Feeling fatigued by the incessant replay of Mariah Carey’s holiday hits? Yearning for a new soundtrack to accompany the festive season? If this resonates with you, then we have just the antidote here on Endless Crate as we proudly present the ultimate guide to Christmas music that’s genuinely worth listening to.
Venture beyond the well-trodden path of Christmas classics, and you’ll discover a world rich with nuanced and deeply enjoyable seasonal music just waiting to be unearthed. From soulful ballads to holiday-themed hip-hop, there’s a surprising amount of variety and depth of Christmas music once you dig beneath the surface.
And that is exactly what Endless Crate is here to help you do. Pushing past the generic, we’re pleased to present this treasure trove of remarkable hidden holiday gems.
Cookin Soul – Doom X-Mas
Doom X-Mas is a refreshing spin on Christmas music which bridges the gap between traditional holiday classics and underground hip-hop. Produced by Spanish beat maker Cookin Soul, the album features the distinctive lyrical prowess of the epic super-villain MF DOOM flowing atop Xmas-inspired instrumentals. Showcasing Cookin Soul’s dexterous production skills, the album cleverly reinterprets eternal favorites such as “The Grinch” and the iconic Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”.
What sets this album apart is the well-executed fusion of these holiday classics with their unique modern spin, creating the perfect balance of nostalgia and novelty. With its innovative mix of the familiar and the fresh, Doom X-Mas offers listeners a delectably unique holiday experience, making it a must-have addition to any festive music collection.
Kelly Finnigan – A Joyful Sound
As the frontman of San Francisco’s psychedelic retro-soul band Monophonics, Kelly Finnigan brings a timeless soul sound to A Joyful Sound, an album thatseamlessly joins the ranks of esteemed Christmas music albums. Featuring renowned guest musicians from the contemporary soul scene, including the Dap-Kings, this album brims with classic appeal while steering clear of clichéd seasonal sentimentality.
“Just One Kiss” is a delightful blend of festive funk, and the uplifting “The Miracle Is Here” exudes captivating organ riffs and Southern Soul-style horns. A Joyful Sound draws its inspiration from notable influences like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, but uniquely encapsulates challenging realities of the 2020’s while offering a much-needed dose of holiday warmth and serenity.
The Ventures’ Christmas Album
The Ventures’ Christmas Album is an amazing surf rock fusion of holiday themes that transcends expectations, becoming much more than a mere seasonal novelty from a bygone era of popular music. This 1960s album is a buoyant blend of instrumental surf magic, a joyfully eccentric twist on Christmas music that brings a touch of sun-soaked beach atmosphere to the winter season. The Ventures, instrumental surf icons as they are, have created a unique compilation that’s simultaneously reflective of its specific period and radically ahead of its time. Beneath its seemingly unconventional exterior, this album is a sleeper hit—an underrated jewel hailing from the golden era of Christmas pop, ready to enliven your holiday soundtrack with its vibrant surf-infused rhythms.
Reggae Christmas From Studio One
Expertly curated and masterfully executed, Reggae Christmas From Studio One is a real gem in the expansive universe of Christmas music. The album’s ensemble cast represents the crème de la crème of reggae’s golden era, including luminaries like Alton Ellis, the Heptones, Toots & The Maytals, and the seminal Wailers headed by the legendary Bob Marley. These stalwarts lend their talent to the lively roots reggae rhythm that Studio One was revered for, yielding a sound that blends the vibrant pulse of reggae under a Yuletide lens.
Peanut Butter Wolf Presents: Badd Santa (A Stone’s Throw Records X-Mas)
Curated by Stones Throw Records’ maestro Peanut Butter Wolf, Badd Santa (A Stone’s Throw Records X-Mas) is a phenomenal compilation of distinctive, rare and absolutely captivating Christmas music tracks. Peanut Butter Wolf encapsulates the holiday spirit masterfully within this album with tracks like Bruce Haak’s “I Like Christmas”, which offers a charming, vocoded ode the festive season, and Hard Call Xmas’s “My Christmas Bells,” which offers up a holiday-themed take on LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells.” Each tune is a neatly wrapped gift, offering listeners a fresh and energetic take on holiday music.
Mndsgn & Ahwlee – A Rap Vacation X-Mas
A Rap Vacation X-Mas is an ingenious creation by the exceptionally gifted Mndsgn and accomplished producer Ahwlee, offering a masterful mash-up of beloved Christmas music alongside fresh beats. This album pushes the boundaries of traditional holiday music with its seamless blend of trunk-rattling future funk rhythms and iconic lyrics from some of New York’s finest MCs. The fusion of timeless festive tunes with legendary rap artistry builds the perfect soundtrack for those craving a fresh spin on holiday music. A Rap Vacation X-Mas is an essential addition to every contemporary Christmas playlist, marrying the best elements of both classic tunes and modern hip-hop masterpieces.
