- 4th Dimension by Kids See Ghosts – This Kanye West X Kid Cudi collaboration pairs a sample of Louis Prima’s yuletide favorite “What Will Santa Claus Say?” with some hard hitting drums, making for a lit way to get into the Christmas spirit.
- Christmas in Harlem by Kanye West ft. Teyana Taylor and Cyhi the Prince – Another Kanye Christmas classic, Christmas in Harlem is one of the most infectious songs of the season. Kanye and Cyhi deliver great verses rapping what they appreciate about the holidays and the Teyana Taylor hook is like the bow on top. 🎁
- Wintermezzo by Chilly Gonsalves – A super lighthearted and warm piano piece that will put anyone in the holiday mood. It’s charismatic melody swirls around the air like falling snowflakes. Listen while drinking spiked eggnog with good company. (P.S. the arrangement for piano and violin is equally as beautiful! Just doesn’t sound as Christmas-y to me)
- Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong (feat. The Commanders) – Jazz and Christmas belong together and Louis really showcases this through his charming vocals and talented big band accompaniment. Good enough to not know it’s a Christmas song but if you give it a close listen the holiday cheer is there!!!
- Kind of an outlier but The First Song by Band of Horses is a very nostalgic song that reminds me of this time of year and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that many of the lyrics actually do mention Christmas, presents, etc. Holds up to their iconic hit The Funeral as a beautifully bittersweet folk rock tune just indie enough to dismiss the rest of their country-esque discography.
- Also anything from Björk’s Vespertine!!!! Got me in the winter for sure
- Navidad Sin Ti by Los Bukis – Every Christmas gotta have them banda bangers, and this is one of those that’ll definitely have u crying by the fireplace w a cup of cocoa in ur hand. I love singing my heart out and dancing the night away to Los Bukis, and their Christmas songs are some of the best
- You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Tyler, the Creator – So I had to sneak this one on here just because of how damn unique and weird it is that they got Tyler, the Creator to do the soundtrack for the Grinch movie that came out in 2019, n it actually is kinda hard af. I always feel like a badass when I throw this song on and i love the mood it puts me in so I hope u can vibe out to it too.
- Chimney by Sebastian Mikael – A groovy song about all the wholesome Christmas festivities we’ve been up to since being back home for the holidays 😉
- 8NIGHTS by Dafna, Cameron Desnoes – A cute little Hanukkah love song to have on in the background while you’re decorating or sharing a meal with family. Feels like the montage scene in a cheesy movie where the characters are driving through the snow and falling in love <3 (Before all the bad stuff happens ya know)
- Santa Baby by Vulfpeck – A nice funky instrumental interlude to break up your traditional holiday classics
- Someday At Christmas by Stevie Wonder – This song just holds a lot of nostalgia for me and you can’t really go wrong with Stevie Wonder. I never really heard this song on the radio as a kid but I would be on long holiday road trips with my earphones in listening to this one.
- Cigarettes and Coffee by Otis Redding – This song is just such a great nighttime song when you’re alone during the holiday season. It’s a bit depressing but it’s also just so soulful and heartfelt. Sure, you can be smoking cigarettes with a cup of coffee to this one, but you can also be eating a candy cane with a cup of hot cocoa.
- MF Grinch by Cookin Soul – This one is just such a go-to holiday lofi, chillhop track. Not just that but the whole album is such a chill/good time all year round. I just had to include this track, it wouldn’t feel right without it.
- The Christmas Rap by Ray Brown Trio, Gregory Hutchinson – I dig this song for the jazz vibes and the old-school rapping style. Just makes me feel connected to my culture.
- Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town (Q- Burns Abstract Message Remix) – I just really enjoy a fresh take on classic songs including holiday songs. This jam is funky and I dig it.
- Everyone Is Traumatized by Christmas by Bendelacreme and Jinkx Monsoon – The holidays can be a difficult time for some. Fruitcake, being forced to spend time with backwards thinking family members, lack of finances due to a global data breach; these are a few of my least favourite things! For those who steer clear of holiday cheer, this one’s for you 🙂
- Hey Sis, It’s Christmas (feat. Markaholic) by RuPaul – Christmas but make it camp! If you’re looking for a holiday bop to drop from the second story stair banister into a jump-split, spin this track. WARNING: Jump-splits may cause irreparable damage to joints and ligaments.
