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Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Every song on this mix is performed by monkeys. Every. Last. One.
Every song on this mix is performed by monkeys. Every. Last. One. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
A recent Onion headline read, "Brief Reprieve From Mariah Carey's Christmas Song Comes To Resounding End." "All I Want For Christmas Is You" may have supplanted "White Christmas" on Billboard's holiday charts, but that's a rare coup in the world of Christmas music. Year after year, the same songs start to roll out around Thanksgiving. Attempts at updating the standards — or, heaven forbid, making them "hip" — usually end up in a big glob of gooey badness.
Around the holidays, we like our traditions. We go home. We listen to the music that accompanies memories of childhood holiday celebrations, sitting fireside with family and enjoying the freedom of winter break. Occasionally, we take it too far and end up blasting songs that cross the fine line between cozy comfort and sickly sweetness. It's called schmaltz, people, and everybody's got their limit.
Sometimes on Christmas, people get dumped or lose their jobs, or spend the night in jail. So here's a mix of off-the-beaten-path holiday songs for those people, and for the rest of us.
Here, you'll hear artists like Low, Paul Simon and The Pogues seek out the meaning of the holiday, which seems like an especially appropriate endeavor in a time when people are macing each other on Black Friday. On the lighter side, the season remains rife with irreverence. Most parodies are groaners, but the best are performed with a healthy helping of irony. Kitsch is out in full force, so it's a good time to revisit retro gems dug up from the dollar bin. We threw in a few classics, too — from Elvis Presley, Vince Guaraldi and Frank Sinatra, among others — because they always seem to be in good taste.
We don't think of this mix as an antidote to your shopping mall's holiday music, but more of a palate cleanser. Everyone celebrates in their own way, so tell us what you play during the holidays in the comments or tweet us @nprmusic. The weirder, the better.
This mix was compiled with the help of Folk Alley, WFUV, WXPN and Bill Adler.
Artists In This Mix:
11 Acorn Lane • Johnny Adams • Stanley Adams & Sid Wayne • The Andrews Sisters • Antsy McClain & The Trailer Park Troubadours • The Apples In Stereo • Asleep At The Wheel • Asylum Street Spankers • The Band • Barenaked Ladies • Basement 5 • The Beach Boys • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy • Big Star • Kurtis Blow • David Bowie • James Brown • Dora Bryan • Vashti Bunyan • Kate Bush • Calexico • Carlene Carter • Neko Case • Ray Charles & Betty Carter • Stephen Colbert & Friends • Compay Perro & Supremo Kartel • Bing Crosby • Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks • The Decemberists • Bob Dylan • El Perro Del Mar • El Vez • John Fahey • Feist • The Felice Brothers • The Flaming Lips • Lowell Fulsom • Alton Ellis • The Galli Sisters • Marvin Gaye • Laura Gibson • Vince Guaraldi • The Gypsy Hombres • Half Man Half Biscuit • Smokey Hogg • Homer & Jethro • Hot Chocolate • Etta James • Elton John • Keb' Mo' • Robert Earl Keen • Freddie King • The Kinks • Lady Gaga • Greg Lake • Leadbelly • The LeeVees • John Lennon & Yoko Ono • Les Brown & His Band Of Renown • Lightnin' Hopkins • The Lonely Island • Claudine Longet • Darlene Love • Lyle Lovett • Low • Loretta Lynn • The Maccabeats • Mark Anthony & The Elfs • Matisyahu • Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds • The Mike Curb Congregation • Joni Mitchell • Oscar McLollie & His Honey Jumpers • Pearl Jam • Andrea Perry • The Pogues • Elvis Presley • The Pretenders • John Prine • The Puppini Sisters • The Raveonettes • Patsy Raye • Riders In The Sky • Paddy Roberts • Smokey Robinson & The Miracles • The Roches • Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton • Ronnie Kole Trio • Saint Etienne • The Salsoul Orchestra • Pete Seeger • Reece Shipley • Paul Simon • Nina Simone • Frank Sinatra • Slow Club • Mindy Smith • The Sonics • Sprangalang • Mavis Staples • Star Wars Singers feat. Bon Jovi • Sufjan Stevens • Teenage Fanclub • Irma Thomas • Allen Toussaint • Gordon Voidwell • VoxBop • Loudon Wainwright III • The Waitresses • The White Stripes • Sonny Boy Williamson • Stevie Wonder • Woods • XTC • John Zorn