15 unconventional Christmas albums from the past 50 years

Remember The Singing Dogs? It was a band of canines whose songs were spliced-together dog barks. The group’s Christmas song “Jingle Bells” topped Billboard’s Christmas Singles chart when it was rereleased in 1971, but don’t be fooled: The Singing Dogs’ Christmas album is far from the quirkiest piece of holiday music out there.

Stacker dug into the recesses of Christmas- and holiday-themed LPs and EPs to find 15 unconventional albums that stand out as cultural and musical anomalies within the much-beloved music subgenre. These original albums, compiled as of November 2023, contain some of the most unique holiday songs.

Many famous musicians have released some pretty unique versions of holiday songs. Sufjan Stevens took it to another level, releasing 100 Christmas songs in two installments six years apart. Afroman has a quirky Christmas album with lyrics tailored to his image and some of his favorite pastimes. Even Arcade Fire put together a secret DIY Christmas album.

Keep reading to learn more about these highly unusual holiday albums.

Boyz II Men perform onstage.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc // Getty Images

‘Christmas Interpretations’ (1993) by Boyz II Men

This Christmas album was another wildly popular installment in the Boyz II Men discography. The band put their standard spin of soothing vocals and flawless harmonies on a full slate of new material with only one cover, “Silent Night,” and all in a cappella. The rest of the songs on the album aren’t all as full of joy as traditional Christmas tunes, covering topics like depression, poverty, and love.

Jacob Miller with Inner Circle performing at The Marquee.
David Corio/Redferns // Getty Images

‘Natty Christmas’ (1978) by Jacob Miller and Ray I

Transport to Jamaica with this reggae Christmas album. The record became a Christmas classic with lyrics like “We bring you an irie Christmas” and lots of marijuana references. Plus, most of the songs are set to traditional Christmas tunes, so everyone can easily sing along.

Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, Tim Kingsbury and Richard Reed Parry performing onstage.
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‘A Very Arcade Xmas’ (2002) by Arcade Fire

This album can’t be bought in stores—Arcade Fire members apparently made it for friends, hand-delivered it as holiday gifts, and then someone leaked it online. The album was recorded live at a party in 2001.

Sufjan Stevens performs on his 'Songs For Christmas' tour
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‘Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5’ (2006) and ‘Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10’ (2012) by Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ epic two-part album is split into 10 volumes of 100 songs. Half the songs were released in 2006, the other in 2012. The albums reflect Stevens’ changing style throughout his career, with some songs appearing multiple times, differentiated by style and arrangement.

Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, Matt Livingston perform onstage.
Stefan M. Prager/Redferns // Getty Images

‘Christmas’ (1999) by Low

Low built its reputation on the sad, melancholy sounds and lyrics that are the hallmark of slowcore music, and this Christmas album is no exception. The eight original and cover songs are minimalist, spare, achingly slow, or just a little creepy and odd.

Jim James of My Morning Jacket performing at Cactus Festival.
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‘My Morning Jacket Does Xmas Fiasco Style’ (2000) by My Morning Jacket

This six-song EP mixes originals and covers with some experimental vocals and riffs. Listen for the heavy electric guitar and beautiful harmonies the band is known for while still being left with a relaxed holiday soundtrack.

Pete Wiggs, Bob Stanley and Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne performs on stage
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‘A Glimpse of Stocking’ (2010) by Saint Etienne

This limited-release album wasn’t too surprising for those already fans of Saint Etienne. It was a fun collection of past fan releases and other Christmas song covers, in the standard style anyone came to expect from the band. But only 3,000 copies were made, and for an extra expense, buyers could get a signed Christmas card and a personalized song.

Christopher Lee attends ‘Skyfall’ premiere.
Mike Marsland/WireImage // Getty Images

‘A Heavy Metal Christmas’ (2012) by Christopher Lee

“Lord of the Rings” and “Dracula” actor Christopher Lee was 90 when he released this two-song heavy metal EP. The classically trained singer loved heavy metal, and the EP—which includes “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night”—reflected his talent for the genre.

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew on the set of ‘Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back’.
Lucasfilm/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

‘Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album’ (1980) by Various Artists

The “Star Wars” universe and the real world merged in this Christmas album, which made many people hate it. “Star Wars” characters came through with holiday gems like “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)” and “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The cheese factor is enough to put the average person over the edge, but fetching a copy of this album (CD or vinyl) will set you back a few bucks, as the album now serves as a collector’s item.

Gregg DeGuire // Getty Images

‘A Very Spidey Christmas’ (2018) by ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ cast

What started as a joke in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” became a reality a week after the movie premiered. This EP, previewed in the film, is only five songs and about 11 minutes long. It features the cast singing holiday songs as their characters.

Eban Schletter performs in Los Angeles.
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

‘Eban Schletter’s Cosmic Christmas’ (2009) by Eban Schletter

Those who’ve never heard the sounds of a theremin can get their fill with this album, which is an electronic sensation and so popular it has a Facebook fan page. The album description says it all: “A military satellite finds itself in the midst of a musical ‘transmission’ which forces it to rethink its primary directive.” What follows are electronic, synth, and theremin versions of holiday classics.

Afroman performs on stage.
Johnny Louis // Getty Images

‘A Colt 45 Christmas’ (2006) by Afroman

Afroman’s albums generally contain parental advisories, and this one’s no different. The rapper decided to put his spin on Christmas classics, turning out songs like “Afroman is Coming to Town” and “O Chronic Tree.” Each song showcases Afroman’s trademark musical humor.

Bootsy Collins performs at The Uptown Theater.
Tim Mosenfelder // Getty Images

‘Christmas Is 4 Ever’ (2006) by Bootsy Collins

Funk artist Bootsy Collins released this album on Halloween 2006. None of the songs sound like the original (imagine a funky bass line on “Silent Night”), and some have unique collaborations. Snoop Dogg and George Clinton lend voices on “Happy Holidaze” while “Sleigh Ride” features Charlie Daniels.

Scott Weiland performs at the City Winery.
Taylor Hill // Getty Images

‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ (2011) by Scott Weiland

Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland departed from his rock lifestyle with this kitschy Christmas covers album with a twist. “O Holy Night” is reggae-style, “Silent Night” has some Spanish flair, and the singer croons Sinatra-style for a few of the more classic holiday tunes.

Black and white promotional portrait of Rudy Ray Moore.
Getty Images

‘Merry Christmas, Baby’ (1971) by Rudy Ray Moore

Rudy Ray Moore was a crass comedy legend—and he brought it all for this album. The A-side is relatively benign, with the smooth namesake song “Merry Christmas Baby.” However, those who turn the record over will be hit with a wildly X-rated B-side, with lyrics that match the album sleeve art.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Paris Close.

Provided by Stacker

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