A Scandinavian Alternative Christmas Playlist
Holiday music from Denmark, Norway and Sweden
Tis the season! And Scandinavia does it well. From festivals of light to delicious dishes to belting out tunes as you dance around the Christmas tree. Jul is cool up here in the north. My holiday tradition is to seek out some new songs to brighten the season. I do love the Christmas classisks by crooners and old school carolers, but will admit I need a little change in music to spice up our seasonal soundtracks. Last year I shared a playlist to warm your cold Scandinavian winter, you can find it here.
This year, let’s throw a Christmas party for the ones we love. And whether that fête features just your family or a full bevy of festively flocked friends, this playlist is built for an evening of fun. The Scandinavian independent music scene is incredibly diverse and inviting. So tune in, turn it up and try some of these new songs for your Christmas season. Light the candles and tap your toes. It’s gonna get hyggeligt up in here. Did I miss a favorite? Check last year’s list, then let me know!
Oh tell me why is Christmas only once a year? We should spread it out a little here and there. We should do a sleigh ride, do a hayride, do it during Gay Pride in July. Oh tell me why!”
– Crying Christmas Day Choir
SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS PARTY STARTERS
CHRISTMAS PARTY | THE SWEPTAWAYS | STOCKHOLM, SE
The Sweptaways are a twenty woman choir that began simply singing pop songs acapella around Stockholm. They now have multiple albums and several collaborations with other Swedish recording artists. “Christmas Party” is a perfect way to start this playlist off right. “Let’s throw a Christmas party for the ones we love.” I’d love to see a pitch-perfect performance of their song “Vintersaga” (later in the playlist) complete with The Sweptaways famous color-coordinated costumes. Come on. Let’s get the party started.
CHRISTMAS DAZE | GLOW KIT | AARHUS, DK
Glow Kit is a garage band pop-rock duo from the Jutland side of Denmark. If this 2015 tune “Christmas Daze” piques your party feet, then definitely go check out their most recent release Pick Your Fights. It’s a little punk, a little pop, plus a splash of John Hughes soundtrack and definitely rocking. And it’s not like much else that you’d hear on Danish Radio, which is kind of why I love it!
I DON’T INTEND TO SPEND CHRISTMAS WITHOUT YOU | THE GARLANDS | STOCKHOLM, SE
The Garlands are a super Swedish indie band and I don’t intend to spend Christmas without this song. Ever again. I’ll want it back, you know it.
ONCE A YEAR | CRYING DAY CARE CHOIR | SE
There are several selections by the Crying Day Care Choir, but this one is probably the catchiest. I completely agree that we should spread Christmas joy throughout the year. Folksy alternative tunes from this Swedish family trio are full of tambourine tapping and quirky lyrics that will have you singing Falalala along.
LADY DECEMBER | THE CONCRETES | STOCKHOLM, SE
Lady December brings the dark, damp and her cloak of snow, but when she sounds like Swedish indie band The Concretes, I am willing to forgive and forget. It’s not a new song, released in 2003, but if you don’t know it by now – see what you’ve been missing.
MEDITATION ONE | MY HEART THE BRAVE | COPENHAGEN, DK
This might be my favorite song on this list. But it’s not very Christmassy Erin. I know. But listen. This is a gift that keeps giving. Layers and layers of sound and beautiful subdued melody. Go to their Facebook page. I agree with their self-proclaimed genre of epicness and would happily hand over one billion awards. But apparently, they’ve already won them. Award yourself with a listen. I LOVE it. You’re welcome.
BLACK ICE | DELAY TREES | HELSINKI, FI
Not technically Scandinavian, Delay Trees brings some neighborly Nordic noise to our Scandi Christmas party. So nice that I chose to add them twice. This song “Black Ice” has a twang and turn of tune that reminds me of folk-rock bands like The Head and The Heart or Blitzen Trapper. Listen to the lyrics, they ring true for me, even if the band has said we’re finished in Finland. Follow their Facebook account to see what develops from band members from now on.
Watch out for the black ice, drive carefully. There are roads you must follow. There are roads that you must leave.”
– Black Ice, Delay Trees
ÅRETS BESTE FEST | KAJA GUNNUFSEN | ÅS, NO
Kaja Gunnufsen gives us the year’s best fest, a plucky but mature tune that showcases her unique vocals. Younger than her musical maturity misleads, I look forward to following this Norwegian singer-songwriter as she evolves. This song is so lovely, it doesn’t even matter that it is in Norwegian.
WOLF | SKØTT | VIKARBYN, SE
Listening to the glossy voice and polished sound of Skøtt, it’s hard to believe she never heard pop music until her teens growing up in a small village in Sweden where she learned folk music from a young age. Wolf howls winter up north to me. This year you can see Skøtt on tour with Danish pop star Mø, who featured on last year’s Scandi winter playlist.
ON CHRISTMAS NIGHT | NELSON CAN | COPENHAGEN, DK
Breaking news! Stop the presses! Edit the post! New discovery, late addition to the list, but this “On Christmas Night” by Danish girl band Nelson Can will definitely add some Danish December energy to your darkest days. Full of taiko drums, whistles, harmony and wow.
In the North, the sun has gone away. It returns on Christmas day. …In the eyes of every child hides a little piece of the sun… I promise soon the darkness will be long gone.”
