The big music news this shopping season is that "Wonderful Christmastime," the cover of Paul McCartney's insipid holiday hit by indie-rock band the Shins, has surpassed Mariah Carey's superior 1994 perennial "All I Want for Christmas is You" as the most-played song in retail outlets in the run-up to Christmas Day.
That's according to PlayNetwork, a service that helps retail brands maintain an endless holly-jolly loop allegedly conducive to making cash registers go ka-ching. Coming in behind the Shins and Carey are Christina Aguilera's "Christmas Time," the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping," and Jack Johnson's "Someday at Christmas." Never fear, some old standards are hanging in, like treasured stockings: Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and Ella Fitzgerald's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" made the Top Ten.
There are a fair share of standards on the Christmas playlist that follows, too, but most won't be overly familiar, because the songs come from new releases. All 25 songs came out in 2015, though in a few instances, older recordings from reissues are included.
There isn't a single new blockbuster holiday album this year: The biggest seller is That's Christmas to Me, by a cappella quintet Pentatonix, which came out in 2014. But even a balmy December brings a holiday music blizzard, and there are new collections from the Braxton Family, bluegrass singer Rhonda Vincent, and the Count Basie Orchestra. And, yes, parents, there is My Little Pony: It's a Pony Kind of Christmas.
Lots of acts release individual Christmas songs, often scattered across competing platforms. "Dirt Sledding" by the Killers, who put out an AIDS in Africa charity tune every year, is on iTunes, and Ellie Goulding's "O Holy Night" streams on YouTube. One high-profile album, Indie From the Holidays, is gettable only on Amazon.
1. "Alone On Christmas Day," Phoenix and Bill Murray, with Jason Schwartzman, Paul Shaffer, and Buster Poindexter.
"How about you fellas play something that nobody knows?," Bill Murray suggests to rock band Phoenix, who play French chefs in the Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas.
The band cooks up this charming, forgotten Beach Boys tune. Sadly, it's the only Very Murray song commercially available, though the Jenny Lewis-featuring cover of the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" is on YouTube.
2. "8 Days of Hannukah," Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
"Latkes with applesauce, sour cream and all" rhymes with "the brisket the kosher butcher sold my Uncle Saul" in this seasonal staple-to-be by the Brooklyn retro-soul band. From the ecumenically enjoyable It's a Holiday Soul Party, the standout holiday album of the year.
3. "Christmas Wrapping," Kylie Minogue with Iggy Pop
A remake of the 1981 classic by Boston indie band the Waitresses. A highlight of Australian pop star Minogue's so-so Kylie Christmas, in which our heroine beats the humbugs by bumping into Iggy while shopping for cranberries.
4. "Last Christmas," Carly Rae Jepsen
A cover of the 1985 Wham! hit by the Canadian singer who built post-"Call Me Maybe" cred this year with her solid album Emotion.
5. "Silent Night," the Hooters
The Philly band's close-harmony version of the 19th-century Austrian carol is included on the newly issued compilation The Classic Christmas '80s Album.
6. "Let It Snow," Aloe Blacc
Straight-up, well-sung acoustic version of the Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne 1945 classic, from the "I Need a Dollar" singer's simply titled four-song EP, Christmas.
7. "Under the Stars," John Legend
Gospel-tinged, spiritually seeking, "Little Drummer Boy"-flavored ballad by the Ohio-bred, University of Pennsylvania-educated singer.
8. "Merry Xmas," Fetty Wap, featuring Monty
The one-eyed North Jersey "Trap Queen" rapper gets in the Christmas game with this woozy romance. Available only on SoundCloud.
9. "Christmas Party," the Opposite Ends
A witty wonder about making the most of interpersonal opportunities at the office get-together, by the Philadelphia duo of Chris Hunter and Maxx Stoyanoff-Williams. The latter leads rap revue Black Landlord. From the Office Party EP, which also includes holiday-theme winners about Black Friday and Martin Luther King Day.
10. "Christmas the Whole Year Round," Sabrina Carpenter
Perky poptimism song from the Disney teen star and Girl Meets World actress.
11. "8 Day Weekend," Yo La Tengo with Jeff Tweedy
Hoboken trio known for their Hanukkah shows tear into Gary U.S. Bonds' "7 Day Weekend," revised for the Jewish holiday. On Christmas Time Again!, the dB's & Friends indie compilation first issued in 1985. The new songs on this iteration include the Robyn Hitchcock monologue "The Day Before Boxing Day."
12. "Must Be Santa," LeAnn Rimes
Former '90s teen country star tackles a tune based on a German drinking song polka-ized by Bob Dylan on his divisive 2009 album, Christmas From the Heart. From Rimes' Today is Christmas.
13. "Yabba Dabba Yuletide," Brian Setzer Orchestra
A raucous recasting of the Flintstones theme by the rockabilly and swing revivalist on his third Christmas album.
14. "Deck the Halls (With Boughs of Holly)," Langhorne Slim
The Bucks County native puts a little garage-rock into a time-honored chestnut on Amazon's Indie for the Holidays collection.
15. "Slick Nick, You Devil You," Fishbone
"Slick Nick stole a reindeer from the zoo / fell down my chimney with a keg of brew." Terrific comic riff by the great ska-punk band, also on Classic Christmas '80s.
16. "Jingle Dem Bells," RuPaul with Big Freedia
A New Orleans bounce-music meeting of the drag queen minds, from Slay Belles, the sequel to RuPaul's 1997 Ho Ho Ho.
17. "Good Morning Blues," Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Cécile McLorin Salvant
Fab vocalist Salvant dazzlingly digs into Count Basie's Christmas blues, from the JALC's excellent Big Band Holidays.
18. "The Christmas Song," India.Arie
A classy take on Mel Tormé's standard by the Atlanta neo-soul woman, from her new Joe Sample collaboration, Christmas With Friends.
19. "Someday at Christmas," Stevie Wonder
Gorgeous title track to Wonder's 1967 Christmas album, heard in a new rendition this season in an Apple Music commercial.
20. "White Christmas," Les Paul and Mary Ford
Lovely version of Irving Berlin's snowy standard by the jazz guitarist and his vocal partner, on Christmas Cheer! EP released on red vinyl for Record Store Day.
21. "The Season," Elizabeth Morris
Touching and tender tune by this Australian-born songwriter who fronts the London band Allo Darlin' about "trying to be a better friend at Christmas." Available on the Athens EP on elizabethmorris.bandcamp.com.
22. "The Christmas Waltz," SOAK
Another sterling Sammy Cahn-Styne song, here recorded by Bridie Monds-Watson, the 19-year-old Irish singer whose Before We Forgot How to Dream debut was a 2015 overlooked gem. Also on Amazon's Indie compilation.
23. "There Was a Star," Staple Singers
Originally recorded for the gospel group's 1962 album The 25th Day of December, this celebration of a holy birth is included on the new Staples box set Faith & Grace: A Family Journey, 1953-1976.
24. "Auld Lang Syne," Titus Andronicus
The clock strikes 12 on 2015 on this solemn take on the Robert Burns farewell song, played straight on the punk band's epic The Most Lamentable Tragedy.
25. "What Begins on New Year's Day," Robert Pollard
The Guided by Voices protean songwriter gets us started on 2016 with a taut two minutes that looks cautiously ahead to the aftermath of the festive season.