses eight Christmas classicswith two original compositions thrown in( Christmastime and Calling on Mary ). The standout is her playful and altogether wonderful duo with Grant-Lee Phillips on this song from How the Grinch Stole Christmas . I dare you not to smile while listening to it. NL
No one is touching this sublime pair of minutes. The 69 gem constructs its wall with background oohs, air-raid trumpets, and a giant hook. Christmas doesnt deserve soul this urgent and realise. RR
This isnt just one of the greatest Christmas tracks ever recorded. The Pogues bittersweet melody is truly one of the great songs of any kindlanding high on Q magazine and NME s best-ever lists. It wasnt as big a hit in the U.S ., which induces this year the perfect period for American listeners to dive in; it’s so unbearably wonderful that listening to it attains me want to hug the first person I watch. NL
Before Justin Timberlake was paying homage to their scope and direction with Dick in a Box, the original humen in tan vests turned cold weather into an opportunity for consensual fireside lovemaking. Boyz II Mens enduring epic pauses for choral harmonize at the altar, then immediately dips into intent: Come over here and help me trim the treeI want to wrap you up, baby, then youll see youre the only present that I need. Its aching, dead serious, and with additional heat from eventual 90 s monarch Brian McKnight, nearly a diabetic coma brought on by too many ginger snaps. RR
As the fourth track on Third/ Sister Lovers , an ode to Jesuss birthday is pretty jarring when sandwiched between a Velvet Underground cover and Big Black Car, a beautifully somber tune about alienation. But if anything, this sweet, strange tune is a reminder of what continues to attain Big Star such an influential band four decades after the albums release.( If youre unfamiliar with the group, also check out September Gurls and Thirteen .) NL
Dont let Freddie Mercury on the mic to drop a Christmas song, because hell overload it with zest and art. Its been a shitty year, he posits, but candidly, my love, it doesnt matter because were huddled together when we most need it. The holiday single was co-written by the bands perennial secret weapons, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor and was an easy cash grab that dueled Wham! on the following chart in 84. But when you have the greatest frontman in rock history, this ship will swim: Oh my love, “were living in” troubled days, Mercury sings expertly because its always true. RR
For everyone celebrating a punk rock Christmas this year, there are more than a few must-listens. Merry Christmas( I Dont Want to Fight Tonight) voices precisely like every Ramones sung( which is a good thing ), and Alice Coopers Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is fairly delightful. But my personal favorite comes from the Damnedin which the 70 s Brits devote Santa the thumb. NL
Danish metal sultan Kim Bendix Petersen used Christmas 85 as an opportunity for doom. On this thrash labyrinth, Santa has no helpers and the worlds children will wake up sans presents. There is no happy aiming. There is, however, lots of awkward lyricism about Western cartoonsDonald Duck, Tom, Jerry. Its hard, fast, and an unhinged believe experiment that netted falsetto howls and constant shredding. Beyond its quirky countercultural appeal, No Presents for Christmas charges up your last-minute drives to the mallironically helping mankind render presents for Christmas 30 years running. RR
When I mentioned I was writing this to a friend, she immediately responded: You have to put Christmas Wrapping on it. This was not a request. The songa perennial favourite more than 30 years since it debutedinspires such passion for a reason: Christmas Wrapping recalls the best of 80 s female-fronted groups like the Go-Gos and Blondie. And that sax is utterly irresistible. NL
Its Christmas eve, and Ive only wrapped two fucking presents is every procrastinators reality when the calendar flips to Dec. 24 and you realize Amazon wont ship in time. Its an annual reality for Americas creatures of habits, myself included. This 40 -second track from corporate, suburban punks Blink-1 82 is chiefly a throwaway gag from 2001 a operating joke about grotesque sex acts and panic-stricken nerves. But its holiday angst continues to ring true, and the cage-rattling teen escapism pairs elegantly with the self-inflicted seasonal stress. RR
In 2006, Sufjan Stevens kindled an ongoing debate among the prolific indie folk singer massive fanbase: Whats the best way from Songs for Christmas ? The five-disc box setrecorded over as many yearsleaves listeners an absurd quantity of selections, from the upbeat Set the Sunlights on the Tree to That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! Theres no right option, but if I had to save one single from a flame, it would be the achingly romantic Christmas in the Room.
Note: If that werent enough, he released yet another set in 2012. Im convinced Sufjan Stevens dislikes his fans and wants us to argue forever. NL
Was your sonic palate molded in the early or mid-2 000 s? Was your hipster-chic iPod certified because dance punks !!! rested atop its clickwheel library? Do you get nervous and relate to content about visiting conservative family members at the holiday break? If so, this sentimental geek single should be embedded lingo. If not thats even better, because this pummeling rhythm transcends its narrow marketplace. RR
Julian Casablancas post-Strokes career has gifted us with plethora of catchy gems. Released soon after 11 th Dimension, this encompas of a anthem from a 2000 Saturday Night Live skit might not reach the blissful heights of Phrazes for the Young , but its undeniably good. Its farther proof that the former boulder frontman has a great ear for pop songsno matter the season. NL
The essential 60 s garage-rockers pack a gripping key solo, rollicking chants, and pointed skepticism into this flyover jam. Dont believe in Christmas, runs the chorus. Cause I didnt get nothing last year. Its disagreement with all the depth of a Twisted Sister anthem, yes, but it also stimulates you wishes to hurl a shot glass at the jukebox with its primal freakouts. Wreck the hallways. RR
In our previous music roundup, I extolled the virtues of Cambodian pop, and if you havent checked out Dengue Fever since then, heres another chance. The indie psych-rock band brings the Khmer sound to Christmas, putting a fresh and softly revolutionary spin on a sung Ive always detested. NL
One of the things that unites nearly every sung on this list is that you could listen to it any time of the year, and I Was Born on Christmas Day is no exception. The way is no less joyous or danceable than the bands signature disco-tinged tunes( like Last Days of Disco and Last day of Music ). And if putting this on your Spotify list impels you to check out the British groups triumphant( and criminally underrated) 2012 record Words and Music , so be it. NL
Illustration by Max Fleishman