In downtown Chicago, lights twinkle on tree-lined sidewalks; nutcrackers dance in store windows; ice skaters glide in Millenium Park; and the streets are bustling with natives bundled up against winter winds. This glorious time of year is often marred by cliche carols from which there seems to be no escape. Luckily, sprucing up the old winter playlist is easy if one knows where to look. From eccentric holiday originals to cheerful covers of the classics, these songs are sure to revive your Christmas spirit.
“Let It Snow” – Kopecky Family Band
This self-chosen family puts an enchanting spin on two winter classics, “The Christmas Song” and “Let It Snow” in this track from its Christmas EP, From Our Family to Yours. The result is a fun, cozy carol that’s perfect for curling up next to the tree with a steaming mug of cocoa.
“Last Christmas” – Jimmy Eat World
Leave it to Jimmy to create this bittersweet Christmas cover with melancholy lyrics and an uplifting melody. “Last Christmas” is a winter must-have, the perfect mix of jingle bells and the beautiful guitar and layered vocals that one can always expect from this band.
“Blue Christmas” – She & Him
Zooey Deschanel’s unique voice shines in this stand-out track from A Very She & Him Christmas. Stay in your pajamas, watch a crisp layer of snow fall outside, and take a moment to think about the loved ones you miss on those occasional days of winter blues.
“Boots” – The Killers
The Killers have several wonderful Christmas originals, but “Boots” perfectly captures the warm memories of childhood winters without shedding the bubbly keys and soaring vocals that are the Killers’ bread and butter. On top of that, the music video is like a miniature Christmas movie, complete with a heart-swelling happy ending.
“Joy to the World” – Sufjan Stevens
Unlike some artists who seem to crank out an obligatory EP come Christmastime, Sufjan Stevens created a four-disc winter extravaganza, Songs for Christmas, that mixes magicallly executed covers like “Joy to the World” with quirky original tracks.
“Christmastime” – Piney Gir
This track may be short, but it’s packed with almost too much joy and cuteness to handle. Play it while stringing lights on the Christmas tree, and you’ll be humming the cheery tune all week.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – The Venetia Fair
Looking to add a punch to your holiday playlist? The Venetia Fair ditches the soft, feel-good carols in favor of this experimental diatribe from the beloved Dr. Seuss story.
“Chiron Beta Prime” – Jonathon Coulton
Nothing says Christmas like an alien takeover and robot overlords! Among Coulton’s anti-Christmas repertoire is this sci-fi inspired tune that’s just as fun as it is disturbing.
“Holly Jolly Christmas” – The Format
The Format sprinkles its signature claps and some high-spirited guitar plucking into this classic carol, if possible making it even catchier than before. Pop on this upbeat track at a winter gathering with friends and keep the eggnog flowing.
“Candy Cane Children” – The White Stripes
Finally, add a healthy does of awesome to your Christmas playlist with this anti-holiday gem from The White Stripes. The duo doesn’t change its garage rock style or dark subject matter one bit while singing about the Christmas season.