– Nelson Can
LIGHT THE LANTERNS | SOFT RIDE | BERGEN, NO
Ask Soft Ride themselves and they’ll tell you that they are an indie-western-soft-psych-pop band from Bergen, Norway. I love Bergen. It’s beautiful. Have you been? I’ve been in the snow and sledded down Mt. Fløyen under starlight. I wish someone had lit lanterns for us! This song is warm and wonderful, perfect for winter.
FEEL LOVE | BODEBRIXEN | AARHUS, DK
Not necessarily a Christmas song per se, this song is my julegave to you. That’s Christmas gift in Danish. It’s hard not to enjoy the infectious energy of Aarhus trio Bodebrixen and to be honest we could all use to feel a little love after this past year. Merry Christmas!
DECEMBER THEME | SATELLITE STORIES | OULO, FI
Another Finnish addition to the festive fun, if you follow European indie music scene, you may have already heard of Satellite Stories, popular beyond Finland’s fair borders. And if this December theme doesn’t have you tapping your toes and bouncing around the room, I’m not sure what will.
MER JUL | ADOLPHSON & FALK | STOCKHOLM & UPPSALA, SE
Now I didn’t promise that all the songs on the playlist would new did I? “Mer Jul” is a Swedish Christmas classic from 1984 and translates to more Christmas! Yes please! Listen in even if you don’t understand Swedish and pay attention to the end and you can pick up a bit of Sweden’s Christmas obsession with Donald Duck.
DANMARK DET ER JUL | NORDSTRØM | DK
And because the Swedes definitely can’t claim all the cheesy holiday carols, let me give you a few Danish delights. Denmark, this is Christmas! Also check out It’s Hard to be a Nissemand, Hvem er du Mon Julemand, Op Til Jul and Julefrokosten. Skål!
REINDEER | THE KNIFE | STOCKHOLM, SE
Dark, brooding and a little bizarre, Reindeer is old school synth-pop Scandi noir. That’s a niche. Look it up. Reminiscent of Iceland’s Björk, this song may not be an instant favorite, but listen again. It gets under your skin, seeps in and you can’t help but follow it to the end.
Reindeer, reindeer, reindeer
I caught one of your horns
And even if it rains here
It’s much worse in the north,”
– Reindeer, The Knife
Time for the Afterglow, Turn the Lights Down Low
You know that time of the party when the food has all been eaten, the toasts have been made, the presents opened and the dancing shoes ditched? The party might be over, but some of you aren’t quite ready to call it a night. These songs are for that. Time for the afterglow. Gather your favorite friends, bring all the candles to the table, sit by the fire or around the tree. You may never want to leave.
OSLO | ANNA OF THE NORTH | GJØVIK & oslo, NO
Anna Lotterup is Anna of the North and I’m smitten with her sound. Hailing from Gjøvik, Norway north of Oslo on the way to Lillehammer, her alternative pop is backed by beautifully raw vocals and a lush 80’s synth beat. She has opened for the likes of Lorde and most recently collaborated with Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean on 911/Mr. Lonely. I could stay in her version of Oslo all season.
WINTER OLYMPICS ’94 | TEAM ME | OSLO, NO
Remember the Lillehammer Olympics? The Norwegians do! Not only did they host, but took home the most medals that year. This tune from Team Me takes us all back. No need to speed skate your way into this song, it slides right along nicely.
PEACE AND LOVE | KATHINKA | BERGEN, NO
Moody, a little edgy. Maybe a little of my ’90’s angsty college self is soothed with this number by Kathinka also out of Bergen, Norway. And we all need more peace and love this year.
DRØMTE MIG EN LILLE DRØM | DICTE | GLOSTRUP, DK
Benedicte Westergaard Madsen, also known as Dicte is a popular Danish singer-songwriter who has been performing since the 80’s. Dream me a little dream with this swoony deliciousness.
VELVET | TUSSILAGO | STOCKHOLM, SE
Like a modern Swedish Neil Young with layers of U2, Coldplay and Tame Impala, this nugget from Tussilago is lush, slow and yummy. Wrap yourself in this velvet this season.
DEAR CHILD | SØREN LØKKE JUUL | COPENHAGEN, DK
There is something at once familiar and completely unique about the sound of Søren Juul. Add some cowbell and maybe it’s Blue Oyster Cultish? Or maybe in the Bon Iver zone? Whatever it is, I love it. Cozy and warm and easy. One more glass of gløgg please, lay another log on the fire. All through the night….
All of this and more on the playlist. Pop over to Spotify and follow along. Even if you don’t have Spotify it’s ok. You can listen for free. Just log in and after a few songs, you may have to listen to an ad. But you can create your own playlists, share songs and connect with friends. We have the no-ads version and link it to our in-house Sonos system. It’s fantastisk. That’s Danish for fantastic. Check it out.
This is my Scandi ear candy gift for you. Did I miss one of your favorites? Or have another indie Scandi band favorite you need to share – PLEASE – I always am looking for new music. Cheers from Copenhagen and happy listening. Get your hygge on. Glædelig Jul to you!
Know someone who might enjoy these tunes? Share it! Spread the peace and love and light the lanterns. Let’s have a Christmas Party for the ones we love!