I've learned some of the best holiday music playlists are often sans words, especially for background music for parties, office or home gathering.
I'm not too proud to admit I love Vince Guaraldi Trio's Charlie Brown Christmas, I've seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert, and I even own a few Mannheim Steamroller CDs. But there comes a time when I need some different sounds, especially during the Christmas season. If this is the case for you, try a few of these holiday gems on for size:
August Burns Red: Home Alone Theme
This metalcore band's take on the theme of the John Hughes hit was featured on the deluxe edition of the Punk Goes Christmas compilation. Great cover, but play it too loud and you might make your extended family disappear.
If you want some more of their metal Christmas sounds, I recommend picking up their 2012 release, Sleddin' Hill, A Holiday Album, which includes their covers of standards like Carol of The Bells and Sleigh Ride, as well as the more alt folk driven title track:
John Fahey: Carol of the Bells
When I was in high school, I took guitar from a local jazz musician who loved slide, steel, and primitive guitar sounds. This 1975 piece by the late guitarist John Fahey, a duet with Richard Ruskin, is one he had me learn during the holiday season.
Ottmar Liebert: Shepherds Nite Watch
I lived near Santa Fe for a couple of years, and it was hard to get away from the sound of nouveau flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert and his band Luna Negra. This wasn't a bad thing, because his music is exquisite. This one off his first Christmas CD is especially peaceful and fluid.
Brian Setzer Orchestra: Bach's Bounce
Setzer has nearly dominated radio stations during the Christmas season, who tend to overplay his big band style renditions of Jingle Bells and The Nutcracker Suite. So much so, some of his other fun covers get nearly ignored, including this smooth cover of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring:
Wolfgang Lohr and Balduin: Jingle Bells
My 16-year-old daughter is a big gamer and currently hooked on the weird retro style of Bendy & the Ink Machine and Cuphead. She's also a huge 1940s buff. As a result, she's gotten into the electro swing sound, and scooped me in to some of it as well. Here's an example of that sound when it get its mitts on Christmas music.
The radio edit of this features vocals by Scarlett Quinn, but I enjoy the goofy, catchy instrumental version better.
If you're worried about someone either getting offended by Christmas lyrics or starting unnecessarily loud sing-alongs, either don't invite these buzzkills in the first place or toss in some of these instrumentals. Hey, no words, no worries!