Soliciting suggestions for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist – 2020

Oof, it’s been a long year, but it’s nearly over! And as the end of the year approaches, that means it’s once again time for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist.

It’s become a bit of a Canadian Atheist tradition that every year I – Indi – offer readers a list of songs with seasonal or holiday themes that are both not religious, and not the same old repetitive and overplayed pap you hear in every mall and store, and on every radio station. It’s a wild mix of styles and themes, giving you the opportunity to hear what the holidays can sound like once you stray from the well-trodden path of holiday “classics”.

What kinds of songs do I consider? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are the criteria I look for:

Seasonal
This is obviously the primary criteria. However, I have a very broad understanding of “seasonal”. “Seasonal” includes references to the various holidays that occur around this time of year (not just Christmas, but also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even things like winter solstice), but it also also themes of winter, of the new year, and even vaguer themes of celebration or renewal.
Alternative
This is always the most challenging criteria to explain. But if you think about it, holiday music has a well-established “sound”, which is primarily aping the flavour of 1940s and 1950s pop music. Even when modern artists make holiday songs, they usually end up having that same-old “sound”; in fact, they often self-consciously adopt that style, because that’s how Christmas music is “supposed” to sound. I don’t see the point in having an “alternative” list of songs that sound exactly like the standard set, so “alternative” means anything… alternative to that. That can mean different genres, like hip hop, hard rock, or indie twee, but it can also mean ordinary pop songs that just sound different or unique (compared to the holiday norm). Naturally, that means 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.
Secular
Normally, the vast majority of songs are secular – there are very few that are explicitly atheist, but there are also very few that are religious in any sense. That… doesn’t really hold true for seasonal music, though. Artists who are normally completely secular will release Christmas albums that are entirely full of Christian hymns. It’s often surprising how suddenly religious musicians get when it comes to holiday music. I won’t rule out songs for the mere mention of a religious concept, but that obviously can’t be a primary theme.
Canadian
Because this is Canadian Atheist, of course. Now, when I say “Canadian”, I’m not just referring to the artist being Canadian. I also give more weight to songs that better relate to the Canadian holiday experience. For example, mentioning winter or snow, or other cultural touchstones that Canucks might recognize.
Enjoyable
This may be the least obvious and most subjective criteria. But what would be the point of making a list of songs that aren’t fun to listen to?

While these are the criteria I use, I’m not particularly strict about applying them. If a song strikes me as interesting or unique, it won’t matter if it’s not particularly Canadian, or if it includes some religious lyrics. I also restrict the list to one entry per artist (which can be tricky, what with collaborations, the same artists in different bands, and so on, but I try), and to one entry per song – so remakes or alternative versions of a song don’t appear.

Oh, and I also have to be able to link to a freely-available version of the song online, so you can actually listen to it. I prefer official sources, where possible, but that’s often not possible, especially for older songs.

The list isn’t ranked in any meaningful way: song #27 is neither “better” nor “worse” than song #28. In fact, I present the list in groups of 10 – 10 songs every day for two weeks’ worth of weekdays – and I order the list in such a way that each day has its own “theme”. The song I select as the #1 is not the “best” song on the list, but rather the one I want to leave ringing in your ears at the end of it all.

Last year’s list was a sort of “wrap-up” for the 2010s. The focus was not on new entries, but rather entries that had been considered for previous lists but didn’t make the cut, or that had been on lists several years back but not on recent lists.

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… they do not contain the actual songs. That means that in order to play them, you not only have to use a supported player, you also have to be connected to the Internet. It also means that the songs will not play if the song’s site is down, the song has been removed, or if it has been prevented from playing for one reason or another. Sorry, but I just have no control over any of those things.

I already have some suggestions for new songs to consider for the 2020 list:

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!

6 thoughts on “Soliciting suggestions for Indi’s alternative holiday playlist – 2020

  1. Hello! I am J. Brian. I am a Canadian recording artist of 47 years of the indie ilk and have been recording atheist/humanist/naturalist songs since the beginning of my song writing career. Most notably a song entitled We are all Poets with Dan Lanois in 1977 that was featured at the CNE and on CHUM-FM. I have included Atheist Music (or anti-theist) on all my subsequent albums. Ain’t No Higher Love recorded with Nick Keca was a rebuttal song to Winwood’s Higher Love. My most recent album Well Worn Sole (available on all digital stores) contains 2 songs that you may be interested in: Soul to Soar and Song of Independence. Albeit not of the winter/Christmas theme, these songs I’m sure will provide provocative and alternative listening pleasure. My youtube channel provides video support for 3 of the 4 songs mentioned here should you want to ‘preview’. Here’s the link to Soul to Soar – https://youtu.be/yCTPisfe-W4

    • Hi there! I’m so glad to find another Canadian atheist artist out there producing atheist-themed content. I’m always on the lookout for more!

      I’ll definitely check out your stuff for inclusion in this list… however, I’m actually more interested in featuring you as an artist independently—that is, not just buried in the middle of this big, mixed grab list of random stuff, but actually an entire feature about you and your work specifically. We occasionally (as often as we can!) feature and provide boosts to artists who are producing content relevant to our readers, so especially if you’re doing a new release, you should get in touch with us so we can interview you, and share your stuff with our readers and social media followers.

      And Well Worn Sole is still a very fresh release, so please do get in touch with us! I might be able to arrange an interview with one of our contributors, and at the very least we can give you a signal boost!

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTx-sdR6Yzk
    Dropkick Murphys – “The Season’s Upon Us” (Video)

  3. I came across a song and thought it would be good for Indi’s list. But now I can’t seem to recall. Anyways how about Wrong Present By Richard Thompson

    • Hah, that was great! I’m going to have to dig around to find a decent online copy of it.

      And yeah, if you remember whatever else you had in mind, or anything else, please do share! Even if it can’t make this year’s list (which I hope to start publishing on the 7th), it could still make next year!

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