Traditional carols and classic Christmas tunes are all well and good but it’s a shame to leave your favourite bands behind just because we’ve reached this time of year. We have scoured the depths of time for the best Christmas covers by some of our favourite indie bands for you to have a listen to. This lot will see you through until the 25th.
1. ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ – Bombay Bicycle Club
The fragility of lead singer Jack Steadman’s voice fits perfectly into this delicate rendition of the traditional carol with lyrics by Christina Rossetti. Sweet glockenspiel and swelling horn harmonies add to the twang of acoustic guitar we last heard on second album Flaws, as the band show off yet another side to their impressive sonic versatility.
2. ‘Winter Wonderland’ – Radiohead
This is everything you’d expect from Radiohead: whimsical, raw and spontaneous. Perhaps not quite a fuzzy Christmas warmer, and more a startling take on a classic, the Oxford quintet were never going to play it safe with such a cover. From Thom Yorke’s calls of “who’s still watching? Nobody” to “luckily there’s not that much left so we can all go to bed”, the track is left happily unpolished. The ethereal and spacey vibe will leave you feeling as disorientated as you will after four days off work, so you may as well start now.
3. ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ – Lucy Rose and Rae Morris
Classic piano and toe-curling two-part harmonies are perfect for a cosy fireside Christmas evening. It’s no surprise that Lucy and Rae are such good friends when you hear the stunning close counterpoint in which they sing, and, via a cutesy jazz-style piano solo from Rae, the track builds into a livelier number before the two dissolve into a heart-warming fit of giggles.
4. ‘Last Christmas’ – The XX
Serene and dark, this cover of a true Christmas classic would fit right into an XX original album. Jamie XX’s synth solo penetrates through guitar-heavy serenity, whilst the breathy vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft give an icy edge to this cleverly crafted version of an often truly naff song.
5. ‘All I Want for Christmas is a Girl with One Eye’ – Florence and the Machine
Trust Florence to weird things up a bit. This live track – look how “rare” the video claims it is – was performed at the 2010 Radio 1 Christmas party. What seems to start as a typical cadenza-filled Mariah Carey cover quickly becomes much more gruelling, as the melodrama and ridiculous power-chords give way for Florence’s own ‘Girl with One Eye’. Mariah couldn’t come close if she tried.
6. ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ – Arcade Fire
Taken from a goofy collection of songs recorded at a party and then circulated amongst the band’s friends the next Christmas, this little snippet is pure drunken Christmas fun. You can’t go too far wrong with a walking bass and tinkering glockenspiel solo to start with; but surely hearing a critically acclaimed band sound like a primary school ensemble is just what this time of year is all about?
7. ‘White Christmas’ – The Flaming Lips
Mad layered vocals and synth bells are just what you’d expect from Wayne Coyne and his motley crew. Hardly conjuring up idyllic scenes of a perfect blanket of snow – rather a disturbing Santa’s grotto with every elf on acid –this ingenious take on the 1942 song made famous by Bing Crosby is sure to make the psych fan’s Christmas.
8. ‘Silent Night’ – Sufjan Stevens ft. Aaron & Bryce Dessner, Richard Reed Parry
As the king of all Christmas songs (he amassed five EPs-worth of festive songs between 2001 and 2006), you simply can’t consider modern day Christmas music without Sufjan Stevens. This version of ‘Silent Night’ is straight-up haunting, as the elusive vocal harmonies and falling guitar triads fit a thoughtful sentiment of relflecting on a busy year. More a lullaby than a bangin’ party number, the sublime lyric-less final verse is sure to leave you with goose-bumps.
9. ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You / Creep’ – Peace
Another cover of the Mariah Carey classic, this time Peace mash theirs up with Radiohead’s first hit single, ‘Creep’. Harry Koisser does a very good pleading “All I want…” with the mere ripple of electric guitar underneath, before the indie rockers settle into a mellow drive-time groove. The smooth transition into the heavier ‘Creep’, with fiery drums kicking in, really makes this stand out as some high-class mishmashing.
10. ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ – Bob Dylan
In my house, Christmas is not Christmas without a festive Bob Dylan album. The call and response on this track is fantastic, with Dylan always taking the final and definitive Santa-like word of wisdom. A jazz-infused guitar solo part-way through accentuates the intricacy of the guitar lines that run throughout this jolly track.