Chopped & Scrooged
Chopped & Scrooged is an inventive and celebratory dive into Christmas-themed hip-hop, masterfully pieced together by indie rock luminary Sufjan Stevens. This collection marries indie rock with an exciting rap line-up that includes Heems of Das Racist, Kitty Pryde, Nicky Da B, and Busdriver. The production itself is a euphony of magnificence featuring accomplished names such as John Dieterich of Deerhoof, Fol Chen, and Son Lux, among others. The result is a riveting mixtape that intertwines an unconventional yet intriguing Christmas spirit with a delightful array of hip-hop elements, making Chopped & Scrooged a compelling collection of Christmas music for those looking to step outside the musical norm.
Booker T. & The M.G.’s – In The Christmas Spirit
Booker T. & The M.G.’s album In The Christmas Spirit stands as a timeless gem in the realm of festive music, boasting a certain magical quality that elevates it above the gamut of typical Christmas covers. As the formidable house band for label Stax, Booker T. & The M.G.’s were instrumental in refining the essence of southern soul, collaborating with distinguished artists like Sam & Dave and Otis Redding. It’s this pedigree that breathes life into their festive offering, replete with expertly crafted instrumentals that suit both vibrant party atmospheres and tranquil background listening alike. With its captivating blend of skillful rhythm and infectious holiday spirit, In The Christmas Spirit remains an essential part of any Christmas music collection.
Afroman – Afroman’s A Colt 45 Christmas
Afroman’s A Colt 45 Christmas stands as a gleefully audacious and rule-breaking interpretation of holiday sentimentality, defying Christmas music norms and stretching boundaries at every possible turn. This 2016 album delivers an unapologetically offbeat yet engaging discourse on festivities, strategically circumventing even the slightest hint of typical Christmas tropes. The lyrical content boldly carries the spirit of irreverence, reinterpreting traditional holiday classics into edgier content, usually sidelined to preserve modesty. Yet, beneath it all, the nostalgic grooves lend the album an irresistible vintage charm.
Extreme as it may be, A Colt 45 Christmas sparks occasional chuckles and raises eyebrows, revealing the wickedly amusing irony that the album thrives on. It boldly occupies its own bizarre niche in music history, showcasing the audacious oddity that Afroman clearly intended, making it a memorable episode of Christmas pandemonium.
Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra – A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats From Santa’s Bag
A triumph of non-traditional instrumentation, A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats From Santa’s Bag sees Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra enveloping holiday classics in a rich, funk-infused sound. This mostly instrumental offering is a fun ride of vibrant sonic treats, each song impressively conceived with Lee’s inventive arrangements. Far from being limited to the holiday period, the album boasts a replay value that extends beyond the festive season. Its genre-bending fusion of funk, jazz, and jam perfectly captures the holiday’s essence without delving into excess sentimentality, offering listeners a groovy Christmas music listening experience with a proverbial cup of holiday cheer.
Christmas on Death Row
Breaking away from the tried-and-true festive formulas, Christmas on Death Row is an audacious alternative for those seeking something new to spice up their Christmas music repertoire. Its standout track, “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto,” showcases Snoop Dogg in characteristic flair, with the added experience of a music video that sees him transforming into Santa Claus, flying a ’64 Chevrolet alongside the likes of Daz Dillinger, Nate Dogg, Bad Azz, and Tray Dee. The album cover also demands attention, featuring the unmistakable Death Row Records mascot donning a Santa Claus outfit.
John Fahey – The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album
John Fahey’s The New Possibility… is a timeless mid-’60s gem that encapsulates the nostalgic and charming simplicity of the holiday season. Armed with just his acoustic guitar, Fahey relaxes listeners into the slow cadences and gentle rhythms that pervade the album—a perfect accompaniment to a quiet Christmas dinner. Even though the tracks can blend into one another due to the consistency in tempo, they carry an understated majesty when savored individually. Fahey’s inviting strumming weaves a warm and cozy ambience while his innovative renditions of Christmas music classics showcase an ingenious melodic thoughtfulness. Altogether, this album is a cherished collector’s piece, illustrating how a minimalist execution can perfectly capture the essence of Christmas.
Amerigo Gazaway – A Christmas Album
Allow A Christmas Album by Amerigo Gazaway to shake your holiday music landscape with its audacious fusion of traditional festive tunes and neck-snapping boom bap rhythms. This isn’t your standard Christmas compilation, but a bold and inventive interpretation of loved holiday melodies, artfully embedded with an invigorating boom bap pulse. The album traverses the line between reverence for the old and the thrill of the new, making it an absolute must for holiday playlists for those looking to venture beyond the known Christmas music staples.
