I’ll admit it – I love Christmas music.  But not the classics – the classics are for family gatherings where your grandparents can’t take the thumping bass of Beck’s Little Drum Machine Boy.  For me, there is nothing better than a contemporary artist making a Christmas (or Holiday) song – and when a bunch of them do it and put a compilation album together – I am a happy man.

Now if you disagree with my list there is a comment section at the bottom of this post – but keep in mind I have been making Holiday mix cds for my friends since 1998 – so you better come correct.

5. The Hotel Cafe Presents… Winter Songs – Female Friends of Hotel Cafe Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson - The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs

For those of you that don’t live in LA – Hotel Cafe is a little concert venue down on Fairfax.  In the past few years people have really begun to take notice and the small venue that used to see up and coming folk artists singing to their friends is now packed with people.  If you pick up a singer-songwriter cd at Starbucks and the artist is under 40, they probably got their start at the Hotel Cafe.

Their first jump into a Christmas album is good – but limiting.  Basically the album only features female performers – and no, Hotel Cafe is not a ladies only venue.  Aside from excluding what could have been some amazing male songs (think about Brett Dennen or Buddy Christmas…maybe next year) the album is good.

Kate Havnevik – Winter Wonderland

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Colbie Caillat – Mistletoe

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4. Verve Remixed Christmas – Various Artists Louis Armstrong & The Commanders - Verve Remixed Christmas

The Verve Remixed series has been taking artists from their Verve catalog (Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, etc) and pairing them with modern djs and remixers. Yet, the result isn’t what you’d expect to find on the top 10 Hype Machine popular songs. But rather the remixes are done with care to match the style and energy of the original.

The Christmas addition to the series is no different – a great selection of new instruments and studio effects added to classic holiday songs. And it is nice to hear some nice old school Christmas songs that don’t include Bing Crosby and his holiday mafia thugs.

Count Basie & His Orchestra – Good Morning Blues (The Real Tuesday Weld Clerkenwell Remix)

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Dinah Washington – Silent Night (Brazilian Girls Remix)

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3. This Warm December – Jack Johnson & Friends Jack Johnson - This Warm December: Brushfire Holiday's, Vol. 1

Living in Southern California I find this album refreshing.  I was trying to find a December background for my laptop today and it was hard to find one without snow.  But we don’t have snow in Santa Monica – occasionally we’ll have some brush fires and ash will float down from the sky – but try catching those flakes on your tongue.

Jack has brought his Brushfire Record mates along for this album, and although short, is a great album.  Many of the songs have very little instrumentation, relying on the power of the acoustic guitar and vocals.  And it is kinda nice to not hear chimes, bells, and rolling drums in a Christmas song.

Jack Johnson – Someday At Christmas

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Rogue Wave – Christmas

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2. Kevin And Bean Christmas, 1990-2006

If you grew up in Southern California you are well aware of this epic Christmas music series.  Kevin and Bean are the morning DJs on KROQ and for 16 years they got the top artists in rock to record a track for their christmas album.  Back when record stores weren’t on the endangered list you would have to find a Sam Goody and buy the album before they sold out – at $5 a pop.  I remember driving an hour and a half one time to get a copy of Fo Shizzle St. Nizzle.

While not technically available anymore if you were lucky enough to get your hands on these albums, you probably have the greatest indie rock christmas playlist of all time.  I have no idea why they stopped doing the album last year – F you Kevin and Bean (but I guess thanks for the memories).

Jimmy Eat World – Last Christmas

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Travis – River

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1. Songs For Christmas – Sufjan Stevens Sufjan Stevens - Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas

If you subscribe to this blog you probably knew where my list was headed – but you can’t really argue with this one.  This is the third year for us to spend December listening to Sufjan’s FIVE disc Christmas album.

Of course everyone knows the story of how he made these albums for his friends and family every year for six years (yeah, he totally skipped a year).  And then in November 06 he released all of the albums together as a box set with an essay, some photos, stickers, and some other crap.  But Jesus (pun intended) was this the Christmas album to end all Christmas albums.  The songs are all amazing, he covers classics and writes new ones.  And the music is for the most part calm enough that you could play it for the relatives Christmas morning.

Sufjan Stevens – Joy to the World

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Sufjan Stevens – Sister Winter

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If you liked this post check out the Muffin’s 2009 list of Indie Christmas Songs.



  1. Hanan on Tuesday 2, 2008

    thanks a bunch!

  2. Dan on Tuesday 2, 2008

    Since you’ve been making Holiday mix cds since 1998, we can expect more Christmas song posts?

  3. Foote on Tuesday 2, 2008

    I Love this time of year…nice work Frank!

  4. indiecater on Tuesday 2, 2008

    If I could be so bold as to plug our new Christmas album consisting of 17 original songs from lots of new indie bands from all over the world including the Cloud Room, Idaho, Jape and the Very Most. http://www.indiecater.com is where you can listen to it all. We think it’s great but then we are biased and obsessed with Christmas.

  5. Nate on Tuesday 2, 2008

    Rosie Thomas’ xmas album is awesome as well.

  6. David on Tuesday 2, 2008

    I am going to have to forward this.

  7. Danny P on Tuesday 2, 2008

    You seriously put a Jack Johnson album on a list of top 5 *indie* Christmas albums?

  8. Bill Murray on Tuesday 2, 2008

    BWAhahahahahahaha…INDIE?!?!?