Christmas Crooning: Top 5 Indie Christmas Songs

Alongside dodging crowds of shoppers at the mall, and elderly family member’s long-winded, eggnog-induced stories, one of the most traditional aspects of Christmas is the music.

Sure, we have the traditional Christmas songs that have been around since the early 20th century. We have the songs that you’ll hear on every radio station, at every party, and in every shop in the days leading up to Christmas.

I have to admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for Christmas music. Maybe it’s because I never worked in the retail sector, and never had to endure the same songs on loop for hours on end.

Or maybe it’s the copious amounts of Who Hash.

Whatever the reason, I can’t help but get the warm fuzzies when I hear something like Nat King Cole’s rendition of “The Christmas Song.”

Or when I watch the deliciously cheesy music video of “Jingle Bell Rock”, by everyone’s favorite half-mustachioed duo, Hall and Oates:

Over-the-top grins, gleeful head-bopping, and Santa popping out of thin air like magic?? Oh yes, Hall and Oates have the ability to make even the Grinchiest of hearts grow thrice its size!

A Very Indie Christmas

In recent years, it’s become common for indie bands to cover classic Christmas carols, or to even put out their own original Christmas songs.

The following are my top 5 ‘Indie Christmas Songs.’ Some have been around for awhile, and some have just been released this year.

5. allo, darlin’-Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Originally written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, this song has become a pop standard duet that has been sung by, well, just about everyone.

One of my favorite versions of this song is from the movie “Elf”, when Zooey Deschanel’s character sings it with Will Ferrell’s goofy Elf character.

This version by British artist Elizabeth Morris, a.k.a allo, darlin’, was done in 2008. It’s very lo-fi, and is noticeably missing the male part of the duet. However, this stripped-down rendition is still subtly beautiful in its own right.

Scroll down about halfway down the page, and you can listen to it here.

4. The Raveonettes-The Christmas Song

It may share the same title as the aforementioned Nat King Cole tune, but the similarities end there.

Although the Danish duo released this song a few years ago, like the most overly rum-soaked fruitcake, it’s still just as fresh today.

They take aspects of 50s/60s, Phil Spector-esque music, and put a darker twist on it. Listen here.

And if that tickles your tinsel, you might also enjoy their cover of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

3. Coldplay-Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Coldplay, there are certain songs of theirs that I can’t help but love.

This cover of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is one of those songs.

It’s very simple, with just a piano accompaniment to Chris Martin’s vocals, but it’s emotional and sweet nonetheless.

2. Julian Casablancas-I Wish It Was Christmas Today

Lead singer of one of my favorite bands of all time, The Strokes, Julian Casablancas released a solo album this year: Phrazes For The Young.

Alongside putting out his own album, he decided to cover this comedic Christmas song from Saturday Night Live, a famous sketch show from the U.S.

The song was originally performed as part of a Christmas skit by Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, Chris Kataan, and Tracy Morgan. In the original skit, the comedic value lies in the intentionally silly lyrics, and out-of-tune singing. However, Casablancas manages to put a cool and sultry spin on it, that oozes his New York attitude.

Here is Julian’s version, and here is the original, for comparison.

1. Jomel-Untitled Christmas Song, 2009

Today, I logged onto Facebook to find a notification that I had been tagged in a video.

Curious, I clicked ‘play’ and found that it was an impromptu song by one of my best friends, Jomel, written and performed in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.

The song is filled with inside jokes, over a background of acoustic guitar playing. It definitely put a huge smile on my face when I watched it!

I have to say, there is no better Christmas present than something that comes from the heart; something unique and not mass-produced.

And that’s exactly why this is my number 1 indie Christmas tune of 2009!

What are your favorite Christmas songs of this year? Leave a comment with your top tunes, the reasons why, and links!

Merry Christmas to all!

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Guest Blogger: Robert Van West

As far as holidays go in the U.S, Thanksgiving is right up there with Christmas. Food, family, friends, more food, television specials, more food, passing out: basically, just like Christmas, but without a bearded, obese man handing out presents.

This year was my first Thanksgiving away from home. However, a piece of home came to me in the form of my older brother, Robbie.

He took a few days off from his teaching program in Spain to spend some time with me in London.

Robbie and I celebrating Thanksgiving in London, 2009

Here are some of his thoughts on life and culture in London:

You came to visit me in London over two years ago. What was your perception of London then? Has it changed after this visit?

My first excursion to jolly-old London was marked by a subcultural curiosity fueled perceptions based on music and film.

I expected to encounter cockney gangsters, boisterous soccer hooligans, dirty punk rockers on the dole, ace face mods on scooters and suit clad Jamaican rude boys.

After that first visit, I realized that the subcultural glory of London’s past exists only in London’s past. The upper class international hipster elite have taken over the streets of London and gentrification has taken its toll.

At least there are still good old fashioned Victorian pubs.

My view of London has become more realistic. I’ve realized that the best thing this city has to offer is its Victorian pubs and free museums.

London is as globalized and gentrified as any big city in the west. Almost anything I would want to do in London, I could do in San Francisco, New York or LA.

What are some differences between where you live in Spain and life in London?
London is modern, fast paced, expensive, global and multicultural – whereas rural Spain is rustic, slow paced, inexpensive and culturally homogenous.


Do you think London is one of the top cities in the world, in terms of cultural events going on?

Definitely. London is up there with San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Most everything that can be done in London, as far as cultural events go, can be done in any other big international city.

The “real” London is something that exists under the radar, and is something that most visitors, and even most Londoners, won’t be able to experience

Do you think there’s a greater appreciation for arts/music in London than in other big cities you’ve been to? Why or why not?
This is a tough question. London is a hard working city and it is also a gentrified city.

A lot of mainstream Londoners listen to the same crap with the same feigned appreciation as other people from big cities.

London has a glorious musical past, but it hasn’t been able to recreate what it did in the 60s and 70s.If anything, it has used the imagery of those times in order to pull in more tourism.

How does the music scene in London compare to the scene in San Francisco? Barcelona? In Berlin?
London’s music scene, because of its historical role in the music industry, has a lot more hype than a lot of other cities.

England is also a real small country, so a mediocre London band could get a lot bigger than a superior band from Liverpool, just because the media spreads things faster from London.

Any contemporary music I listen to is underground and independent, so to me it doesn’t matter where the band came from so long as they rock my trouser pants off.

What are the similarities and differences between how people our age behave/socialize in the U.S, Spain, and Germany?
Generally (key word), Americans are more superficial when they socialize; Spaniards are louder and more animated; Germans like to talk a lot about intellectual mumbo-jumbo; and the English seem to fall somewhere between the Germans and Americans.

They enjoy having intellectual conversations with a few pints, but they also know how to get completely wrecked and retarded-drunk.

Do you think the attitude towards Americans in Europe has changed at all since the last time you came here?
No. The English I’ve met always judge Americans the same as anyone else. In my experience, the English are often the most receptive to Americans.

What’s your favorite part about London? Least favorite?
Favorite: Victorian pubs serving hand pumped ales. Least favorite: Helllla fucking expensive assed town, dude.

How did you enjoy Thanksgiving, London-style?
It was the dog’s bollocks.

What was the best part of your trip here?
Seeing my lovely little sister happy and flourishing her new habitat. Ed note: awww

Thanks, Robbie!

Robbie, Brownie, and I: circa 1987