I dig the classics. Bing Crosby. Dean Martin. Gene Autry. Wham! Yes, even Mannheim Steamroller.
But frankly, I’ve heard them enough. They’re on every radio station. Every shopping mall’s PA system. Your mom’s stereo at home. You’ll get plenty of classics blared at you wherever you may go this holiday season.
When you’re at home, in the car or wherever you can choose the music, it’s time to make a change. So while you’re baking cookies, wrapping presents or decorating the tree, you can get into my list of holiday favorites — updated for the 2019 season with new songs — that includes indie rock, hip-hop, new versions of old favorites and some off-the-beaten-path tunes.
Turn it on, turn it up and enjoy.
“Funky Ass Christmas,” Aloe Blacc
If you like your holidays to be on the funkier side, Mr. Blacc has you covered. This one’s a great jam.
“Christmas Queen,” Ru Paul
Dance club Christmas jam? Oh heck yes.
“Hobo Christmas Song,” Old 97’s
Christmas is for everyone, even hobos. You can enjoy it even if you’re riding the rails and sleeping nights in a railyard.
“Like It’s Christmas,” Jonas Brothers
The reunited pop trio didn’t wait to put out a Christmas song. This one’s all romantic and everything, declaring that “You make every day feel like it’s Christmas.” Awwwwww.
“Make It To Christmas,” Alessia Cara
Breakups suck. Breakups are even worse during the holidays. You were looking forward to spending Christmas with them. You don’t want your whole family to ask what’s going on. So maybe you can patch things up and make it to Christmas?
“New Axe,” Jack Johnson
Another “Brushfire Christmas” album is on the way, and Johnson leads it off with — what else? — a bright, beachy song. This one’s about chopping wood and getting cozy by the fire all winter long. Sounds nice.
“White Christmas,” Michael Bublé
Mr. Bublé recorded this one again, and it’s a jaunty good time.
“Sugar & Booze,” Ana Gasteyer feat. Maya Rudolph
This SNL alum has a new, amusing album full of funny songs with a classic jazz vibe. Here, Gasteyer sings about her love of everything Christmas, but most especially the combination of sweets and liquor.
“Christmas All Over Again,” Puss N Boots
Norah Jones, Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper are back at it again, this time with a five-song EP that features four originals and a live version of “Silent Night.” Give this one a spin, which is about loving yourself during the holidays.
“Christmas in Prison,” Lucinda Williams and Hiss Golden Messenger
This John Prine classic gets turned into a duet. It’s a fantastic version of the sad song, and it’s just one of the great singles on a new Merge Records Christmas compilation.
“Yellow Bike,” Pedro the Lion
You ever get that one present on Christmas that makes the world feel new and alive again? That’s the freedom granted by a brand new yellow bike opened on Christmas morning in this tune.
“Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” The Joker
We dig Batman in my house, and this track from an episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” features Mark Hamill as the Joker singing the classic goof on “Jingle Bells.”
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Flipping the traditional roles on this song, Nathaniel Rateliff and his female duet partner switch sides.
“Punk Rawk Christmas,” MxPx
A bright pop-punk addition to the holidays.
“A Willie Nice Christmas,” Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson
There’s a little smoke in the air, and everything’s wrapped in red bandanas when Willie Nelson plays Santa.
“Run Run Rudolph,” She & Him
Though this is by She & Him, Zooey Deschanel takes a back seat to guitar wizard M. Ward in this Chuck Berry cover. I could go for a whole album of Ward holiday jams like this.
“Christmas in Hollis,” Run D.M.C.
You can’t have Christmas without it. It’s a rule. I believe I read that somewhere.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” DMX
It’s weird, and it’s the best. Don’t fight it.
“Merry Christmas From the Family,” Robert Earl Keen
My favorite Christmas song of all time has more real, true Christmas in its four minutes than any cozy Currier & Ives postcard. So there.
“Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
My other favorite Christmas song isn’t a happy one. A drunken Christmas binge, a foul-mouthed fight and crushed dreams factor into this unhappy but unflappably beautiful song.
“Frosty the Snowman,” Dan Tyminski
I’ve never heard a better version of this song than the one delivered by the crisp-voiced vocalist from Alison Krauss & Union Station.
“She Screams Christmas,” Frightened Rabbit
The holidays can be painful, especially when they bring memories of last Christmas, when people you love were still there and things were happier.
“Blue Christmas,” Bright Eyes
Conor Oberst and his pals made the best version of this sad-sack Christmas song since Elvis Presley himself.
“Christmas Treat,” Julian Casablancas
A goofy recurring “Saturday Night Live” sketch saw Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan deliver “I Wish It Were Christmas Today,” a goofy song around the holidays. Then The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas actually recorded a real, live version of it. Amazing.
“Got Something For You,” Best Coast and Wavves
“Hey, baby. I got something for you, and I want to tell you, but you have to wait.” So adorable and sunny, which is always needed during the chillier time of year.
“Christmas All Summer Long,” Deer Tick
With a blistering riff reminiscent of Chuck Berry, Deer Tick pays tribute to its favorite things about Christmas. Their argument: These things are good all year long.
“Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis,” Neko Case
A letter to Charlie from an old friend, Case’s stark take on the Tom Waits original is a portrait of someone with a hard, tough life celebrating Christmas.
“Santa’s Beard,” They Might Be Giants
So, this is like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” except it’s a guy spotting his wife hanging with Santa, who is really his neighbor. Favorite lyric: “I don’t like that fat guy around.”
“Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance,” Sufjan Stevens
The King of Indie Rock Christmas has more than 40 Christmas songs. This one sounds like a real-life family and the chaos surrounding holiday celebrations. I dig it.
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Death Cab For Cutie
This breathy version of the Darlene Love original is fantastic.
“It’s Not Christmas ’Til You Come Home,” Norah Jones
Gorgeous. More, please.
“His Favorite Christmas Story,” Capital Lights
An adorable (if cheesy and trite) Christmas story that gets me every time.
“Happy Family Christmas,” Sufjan Stevens
OK, yeah. More Sufjan. But look, the guy has an epic amount of holiday music. This one’s all about having a stress-free holiday season, which is a mood I can get behind.
“O Come All Ye Faithful,” Weezer
Weezer’s Christmas EP is full of power-pop versions of Christmas classics, and it’s a staple in the Coffey household.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” My Morning Jacket and The Head and The Heart
Jim James & Co. do a pretty straightforward take on the classic with sweet piano melody, James’ light howl and some rather gorgeous harmonies from The Head and The Heart.
“Father Christmas,” The Kinks
Ever wanted to kick the crap out of a department store Santa and take all of his money? In this tune by The Kinks, that’s exactly what happens. Toys aren’t worth as much to the kids as cash. (Or, as one kid asks, a job for his dad, who’s been out of work for awhile.)
Photos: Christmas at Union Station over the years