A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT


Mail: PO Box 1556 | Burlington, VT 05402

Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck

Filed Under: Guest Post, Music for a Mood

Written by Aaron

Wednesday December 22, 2010

[ed. note: I asked a few friends to help me get through the holiday season by writing a post for the blog. Here's Aaron's contribution]

I don’t do Christmas music. The stuff is terrible. But this time of year, some people could care less. Otherwise respectable friends love the stuff. Much like crack cocaine or stale marshmallows — they’ll consume holiday music regardless of its quality or efficacy. Bah humbug (whatever that even means).

When your pals ask you to plug in your iPhone and provide the soundtrack to their mistletoe-ridden gathering, don’t fret. Here are a few holiday songs that don’t suck. This short list includes some Christmas songs, some Chanukah songs, some winter songs. Jesus even gets a shout-out once or twice.



The John Spencer Blues Explosion – High Gear: JSBX snarls out a rocker about a dude long-haul-trucking a load of candy canes through snowy mountain scenery. With reindeer.


Dressy Bessy – All The Right Reasons: Synths, snowmen, and sleigh bells combine in a pleasant twee tune from these Denver indie scenesters. Best part: it ends with a Chanukah ditty.


The Go! Team – The Ice Storm: Winds and sleigh bells whip against organs for a holiday-ish wintery instrumental. No religious agenda whatsoever.


Dar Williams – The Christians And The Pagans: Well-told tale of a family gathering with different winter holiday traditions. A modern folky classic.


Ben Kweller – Rock of Ages: It’s a 13th century Chanukah song. About the Maccabbees, duh. Sung rather sweetly and sparingly.


Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Two greats of the jazz organ funk out a wordless winter heavy hitter on dueling Hammond B-3s.


Steve Earle – Christmas In Washington: Easily the greatest neo-folk roots-rock song about Congress’s December lame duck period. And about Woody Guthrie’s campaign to elect Jesus Christ. It’s a bit to the left of most Christmas songs.


Johnny Cash – It Was Jesus: Not about Christmas. But very much about Jesus. If you’re into that sort of thing, nobody sings it better.


The Fiery Furnaces – Tropical-Iceland: Somewhere in the fuzzed-out rock minds of the Furnaces lies a winter wonderland of stray ponies and ice castles. I want to go there.


Pas/Cal – I Wanna Take You Out In Your Holiday Sweater: A light, non-denominational holiday romp with bells, handclaps, and delightful doo-woop vocals.


Jill Sobule – Soldiers of Christ: A pleasantly sung tongue-in-cheek indictment of extreme American religiosity. Not a holiday song unless you’re fighting The War On Christmas.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

One Response to “Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck”

  1. Evil says:

    No “Father Christmas” by the Kinks? Shame on you. Also, “if Christmas Can’t Bring You Home” by the Reigning Sound is a classic for any season.