Soliciting suggestions for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist – 2017

It’s that time of year again. Every year I make a list of holiday-themed songs that are different from the standard fare you’ll hear over and over… and over… and over… everywhere you go. The list gets published (roughly) at the start of December; right now, I’m soliciting suggestions.

I probably don’t need to explain the problem I’m trying to solve. Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave during November and December each year knows that come this time of year, they won’t be able to go 20 metres in any downtown area without hearing the same twenty or so songs repeatedly. The only variation is which artist happens to be covering the song, and even that isn’t something that varies all that much, and when it does, the artist is often self-consciously trying to sound like the same old tripe. It’s a well-established practice in the music industry for an otherwise talented artist to simply shit out a half-assed Christmas track or album for some quick, easy, extra cash. And the overall quality shows it.

It’s even worse if you’re atheist. In general, your musical choices this time of year often seem to be between banal, mediocre pap, or cringe-worthy religious crap.

Which is why, every year, I try to offer alternative options.

This list is not about listing the “best” songs, by any measure of “best”. It’s just an eclectic collection of songs that sound different from the usual holiday fare, and that can be listened to even without the occasion to enforce it. The basic requirement to be on the list is to be “interesting”, and “different”.

The other important criteria are:

Seasonal
What would be the point of this if there wasn’t a focus on seasonal songs? If you just want a list of “interesting songs”, you can get that pretty much anywhere. I use very loose criteria for “seasonal”; if the song mentions any of the holidays this time of year, or even just things like winter, it counts.
Alternative
Preferably, the song should sound distinctly different from the standard holiday fare, as much as possible while still retaining a “seasonal” flavour. Because “standard” holiday music is typically crafted to match the sounds of 1940s/1950s pop music, that usually means songs that sound more modern, or songs from other genres. That generally rules out simple parodies. It also rules out songs that otherwise fit all the criteria on the list, but that are widely overplayed.
Secular
A single mention of God or Jesus isn’t too distracting, but if it’s a key theme of the song, it can be really annoying to nonreligious ears.
Canadian
This is Canadian Atheist, so it’s only natural that the list should be oriented toward Canadians. That not only means extra weight for Canadian acts, it means that I was leaning toward songs that reflect the Canadian experience of this time of year.
Enjoyable
The bottom line, really, is that the song has to be good, meaning that – if you’re into the song’s genre – it’s a song you could listen to any time, not just when the holidays are on.

The other criteria were that I want only one song per artist (for a loose definition of “artist”, taking into account collaborations and lineup changes), and only one version of each song. And finally, I have to be able to link to freely available versions of the song.

These criteria are all applied very loosely, so a song can fail in one or two categories and still be included if it is strong enough in others.

Last year there was a conscious focus on new songs (songs that hadn’t been on previous years’ lists), and a heavy bias toward Canadian content. This year I’ll be going back to the usual standard of “whatever sounds best, with just a slight bias toward Canadian content and new stuff”.

Here is last year’s list:

And here are some songs that were suggested after last year’s list, and will be considered for this year – note that they are not guaranteed to end up on the list:

Do you have any additional suggestions? Leave a comment!

6 thoughts on “Soliciting suggestions for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist – 2017

  1. Jesus’s Brother Bob – The Arrogant Worms

    Santa Got Arrested – The Arrogant Worms

    And pretty much anything from “Christmas Turkey” album by The Arrogant Worms.

    Winter Wonderland – A Dave Brubeck Christmas

    Iesus Ahottonia (The Huron Carol) – Christmas – Bruce Cockburn

    ‘Zat You Santa Claus – The Platters

    Christmas in Heaven – Monty Python

    Let it snow – Diana Krall – Christmas Songs

    • Awesome, I’ll see if there’s anything there I can add!

      For sure I can’t add the Huron Carol – because that’s straight-up a Jesus hymn – but I hadn’t heard Cockburn’s take on it before. That’s not bad at all! Have you heard the Heather Dale take?

  2. Check out a few songs by Graham Parker, all on his “Christmas Cracker” EP: “Christmas is for Mugs,” “Soul Christmas,” and “New Year’s Revolution.” Parker is a great pick for atheists generally, with songs like “Don’t Ask Me Questions,” “The End of Faith,” and “Syphilis and Religion.”

  3. I don’t understand and am practically computer illiterate. Will this compilation be playable on Christmas Day? Usually I start with Chuck Berrys Run Run Rhudolf with my first drink while preparing the turkey diner. This play list would be fun. For sure I’ll use some of these suggestions.

    • Excellent question.

      Previous years’ playlists were not very user friendly – you had to read through the list and manually click each song that you were interested in. It was a bit of a pain, but I guess people tolerated it because most didn’t want to listen to all the songs. (It’s a very diverse list, musically, with everything from blugrass to gangsta rap to death metal, so no one is going to like all the songs on the list.)

      This year I am planning something a little different. I don’t know if it will work yet, but the hope is that when the playlist is finished (I’m going to be releasing it in parts this year, because it’s probably going to be a lot longer), you will be able to download a playlist that you can open in just about any player (including Windows Media Player, hopefully). It will be just the playlist – just a list of links to where the songs are; you won’t actually be downloading a hundred songs.

      I’m not 100% sure it will work yet, but when the final, full list is posted, check that post for the playlist links, and see if one of them works for you. You should just be able to download the list (don’t worry, it’s just a plain text file, just a list of links, no chance of viruses or anything), then open it with your favourite player. (Or, if you’re lucky, just clicking on it will open your player automatically.)

      EDIT:

      Here are a couple links you can try right now to see if things work for you:

      1. XSPF (try this one first)
      2. M3U (fallback if the first one doesn’t work)

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