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isabel’s holiday playlist: the best indie christmas songs you’ve (n)ever heard, ranging from least to most obscure

surprise your friends and family with new versions of their favorite classics and/or soundtrack all your wintertime hangout sessions with these seasonally-appropriate bangers

Isabel Garcia, Litmag Editor, Copy Editor

  1. christmas treat – julian casablancas

ISABEL’S RATING: 5/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YES!!

“christmas treat” is the epitome of indie christmas music. julian casablancas’ expertly crafted debut solo album, phrazes for the young, was the best thing to happen in all of 2009 (except for my ninth birthday and the release of bitte orca by dirty projectors). this song can do no wrong. i will defend it with my life.

  1. god rest ye merry gentlemen – bright eyes

ISABEL’S RATING: 4/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YES!

even though i typically like conor oberst’s solo stuff better than bright eyes, i can safely say that i would get down to this song, and i do. heavily. quite honestly, this song feels a little darker with all that banjo twanging, but it still manages to maintain all of its original christmas cheer. your grandma may not love it, but your emo cousin sure will.

  1. silver bells – bright eyes

ISABEL’S RATING: 4/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YES!

i decided to include two bright eyes songs because they really went all out on the whole “christmas album” thing. this punk version of “silver bells” starts out with a magnificent cymbal and horn tribute, which is followed by an eerie, intentionally poor choral rendition of the original lyrics. this song doesn’t actually rock that hard, but the important part is that you feel that it does. i’m feeling it, but i’m pretty much always feeling it.

  1. that was the worst christmas ever! – sufjan stevens

ISABEL’S RATING: 5/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YEAH, BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO PLAY IT THERE

this song is equal parts cheery and depressing, as are all sufjan stevens songs. my favorite thing about this song, though, is that it doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat/gloss over the realities of the holidays. first of all, loads of people get hit with seasonal affective disorder every winter, and, to add insult to injury, you are forced to spend an unreasonable amount of time with immediate/extended family. one person can only take so much stress and/or criticism.

  1. did i make you cry on christmas day? (well, you deserved it!) – sufjan stevens

ISABEL’S RATING: 5/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YES, BUT AS I SAID BEFORE, DON’T

this one kind of speaks for itself! the great thing about sufjan is that he often manages to turn very lyrically depressing songs into something remotely happy-sounding. i can honestly say i’ve zoned out listening to this song a couple times and forgotten that it was super sad.

  1. christmas alone – yacht

ISABEL’S RATING: 3/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YEAH, BUT IT’S ALSO PRETTY WEIRD

if you can believe it, this is almost more eccentric than the rest of yacht’s discography. i feel like this is the kind of christmas song that you play in a dystopian society where everything is brightly colored and everyone is pretending to have a good time, but in reality, no one has the emotional capacity to feel things from years of breeding that whole “feelings” thing out of humans. it’s a sweet song to listen to with your equally introverted love while the two of you online shop for more carhartt beanies and mugs with ironic sayings on them in the comfort of your own home.

  1. christmas quiet – tom rosenthal

ISABEL’S RATING: 5/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YES!!

my opinion on this song is definitely biased; i’ve been on a huge tom rosenthal kick lately. he just makes me feel really content with being alone. the music video for “christmas quiet” is super tender, and the song itself is, by and large, the most emotionally and spiritually fulfilling christmas song i have ever heard. thank you, tom, for reminding me to appreciate the little things.

  1. o holy night – keaton henson

ISABEL’S RATING: 4/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: WOULD BE BETTER SUITED FOR A WINTERTIME WAKE

frankly, i’ve always thought the original version of this song was kind of sinister, but when keaton sings it, it goes from creepy to eerily sad. interestingly enough, though, it feels super religious (which, of course, was the original intention of the song but still). i don’t know what else to say about this song other than that keaton has a beautiful voice but it still kind of bums me out.

  1. when christmas comes – los campesinos!

ISABEL’S RATING: 5/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: YES, BUT DON’T LET THEM LISTEN TOO CLOSELY TO THE LYRICS OR THEY MIGHT GET A LITTLE CONFUSED

if there’s anyone i didn’t expect to have a christmas album, it was los campesinos! however, they did it, and they did it well. this song is, oddly enough, seems to be about being in romantic love with someone who reminds gareth david of baby jesus. anyways, it rocks pretty hard! it’s definitely the best song on their album, and while it may not have the notoriety of “christmas treat,” it’s definitely one of the crème de la crème indie christmas songs.

  1. the child with the star on his head – heems of das racist

ISABEL’S RATING: 3/5

SAFE FOR FAMILY GATHERING: NO!!

when this song was released, it was credited to all of das racist, however, it only features heems. this introduced a bit of controversy into the mix, which, quite honestly, i live for. the track first appeared on sufjan stevens’ christmas rap mixtape, chopped & scrooged (and it’s just as eccentric as it sounds). now, it’s not only notable for heems’ heavy, sultry rap; this jam was produced by the john dieterich of deerhoof, a pretty eccentric experimental band (cf dirty projectors, cymbals eat guitars). anyways, it’s a pretty chill little jam, and even though i don’t quite understand it, you don’t have to understand it to have a good time!

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “isabel’s holiday playlist: the best indie christmas songs you’ve (n)ever heard, ranging from least to most obscure”

  1. John M on December 23rd, 2016 3:37 am

    Great list! I love obscure Christmas music. Here’s a playlist of some lesser-known Christmas songs: https://open.spotify.com/user/qaz23/playlist/22Hs4AlaOFExwI0cOEBHSj

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