PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

An Indie Christmas Music List

Scott Elingburg

A list of some Christmas-themed music by indie artists for your lonesome holiday nights.

Christmas music is built on duality, a lopsided mix of saccharine falsity and genuine emotion. For every decent tune we don't mind hearing every December, there's more than a few others that make us want to overdose on spiked eggnog. But Christmas is about taking the good with the bad, the head with the heart, and the joy and humility of the season.

Classic Christmas tunes have dominated the charts for far too long, so don't expect to see any of these ten tunes cracking radio playlists any time soon. In fact, some of these songs aren't even about Christmas specifically; just more about the feeling of longing and nostalgia that accompanies the memories of bygone Christmases past. Some evoke happiness in their desperation, and some call despair to the forefront and parade it about. All are reflective and more than a bit downtrodden, so fair warning to those whose emotional state is perilous enough on frozen winter nights. But if you open your heart and let the good of the season in, there are more than a few songs that surface around Christmastime that can illuminate the beautiful and spiritual side of an otherwise commercially-ridden holiday. Here's hoping you can identify with some of the purity put forth by these indie artists.

 
Destroyer
"Every Christmas" (Thief)

From Dan Bejar's first album under the Destroyer moniker, "Every Christmas" is a staccato, lumbering, off-kilter piano number sans vocals. Musically, it's a strange jarring number that comes in the middle of the rather uneven album, Thief. What it lacks in coherency, it makes up for in pure raw emotion. It's a delicate image of someone plinking away at the piano in an effort to impress family and friends at a Christmas gathering. Bejar taps at the piano with a childlike wonder and finds a pseudo-melody to conjure up the innocence and simplicity of a slapdash song thrown together on Christmas Day. Nothing else sounds as foreign, yet so close to the heart.

 
Kate Bush
"Snowflake" (50 Words for Snow)

If Bejar's "Every Christmas" captures the simplicity of Christmas on the piano, Kate Bush's "Snowflake" captures the complicated elegance and fractured delicacy of winter. Bush doesn't necessarily "do" simple on "Snowflake"; her piano and voice are assured and seek to break down any vestige of merriment we may have conjured. The literal story of a snowflake being born ("the world is so loud") and set adrift amidst a winter scene of "midnight at Christmas" is destructive in narrative and musicality. Bush's voice reaches higher still, to the heavens, casting a dim glow down on a blizzard of inhabitants who could, in all likelihood, care much less for one single snowflake set loose in a cruel and temporary world.

 
Everything But the Girl
"25th of December" (Amplified Heart)

The rare Ben Watt song that eclipses those of his partner, Tracey Thorn, on Amplified Heart, "25th of December" is made even more nostalgic through Watt's authenticity. A tale of Christmases where his "old man plays the piano" and everyone looks on, even the angels. Snippets of memory piece together the track: bags of newspapers and other detritus that go unrecognized, things directly in front of our faces. But what Watt is getting at is keeping a keen grip on how we handle ourselves in the midst of family -- a serious theme that takes its toll on many of us during the holiday season.

 
Built to Spill
"Twin Falls" (There's Nothing Wrong With Love)

The shortest of all the songs on the list, "Twin Falls" is as close to indie pop as we'll get. It's remained a staple of all Built to Spill lovers (even being covered by Ben Folds Five) and it's easy to see why. A simple melody with simple guitar ringing behind it, direct in its lyrics: "Christmas, Twin Falls, Idaho / Was the oldest memory". Doug Martsch runs through a litany of memories in places he remembers and people he may, in fact, wish to forget. But memory is tricky like that; that what we often wish to bury stays unearthed until we can truly confront it. In this case, the memories seem innocent enough, but frighteningly potent nonetheless.

 
Matt Pond PA
"Snow Day" (Winter Songs EP)

Matt Pond has always identified with the natural world and his brand of songwriting has always described the Robert Frostian scenes. The Winter Songs EP is exactly what its title suggests: songs written about and inspired by winter. A handful of covers and instrumental snippets comprise the EP, but Matt Pond's lone original with vocals is a standout. (Though not nearly as good as his excellent rendition of Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea".) Christmas isn't mentioned, but the song may as well be an indie update on "White Christmas", sans the ubiquity. Pond captures all the essences of the title, intoning about "the people we have become" and the blinding brightness of a day covered in frozen white. Those in the American Northeast may be sick of the frozen landscape come February, but Pond invites us all to rediscover the faith and the fun of childhood, when we learned that a snow day had come and we were all free, if only for a day.

Next Page

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.