- The Winter (CAKE) – There’s something melancholic about moving around in winter. Maybe it’s the dead trees. Even so, it’s all behind you now.
- Bach 1052 Harpsichord – Similarly, there’s something very formal about this period for me. Perhaps it’s the planned meals and prepaid trips. Anyway, this is my favorite piece of Classical music. I feel like you could guess I have a favorite piece of Classical music if you looked at me.
- Christmas Card by Joyce Manor – I love how this song encapsulates the melancholy and painful nuances of the holiday season. With so much pressure to be happy during the holidays, it can become easy to feel isolated and depersonalized. My heart goes out to everyone who struggles during the holidays. I hope the angst in this song reminds you that you’re not alone. The lyrics reveal that for many of us, love is closely related to pain.
- HOLIDAY by Turnstile – A single and stand-out track from the genre-bending hardcore/post punk group Turnstile’s latest LP GLOW ON. I have loved this band since I was 15 and their evolution and vision continues to amaze me. You can literally hear the influence of Fugazi in this track with the leading and mesmerizing bass line. This song and band reminds me to never box myself in and continue to expand beyond conventional beliefs.
- Holiday in Spain by the Counting Crows – Even though I listen to this song during all months of the year, Holiday in Spain is one of my favorite songs to play at the end of long, cold winter nights around the holiday season. This track is made by the Counting Crows from their album “Hard Candy,” and my parents got me and my siblings into this album at a young age. I saw the Counting Crows play live this summer in Berkeley, and this was the track they closed the show with, as they should have.
- Christmas Shoes by John McNicholl – I only recently discovered this song via two of my friends, but it’s about a man standing in line on Christmas Eve who sees this poor and young boy trying to buy a pair of shoes for his mother, who is terminally ill, so that she can look pretty for when she dies. The boy can’t afford to buy the shoes with the money he has on him, so the narrator of the song ends up chipping in and buying the pair of shoes for him, so that he can enjoy one final Christmas with his mother.
- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Bruce Springsteen – One of the all time classic Christmas songs covered by one of the greatest musicians of all time. Every year when my family decorates the tree, we always play a series of holiday songs on the speakers in the living room, and this one undoubtedly makes it on the list every year.
- Be Mine for Christmas by Bryson Tiller – I chose this song because it was a personal favorite off of Bryson Tiller’s long awaited christmas EP, released just this November. In my opinion, this is an excellent sequitur to Bryson’s previous album, Anniversary, whereby he maintains those smooth vocals and buttery sound he’s so well known for
- St Brick Intro by Gucci Man – This song is undoubtedly a christmas classic; literally no christmas playlist would be complete without some Gucci Mane. I included this song because I felt obligated to add a little bit of east atlanta santa to the excomm holiday playlist.
- “Blue Christmas” by The Beach Boys – It never snows in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, which makes it hard sometimes to get into the holiday spirit. That’s what makes this track perfect for the holidays in SoCal- because it’s a nice combination of winter imagery and the classic, sunny, Beach Boys sound.
- Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon, Yoko Ono – I’m not the biggest fan of John Lennon given that he was a pretty bad person. However, I like this song because it’s a great reminder that even during the holidays, it’s important to remain critical of injustices around the world.
- Snow Purple Treasures by Sweet Trip – I have so much love for Sweet Trip and this song is just so…. entrancing. California gets no snow, but this song has the magical feeling of looking out the window and seeing the first snowfall of the season.
- Saturday by The Clientele – This song feels like a lonely cold December day—and with a lyric about Christmas, I can’t help but tie it to the holiday. Also, Christmas falls on a Saturday this year 😮
- dragon eyes by Adrianne Lenker – I saw Adrianne Lenker this month at the Lobero, when she started playing this song it felt like she was reaching out to the entire crowd and giving us a hug. Getting under 30 million blankets with a cup of tea and this song in the background is an ideal Winter Break evening.