West Coast Bad Boyz – High Fo’ Xmas
High Fo’ Xmas by West Coast Bad Boyz, a creation of Master P’s prodigious No Limit Records, is a compilation of Christmas gangster rap and arguably one of the finest contributions to holiday-themed hip-hop. Originating from the glorious peak of the label’s pre-New Orleans era in 1994, the album encapsulates the triumph of No Limit Records; its unwavering devotion to mob music, coupled with Master P’s intriguing charisma that continuously uplifts every track. From the great rap ballad encapsulated within the title track to Master P’s engagingly Grinch-like performance in “Jackin’ for the Holidays,” the album skillfully combines compelling beats with yuletide narratives. “Christmas in the Ghetto” deserves a special mention for its intriguing blend of melancholy and lightheartedness, delivering a quintessentially unique holiday rap album offering both enjoyment and deep, meaningful narratives.
DMKTZ – Funky Sweater Party
Funky Sweater Party is a vibrant seasonal beat tape that effortlessly blends holiday spirit with compelling rhythms. Housing the creative genius of prominent producers like Ayojazz, Bapnotes, Dibia$e, Mon$rock, and more alongside a host of brilliant rappers, this festive Christmas music album stems from the fertile realms of the Cold Twelvers / Flipabeatclub collective of producers and MCs. Crafted to turn up the energy at your holiday gatherings, the album’s irresistible tracks are destined to have all eggnog-sipping, sweater-donning attendees in rhythmic unison, making it an undeniable holiday party essential.
Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe & Yomo Toro – Asalto Navideño Vol.II
Asalto Navideño Vol.II is a gem among Christmas music records, holding a reputed status as one of the most treasured throughout Latin music. Drawing its unusual name (which translates to ‘Christmas Assault’) from a festive Puerto Rican tradition involving late-night revelry and camaraderie, this album was a compelling sequel to its best-selling predecessor. Embellishing festive favorites like “La Banda,” “Doña Santos,” and “Cantemos” with their distinctive flair, the trio of Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe, and Yomo Toro stays true to Puerto Rico’s musical roots while skillfully venturing into Afro-Caribbean rhythms, uniting Cuban guaguancó with Brazilian samba. The album is endearingly high-spirited throughout, making it a joyous addition to any holiday playlist.
Duke Pearson – Merry Ole Soul
This 1969 Blue Note release is the embodiment of refined, stylish yuletide jazz, imbuing time-honored Christmas songs with a fresh, lively jazz twist. The album showcases an array of classics such as “Sleigh Ride,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Swinging with a dignified grace, Duke Pearson and his band deliver exceptional renditions throughout the album, making Merry Ole Soul a prime contender for a top spot among Christmas music favorites.
James Brown’s Funky Christmas
James Brown’s Funky Christmas is a charismatic fusion of traditional holiday spirit and invigorating funk, offering a vibrant new perspective on Christmas music. Recorded at the pinnacle of Brown’s illustrious career, this electrifying 17-song compilation not only brings heart and soul into a joyous Christmas ambiance, but also infuses it with powerful doses of funk, ensuring that every holiday is packed with rhythm and energy. Highlights include Brown’s heartfelt renditions of festive classics “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Please Come Home,” yet it’s within new compositions such as “Go Power at Christmas Time” and the socially conscious “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto” that the ever-talented Brown and his superb band truly excel. With JB’s ability to transform the idealized traditional holiday into a captivating real-life celebration, all while keeping that distinctive funky vibe alive, it’s impossible not to delight in the magic of James Brown’s Funky Christmas.
Memphis Cult – Memphis Cult Christmas Edition Vol. 1
Memphis Cult Christmas Edition Vol. 1 is an slammin’ blend of holiday cheer and the characteristic depth of Memphis phonk music. Memphis Cult swings a masterstroke with this album, serving up an irresistible array of intense, bass-heavy beats that encapsulate the raw charm and punchy rapture of Memphis phonk. These beats fill the atmosphere with an infectious rhythm, pulsating with the gritty, low-end frequencies that the Phonk scene is renowned for, while simultaneously infusing a rich holiday spirit.
Whether it’s fueling Santa’s sleigh journey or pumping up your holiday celebrations, these powerful, hypnotic beats create an electrifying soundscape for any Yuletide occasion. For passionate aficionados of Memphis phonk who are in search of a musically immersive journey peppered with festive elements, Memphis Cult Christmas Edition Vol. 1 is the serendipitous marriage of Christmas cheer and hip-hop beats you shouldn’t miss.