Indie Christmas Songs


It's not the 1980's anymore so it often feels like the golden age of contemporary Christmas songs has come and gone. Of course Sir Cliff is always good for something new every December but how many Christmas songs from the current century would you include on your festive compilations? Not many I'd wager. But then, chances are you many not have been looking in the right places because the indie scene has been producing gleaming new Christmas tunes every year since the internet and cheap modern recording devices gave them an opportunity to do so. What we've done here is chosen 2000 as year zero and picked the top 30 indie Christmas songs (in no particular order, although our fave is probably Low's 'Just Like Christmas') that have arrived in that time. We think all 30 are pretty fantastic and the hope is that you'll find some that will sit neatly beside 'Last Christmas', 'Stop The Cavalry' and 'Christmas in Hollis'. You'll find videos for many of the songs at the bottom of this page.

Top 30 Indie Christmas Songs

1) The Very Most - Away In A Manger (2009)

Let's face it there is nobody who can argue about the longevity of this standard but how many versions of it have made you want to dance? None really, well not until Idaho's best kept secret the Very Most indie-popped it up. This sort of thing could give cover's a good name.


2) The Weepies - All That I Want (2007)

This has a country feel, almost Aimee Mann but a bit gentler. With soft sleigh bell edges this California duo create the seasonal sound despite another hot one outside.


3) Ron Sexsmith - Maybe This Christmas (2002)

A true Christmas classic from the softly singing Canadian, who has released a batch of understated but beautiful albums. Sexsmith leaves the irony aside and sings for traditional values and hopes for a bright new future. It's only 2 minutes long but what a memorable little ditty it is.


4) Venice Is Sinking - The Grey Line (2007)

This is undoubtedly the saddest Christmas song we've ever heard. Sad but triumphant all the same, from a Georgia band that offer so much but who receive so little in return. All 'The Grey Line' needs is a solitary viola, some sleigh bells and Karolyn Troupe's vocals to have us curling up in front of the yuletide log.


5) Richard Hawley - Silent Night (2006)

Ex Pulp member Richard Hawley sounded all demure as his deep voice and a distant slide guitar gave this old classic the attentive treatment it deserved.


6) Natalie Prass - No Better Time (2010)

Natalie Prass may not be that well known (yet), even in indie circles, but the Nashville songstress has already recorded one of the most startling Christmas songs this century. Her vocals are playful, like a small tot at 5am on Christmas morn, and the surrounding jazzy ensemble just recreates the feeling of the holidays of yore.


7) Frightened Rabbit - It's Christmas So We'll Stop (2007)

Ever since it appeared a couple of years back we've been entranced by this genuine article from Scotland's Frightened Rabbit. It has so much potential they even recorded a choral version, which just increases the amount of goosebumps you'll experience each time it comes on the radio at Christmas time.


8) Low - Just Like Christmas (2000)

As we've mentioned already this is probably our favourite Christmas song from the new decade. It is taken from Low's 1999 Christmas release (we only heard it in 2000 on a compilation from that year called 'It's A Cool, Cool Christmas', so there! ) and unlike the slow march of most of their other tunes it boasts an ingenious momentum. The percussion is immense and recalls Phil Spector's wall of sound, then there is the heavy sleigh belling and Mimi Parker's eloquent vocals in the midst of the wonderful brouhaha.


9) Parenthetical Girls - Do You Fear What I Fear (2006)

For most of their career Portland's Parenthetical Girls have created an admirable but near impenetrable sound. But, that all changes once December 1st arrives as the Zac Pennington led troupe go all misty eyed and tinsel led. On 'Do You Fear What I Fear' they sound demure and glacial, like a quiet frozen lake.


10) The Heavy Blinkers - Silence Your Drum (2010)

Nova Scotia band the Heavy Blinkers enlisted singer Jenn Grant to give 'Little Drummer Boy' a modern reworking and the result is one of the finest renditions of the traditional tune.


11) Joy Zipper - Christmas Song (2003)

Vincent Cafiso and Tabitha Tindale are the dreamy Joy Zipper who create shimmering pop classics. In 2003 they turned their hand to the subject of Christmas and although it lacked the usual bolted on Christmas symbols it presented a much warmer hearth than most bands could even write to Santa for.


12) Allo Darlin' - Baby, It's Cold Outside (2008)

It's been covered a million times but Elizabeth Darling and her mandolin give ' Baby, It's Cold Outside' just one more precious interpretation.