- Joanie by Clairo – My controversial 2021 music opinion: I used to not be much of a Clairo fan, but Sling drew me in with its baroque production and woodsy atmosphere. Joanie is an instrumental track, but it’s the perfect soundbed for this seasonal transition we’re in.
- Christmas in LA by Vulfpeck – A merry funky christmas song to get your spirits up!!
- This Christmas by Donny Hathaway – An absolute classic..those horns are delicious
- Auntie’s Lock/Infinitum by Flying Lotus – This one is quiet, ethereal, and a glimpse of the unknown. Like the whisper of wind, the song glides and tenderly wraps itself around you, warming you up like a fireplace.
- Parallel 6 by Four Tet – It reminds me of running down the stairs early in the morning on Christmas day. My family never celebrated the holiday, but I always loved waking up early and getting to experience the gloomy day in its entirety.
- 99 Avirex by Westside Gunn feat. Stove God Cooks & AZ – The grand piano, bells and triangle sound like snow falling on a gorgeous East Side Buffalo winter’s day. Plus, nothing screams Christmas more than raps about selling cocaine… err, I mean “snow.”
- “Snowfall” by The Monkees – The Monkees debuted 45 years ago as a TV sitcom ripoff of The Beatles; they were somewhat the first prefabricated “boy band” ever, but they quickly became much more than that. This is a cover of an old jazz standard featured on their first seasonal album, The Monkees Christmas Party, released in 2018, about 6 years after Davy Jones’ death, and not long before Peter Tork passed on. The group’s most accomplished musician, Michael Nesmith (who does vocals here) just died recently, & I wanted to honor him by including this lovely track. (RIP Mike.)
- “8 Days (Of Hanukkah)” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – The “Festival of Lights” is already over for 2021, but when I create playlists this time of year, I always try to break away somewhat from the heavily Christian bias of the holiday season. This is not only a lively soul track (RIP Sharon Jones), it’s also something of a primer in the Jewish Hanukkah tradition — brought home even more by a terrific animated music video, which pays homage to “Schoolhouse Rock,” for those of us who are sheltered gentiles, etc.
- BONUS TRACK – “December Will Be Magic Again” by The Pink Singers – Originally a Kate Bush single, but it’s not available on Spotify (which says something about the limits of this platform). This song is inspired by the pagan roots of the Winter Solstice, and the original art for Bush’s single highlights the mystical qualities of hallucinogens: primarily, red-and-white (Christmassy!) “magic mushrooms” growing on the flying reindeers’ saddles. Positioning them and a shamanic Santa Claus as psychedelic icons is actually not all that far-fetched it seems — www.theatlantic.com/video/index/578959/shaman-santa — so bless Ms. Bush for celebrating that fact.
- “Sun Stands Still” by Benedict Moriarty, Oliver Davis. (Solace; Signum Records) – This is a reflective piece on the Winter Solstice, so beautiful I can’t get it out of my head. The lyrics include these lines, “Sun trapped in lowest branches, as the earth stops turning. … In frozen winter solstice grows the seed of summer skies.”
- “The Gloucestershire Wassail” by Magpie Lane. (Wassail! A Country Christmas; Beautiful Jo Records.) – Pagan drinking song. You can’t get through winter without some cheer in four-part harmony, sung a capella (aka polyphonic singing by unaccompanied voices). Hail to the ox and corn! Traditions like this led to Christmas caroling later on, where you’d be offered some wassail (a warm cinnamon apple cider, more or less) or perhaps a nicely spiced ale.
- “Spin Dreydl Spin” by The Klezmatics. (Hannukah. The Jewish Music Group.) – A nod to Hanukkah earlier this month. The Klezmatics based in New York City have brought the old world Yiddish songs forward adding contemporary instrumentation. I love the use of the rubber band sound to give you the feel of the string that propels the spinning top.
- “Carol of the Bells” by Wynton Marsalis. (A Crescent City Christmas. Columbia.) – A traditional Christmas carol whose origin is in the Ukraine (the song is based on the Ukrainian folk chant “Shchedryk” ) with Crescent City Marsalis styled swing!