In this playlist, we skip the standards in favor of some lesser-known holiday gems — whether you’re bursting with yuletide joy or sobbing under the mistletoe.
Take a look at our picks below, and stick around to the end to listen to all these songs (except for the Dum Dum Girls song, which, sadly, wasn’t available) via Spotify stream.
• STEVIE WONDER, “Christmastime” (1967) Forget the scent of pine or even the spirit of brotherhood: True seasonal bliss is Stevie’s harmonica-laden fireside swoon.
• WIZZARD, “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” (1973) Awesomely zonky glam rockers hang their glitter boots by the chimney with flair.
• JULIAN CASABLANCAS, “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” (2009) The Strokes frontman turns an SNL skit into a song-length sugar rush for all the cool kids whose stockings come stuffed with artisanal candy canes and Portlandia DVDs.
• CLARENCE CARTER, “Back Door Santa” (1968) If philandering and breaking and entering are wrong, then this naughty funk classic definitely does not want to be right.
• MARIAH CAREY, “Oh Santa” (2010) A holiday song that’s also a handclap-giddy jump-rope jam? We must’ve been good.
• CEE LO GREEN FEAT. THE MUPPETS, “All I Need Is Love” (2012) Hip-hop soul’s clown prince knows what he wants under the tree; his little felt-covered friends are happy to help.
• THE KINKS, “Father Christmas” (1977) So garage-rock jolly, you’ll forget it’s about a bunch of Dickensian rug rats knocking over a department-store Santa for cash and loot.
• PRINCE, “Another Lonely Christmas” (1984) Leave it to Prince to memorialize a girlfriend who died on Christmas Day by recounting her love of banana daiquiris and nude swims over epic I-Would-Die-4-U guitar wails.
• DUM DUM GIRLS & CROCODILES, “Merry Christmas, Baby (Please Don’t Die)” (2009) This wall-of-sound stomper is like a little sprig of holly laced with strychnine.
• THE EMOTIONS, “What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas” (1973) “‘Tis the season to be jolly/But how can I be, when I have nobody?” You said it, ladies.
• THE POGUES FEAT. KIRSTY MACCOLL, “Fairytale of New York” (1987) It’s Irish punk’s own from-the-gutter take on It’s a Wonderful Life: Shane MacGowan’s in the drunk tank, dreaming of happier times when “I could have been someone/Well, so could anyone.”
• CASIOTONE FOR THE PAINFULLY ALONE, “Cold White Christmas” (2006) Hopelessness and beer for breakfast in subzero Minnesota: Take that, Bing Crosby!
• LORETTA LYNN, “Gift of the Blues” (1966) The one present you can never return for store credit? A cheating boyfriend.