The month of December is undoubtedly the best time of the year, I don't care if you're religious or not. All the lights, the holiday cheer, the cold weather, the time off work/school - what could be better? While these things are all lovely, the music around this time of year is my favorite part of the season. There's nothing like those old classic tunes to comfort you into the spirit of the season. From late November until New Years, I'm not listening to much else. Sometimes, though, I can only take so much Michael Bublé and Nat King Cole. I've compiled a list of my favorite renditions that you might not hear on the radio or in the stores. Happy Holidays and happy listening!
Wonderful Christmastime - The Shins
Start off the season with this cult-classic covered by the Shins. The foundation of my family is basically built upon the Beatles so Paul McCartney’s famed Christmas tune has always been near and dear to my heart. While I could never get tired of McCartney’s rendition, the Shins do add their own flair and bring some new energy to an old tune. It also helps that it hails from one of my favorite albums, Holidays Rule, which features many of the greatest.
Blue Christmas - The Lumineers
This next tune has recently moved to the number one slot in my list of top favorite Christmas songs. I found that I truly couldn’t go more than a few days without this song getting stuck in my head. I was most familiar with the She & Him version in which Zooey Deschanel’s hauntingly beautiful voice encapsulates the mood of the song perfectly. However, last year when the Lumineers released their version, I was over the moon. Wesley Schultz’s scratchy lead vocals paired with the harmonies of Neyla Pekarek give the song a whole new feel. I can’t say I haven’t waltzed around my house listening to this one…
Come Thou Font of Every Blessing - Sufjan Stevens
On a slightly less secular note, Sufjan Stevens gives us an incredible rendition of "Come Thou Font." This is one of those songs that I think is gorgeous no matter how it’s performed, but Stevens is up there with some of the greatest. Any church-song-turned-folk-song is a win in my book. Plus, at the end of the day, it’s Sufjan Stevens. He rocks.
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem - Bright Eyes
Who knew that the band I listened to during my angsty teen moments in high school would have created this little hidden gem? Bright Eyes gives us a simple reminder of the reason for the season with this one. Another church tune, "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of those songs that I forgot I loved until I heard it done well.
O Come O Come Emmanuel - Beta Radio
Much like "Come Thou Font," "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is one of those Christmas songs that is eternally beautiful to me; and Beta Radio’s version is a syncopated success. There are so many reasons to rejoice during this time of year and it’s nice to remember that during the hectic holidays. The harmonies and soft drums give this tune a whole new life outside of the church hymnal it’s so often confined to.
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve - The Head and the Heart
Confession: I listen to this one year-round. While I am biased because The Head and the Heart is one of my favorite bands of all time, this rendition is one of the best I’ve heard. It’s another classic from Holidays Rule and is here for you from now through the New Year. Or if you’re like me, every month until Christmas comes around again next year.
Auld Lang Syne - Andrew Bird
You can’t go wrong with Andrew Bird during the holidays. If you haven’t checked out his “So Much Wine, Merry Christmas,” I highly suggest that you do so immediately because it’s also one of my favorites. In terms of classic covers though, Bird’s "Auld Lang Syne" is hard to beat. His unparalleled instrumentals and gravelly voice are the perfect combination for the song. Yet another Holidays Rule tune, Bird adds a new spin to the song that rings in the New Year for so many. Out with the old and in with the new! Or should I say auld?
Baby It's Cold Outside - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats ft. Julie Davis
Shoutout to my brother for introducing me to my new favorite version of this holiday classic. While many superstars have already released their own renditions of this song, Rateliff takes a new twist by switching the male and female parts of the duet to bring an entirely new feel to the tune. The juxtaposition of his soulful, bellowing voice against the soft, sweet tone of Julie Davis provides this holiday season's finest vibrations for your spirit-ready ears. So, grab some hot cocoa (or better yet a Hot Toddy), sit your buns by a crackling fire, and let the music take you away.