13) Grandaddy - Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland (2000)

Masters of meloncholy indie pop these Modesto bearded wonders nailed 'Winter Wonderland' with much too many words, about their idol Alan Parsons, and some wonderfully rendered harmonies. You'll cry but most of all you'll smile at the glory of this much underrated act.


14) Remington Super 60 - Here Comes Christmas (2007)

A classic winter melody from Norweigan band Remington Super 60 which included a sing-along chorus and an avalanche of winning harmonies.


15) Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance! (2006)

Artists don't get more artistic than good auld Sufjan but come festive time each year he really lets his hair down. In fact Stevens has recorded more Christmas songs that most bands record for their entire back catalogue. 'Come On! Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance!' is a priceless original with the charm of the Polar Express and the giddiness of a Muppet's Family Christmas.


16) Bright Eyes - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2002)

Got to admit that this standard is often lost on us but Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes does a wonderful job of giving it the kick up the pants it requires. Oberst cleverly retains a sense of the traditional sound but 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' is also given a pleasing energetic makeover.


17) Darker My Love - Snow Is Fallen (2010)

L.A. rockers Darker My Love hit the target with their sweetly jangling stomper 'Snow Is Falling'. Your frozen limbs will thank you for letting this warm audio into their life.


18) The Keys - Queuing Up For Christmas (2009)

Welsh retro janglers the Keys would seem ideal for Christmas recipes. And so it proved to be in 2009 when 'Queuing Up For Christmas' lit up our hearts to the same degree as the city centre's over ambitious lighting display.


19) Teenage Fanclub - Christmas Eve (2000)

This was originally written by another indie band called Gorky's Zygotic Mynci but Teenage Fanclub's version has the edge. In what is just a very short near-instrumental it seems utterly odd that it should sweep us off our feet every time.


20) Nina Hynes - Twinkle (2008)

Nina Hynes is not exactly prolific but that doesn't stop her from recording precious tunes every now and then. This one was created especially for Dublin's Indiecater Records' Christmas compilation in 2008. And yes it does twinkle and in many ways it is also a little star.


21) Boca Chica - Not On Christmas Eve (2010)

Pittsburgh's Boca Chica play a cute strand of alt-country that generally comes out all quietish in nature. But that all changed with 'Not On Christmas Eve' where they kicked out the jams for a good old yuletide rant. Gotta stay off the mulled wine Hallie.


22) Matt Pond PA - Holiday Road (2005)

Matt Pond took Lindsey Buckingham's non-Christmas tune 'Holiday Road' and turned into a very special one indeed. Or maybe they didn't, it just sounds that way to us.


23) Julian Koster - Jingle Bells (2008)

How about something different, very different. Julian Koster recorded a whole Christmas album in 2008 with the help of his singing saw (actually a real saw but with added bauble articulation). It's a bit weird but then that doesn't stop you wearing a Santa Hat every December 24th.


24) The Dandy Warhols - Little Drummer Boy (2000)

Talk about a radical reinvention! Cover songs don't get this disruptive normally but Portland's the Dandy Warhol's were approaching their high watermark when they upturned this standard and made it into a party animal. And in an instant the boy doth become a man. Taken from the extremely rare 'It's A Cool, Cool Christmas' comp.


25) Carolyn Sills - George Bailey (2007)

Santa Cruz's Carolyn Sills went all Phil Spector for their homage to the much loved character from 'It's A Wonderful Life'. A retro classic for those who prefer old style Christmas treats.


26) Idaho - Santa Claus Is Weird (2001)

He is not the only weird one given the framework of this little oddity. But for all its sadcore leanings there is something loveable about the way we reach the end of this story. Piano and voice rarely make better unions that this.


27) Standard Fare - Tinsel Politics (2009)

Little known, even in their home town of Sheffield, Standard Fare hit top gear on their battle of Christmas wits in the hilarious 'Tinsel Politics'. This is undeniably twee but also great fun for the season.


28) Super Furry Animals - The Gift That Keeps Giving (2007)

The normally idiosyncratic Welsh indie popsters went straight-laced with this gorgeous Christmas tune which they gave away to their fans from their website in 2007.


29) Candy Claws - Christmas Love (2008)

It may be only 90 seconds long but Fort Collins duo Candy Claws pack so much cheer into that short space of time to ensure they're embraced to the same degree each winter as they are for the rest of the year.


30) Chris Garneau - It's Almost Christmas (2007)

If only I had this to sing when I was growing up, when the gap between the start of December and Christmas week felt like 10 whole lifetimes. Chris Garneau is a gentle sort and this is such a warm innocent little festive tune.