Holiday-themed music is impossible to escape this time of year. You can find it looping on your car radio, echoing through a cavernous retail establishment or thrumming in your head late at night after you hear it in both of the aforementioned places. (I speak from experience.)

In short, if you want to hear that sort of music, you know where to look. You don’t need me to tell you that “Jingle Bell Rock” is great for the holiday season. Instead, I hope to suggest some songs that differ from what you might hear in a seasonal car dealership commercial, but are still subtly, semantically evocative of winter and the holidays.

It’ll be a thematically appropriate playlist perfect for zooming down Snow Road or turning onto Christmas Tree Lane.

'Making Enemies'

Snow Patrol

This hibernally named Scottish band is best known for its 2006 hit “Chasing Cars,” but “Making Enemies” is a personal favorite of mine, a deep cut from two albums earlier that centers around a mesmerizing reversed sample and some sharp acoustic guitar.

'Down by the Water'

The Decemberists

Singer-songwriter Colin Meloy said this band’s moniker comes from a 19th-century insurrectionist group in Russia but also evokes the “drama and melancholy” of the month of December, which is good enough for me. We can choose to focus on that second rationale in order to include this Grammy-nominated dirge on this month’s playlist.

'Cold Hands (Warm Heart)'

Brendan Benson

The sparkly opening hook of this tight little indie rock song should warm your heart pretty quickly. And then the depressing shift to a minor chord for the chorus brings you back to reality. But it’s short-lived!


The Constellations

The seasonal lyrics of this song, which talk at length about harvests and the earth’s rotation, seem to play at a grand metaphor but never quite get there. It shouldn’t be too hard to ignore them, though, because the excellent melody and double-time chorus make this another great composition from the Atlanta soul-influenced rock band.

'Grey Morning'


“Grey Morning” is an excellent choice for leaning into some of the sadder aspects of the season: “Underneath this heaviness / feel so down and blue / I got too much on my mind.” I should also note that L.A.-based Foxtrax claims to take its name from fox tracks in the snow outside a cabin where they were recording, and if that wasn’t wintry enough, they coincidentally share their name with Fox Sports’ controversial “glow puck” system for late-’90s hockey broadcasts.

'Snow Day'


“Snow Day” is not only a good song in its own right, but also comes straight out of another track called “Winter.” In general, the Washington, D.C., indie-folk group has a mandolin-forward aesthetic that is perfect for the season. Check out “Lantern” and “Snake in the Grass.” (Their latest release is called “Autumn,” a true betrayal.)

'Sans Soleil'

Miike Snow

A band named after a guy named Mike Snow released a song with a title that describes winter weather (albeit in French, albeit maybe not in California). How perfect is that?

'Cold Fame'

Band of Skulls

This song closed the group’s first album, “Baby Darling Doll Face Honey,” and epitomizes everything a final track should be, from the opening slow solo drum groove to the late crescendo. It’s also one of several songs by this band that could easily fit on a wintry playlist. (Special shoutout to the album “Himalayan,” which features a track of the same name.)

Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.