Soliciting suggestions for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist – 2019

by | November 4, 2019

It’s that time of year again! Even before the Halloween candy left the stores, the Christmas stock was showing up on the shelves, so it’s only a matter of days before the airwaves are once again flooded with the same old, repetitive holiday music. Fear not, heathen friends; Indi is here to rescue your sanity.

For our new readers, a bit of explanation is in order. For several years now, every year at the start of December (-ish) I put together a list of alternative holiday songs: songs that are seasonal and festive, but not religious, and also not the same old overplayed stuff you’ll hear a million times during November and December. The idea is to give atheist audiophiles an alternative to what they would otherwise be flooded with this time of year.

The list is shamelessly eclectic. You can find the likes of Joni Mitchell alongside Grimes, The Barenaked Ladies, Run–D.M.C., Dolly Parton, KoЯn, and the cast of Sesame Street. Genres range from hard rock to hip hop with all stops between: soul, country, metal, proto-bluegrass, you name it. You probably won’t like all the songs on the list, or even most, but you might just find some new stuff that does appeal to you, and that will add some fresh spice and variety to your holiday soundscape.

This year will be the sixth or seventh list, depending on how you’re counting. (The original list back in 2013 was lost along with the rest of our older content when Canadian Atheist was hacked. Worse, since the list was published just days before the hack, it was never captured by the Internet Archive, and is thus lost forever. However, every list since, 20142018, is available.) Last year’s list featured 100 songs, 54 of which had never been featured on previous lists.

Naturally, making more than half the list out of entirely new songs meant that a number of very good songs from previous lists had to be bumped. For that reason, this year I’ve decided not to focus on new songs as much, and instead dig back into previous lists to create a sort of “best of, so far” list. That’s not to say I won’t accept new songs, though! So if you have any suggestions, by all means, let me know!

To give a clearer idea of the criteria I use in selecting songs for the list, here are the things I look for:

I mean… obviously, right? This is the primary theme of the list. Without it, this would just be a list of more-or-less random songs. Now exactly what counts as “seasonal” is pretty broad. I’ll accept not only songs that make reference to the various holidays this time of year (not just Christmas, but also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and so on), but also themes of winter, or even vaguer themes of celebration or renewal.
Holiday music has an established “sound”, which is primarily aping the flavour of 1940s and 1950s pop music. So generally, anything that isn’t trying to sound like Bing Crosby counts as an “alternative” sound. That also means that parodies don’t count – a parody of “Jingle Bells”, no matter how funny or irreverent the lyrics may be, is still ultimately just “Jingle Bells”. And of course, if a song is already wildly popular and heavily overplayed, it’s hardly an alternative to anything.
While atheist music fans don’t run screaming at a passing mention of God or Jesus in a song, songs whose primary or only purpose is religious can grate on our ears. Songs that are explicitly atheist are even more welcome, but those are very rare.
The secular criteria is one half of what Canadian Atheist is about; the other half is being Canadian. Thus, I give more weight to songs that are more connected to the Canadian holiday experience – like mentioning winter, for example. And of course, Canadian artists get a boost.
Even if all the other criteria are satisfied, what would be the point of making a list of songs that suck? Ideally, I want a list of songs that are entertaining enough that you could listen to them anytime, not just at specific times of year.

Those are the primary criteria, but honestly I’m not all that strict about it. If a song satisfies most of the criteria, and generally matches the spirit of what I’m trying to do, then it will be considered even if it violates a particular criterion or two.

There are other, minor criteria as well. I try to choose only a single song per artist (for a very loose definition of “artist”, because of the complexity that comes with collaborations and band lineup changes). And each song can appear only once – no remakes or alternate versions.

I also have to be able to link to a freely-available version of the song online, so you can actually listen to it. (What would be the use of a list of song titles you can’t listen to?) I prefer official sources, where possible, but that’s often not possible, especially for old stuff.

The 2019 list is going to be published in early December. Today, I am asking for suggestions for new songs to add to the list. Bear in mind that this year’s list is going to be more focused on previously included songs, so there probably won’t be many new ones added… but that doesn’t mean no new songs will be added. And of course, any suggestions that don’t make this year’s list could always be added next year.

Here is last year’s list:

Here are some downloadable playlist files of last year’s list:

Note: These playlist files are just lists of links. That means that in order to play them, you not only have to use a supported player, you have to be connected to the Internet. It also means that the songs will not play if the site is down, the song has been removed, or it has been prevented from playing for one reason or another.

If you have any suggestions for songs to add to the list, you can either leave them here as a comment, or send it in via one of our social media profiles, or any other way you prefer to get in touch with us. I’m looking forward to your suggestions!

One thought on “Soliciting suggestions for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist – 2019

  1. Clinton Hammond

    Fairytale of New York by The Pogues might just be the single best Xams song of all time.


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