‘Tis the season for festive tunes.
It can be tough to round out your playlist for the holiday season, especially when you’re looking for some non-traditional holiday tracks or indie covers of festive classics. If want to indulge in some dreamy indie cuts from your favourite artists, we’ve got a gift for you that will keep on giving.
Check out this list of the best indie tracks for the holiday season.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “All I Want For Christmas”
Sleigh bells ring, guitars shiver, and vocals quake in this festive, yet deadpan style tune. When the track was released, the band dedicated the sweet Christmas anthem to all of the people they love.
The Head And The Heart – “What Are You Doing New Years Eve”
The Head And The Heart took on Frank Loesser’s 1947 track “What Are You Doing New Years Eve” for Starbucks’ Holidays Rule, which also featured covers from Paul McCartney, Rufus Wainwright, and Andrew Bird.
The Shins – “Wonderful Christmas”
The Shins were also featured on Starbucks’ Holidays Rule where they performed an upbeat, jangly rendition of Irving Berlin’s 1942 holiday anthem “Wonderful Christmas.”
Sufjan Stevens – “Christmas Unicorn”
Lovable indie weirdo Sufjan Stevens released a series of Christmas songs over the years, but this delightfully ridiculous track is definitely a fan favourite and a necessity for the holiday season.
Frightened Rabbit – “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop”
This wailing, heartbreaking track from the late Scott Hutchison’s indie rock band is a necessity on your holiday playlists. When they released the song, the band stated that they “like to think this song captures the true meaning of Christmas.”
Radiohead – “Winter Wonderland”
This tough to find track is a cut from a partially holiday webcast they hosted on their official website in 2002 called “Inside Out Night,” where the legendary English rock band performed their rendition of “Winter Wonderland.”
LCD Soundsystem – “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”
Three years after the band’s break up, LCD Soundsystem shared a Christmas track called “Christmas Will Break Your Heart.” According to their Twitter, James Murphy had been singing the “depressing Christmas song” to himself for eight years before finally recording and releasing it.
Death Cab For Cutie – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Death Cab for Cutie released this track back in 2004. Although they stick close to the original song, the indie rock legends add a modern edge to the tune with Ben Gibbard’s iconic vocals.
Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
This harmony driven track is sung with the words returning in a round as the background melodies shift in tangent. “White Winter Hymnal” is the perfect song for a snowy day with the eerie repetition and echoing vocals.
Bright Eyes – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Get ready to weep with this heartbreaking, slowed down festive track. Conor Oberst’s dark, harrowing vocals are layered on top of a slow piano line and agonizing harmonies.
Courtney Barnett – “Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)”
Barnett’s “Boxing Day Blues (Revisited)” was released as an A-side to her cover of Boys Next Door’s “Shivers,” and recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Studios. The track serves as an epilog to “Boxing Day Blues,” the last track off her debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.
Pale Waves – “Last Christmas”
Earlier this year, Pale Waves kicked off the holiday season with a synth-heavy goth pop cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” for Spotify’s Singles series, giving the traditional track a dark edge.
Bahamas – “Christmas Must Be Tonight”
Afie Jurvanen’s musical project Bahamas covered The Band’s Christmas Must Be Tonight, featuring Jurvanen’s smooth voice, glistening backing vocals, and a simple, clanky guitar line.
Phoebe Bridgers – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Los Angeles’ Phoebe Bridgers released a cover of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” which will definitely get your eyes watering. The track is painfully sweet and nostalgic, with waning instrumentals and heartbreaking falsettos.
Wolf Alice – “Santa Baby”
Wolf Alice’s cover of “Santa Baby” puts a gritty twist on the euphemism-filled holiday classic. With cloudy, full vocals and a simple electric guitar line, this track is sure to get you singing along this festive season.
The Darcys – “Another Log On The Fire”
The Darcys’ “Another Log On The Fire” is a smooth, R&B-esque track with a hint of festive bells that make the track a unique holiday jam. “It’s a pretty simple concept,” the duo explained in a statement. “Who doesn’t want to keep the fire burning a little longer this Christmas?”
Hey Rosetta – “New Year Song”
In 2012, Hey Rosetta! released an EP called A Cup of Kindness Yet, which was sprinkled with a handful of holiday songs. This track starts with original lyrics from the East Coast band, and builds into a sing along of the New Year’s classic “Auld Lang Syne.”
Pheonix ft. Bill Murray – “Alone On Christmas Day”
In honour of Bill Murray’s release of his star studded Netflix Christmas special A Very Murray Christmas, indie rock icons Pheonix joined Murray for a cover of Beach Boys’ “Alone on Christmas Day.” Not only is it a jolly holiday tune, but all proceeds from the track go towards UNICEF.
The Staves – “Home Alone, Too”
The folk-rock track is a soft ballad that’s sure to make the snow swirl and Christmas lights flicker. The melancholic holiday tune is about being heartbroken during the holidays, with the narrator wondering if their ex is living the same sorrowful festive activities she is.
Robyn – “Last Christmas (Wham! Cover)”
Robyn got in the festive spirit this year by covering Wham!’s classic holiday track, “Last Christmas.” Her rendition is stripped back compared to the Swedish pop star’s usual songs, led by a tinny drum track and a simple piano line.