Best Indie & Alternative Christmas music for running

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by John on November 26, 2010

*updated December 2013* Is there a rule that all Christmas and Holiday songs must sound sappy, slow, and performed by someone who is ancient? Or must they be so obviously commercial that they make “Rock Star” by Smash Mouth sound like a lyrical masterpiece? Furthermore, if you want to get into the holiday spirit on a run, what are the chances you’d find up-tempo, well-done, interesting music for running? Well, if you have been suffering thru previous holiday seasons with sappy, decaying, malodorous music, I would like to share with you a few of my cures for the boring xmas music blues…

While the holiday songs below do not always have something to do w/ running, they do all meet our standard of being either about running, inspirational, or at least fun w/ a great beat (most are the later “fun” type). For over 70+ hrs more of running music and fitness music, go to home page at Bold Pace Music)

Wondering if music can really improve your performance? We give links to several studies and discuss in more detail at our Bold Pace Music home page.

Running Greeting Cards

Marathon Mantras CD Tin Notecard Set (6 cards, 2 of each style for $13 at remanents.com)

Looking for a perfect gift for a runner?: Take some music below and slip it in with a running CD tin notecard set from Remanents. These cards, gifts, and tees have been sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie, Nordstroms, Henri Bendel, Fortnum and Mason (London) and many other fine stores, however, you’ll find the largest selection at www.remanents.com. See more running cards and tees along with beautiful Couture Fabric Holiday cards and Happy New Year and Happy Hanukkah cards too.

There are 19 songs (plus another 29 non-running songs) below with a total playtime of 1.3 hours. Enjoy…

Christmas Running Playlist: Indie and Alternative music for running at 140 – 180 BPM (for runners w/ mile pace of 7.5 – 10.5 minutes)

Click here to download part 1 of xmas running songs from itunes

Click here to download part 2 of other indie xmas songs from itunes

Click here to download part 3 of other indie xmas songs from itunes

Click below to play samples and/or download songs from amazon:


To get this music, just click on either the individual itunes links below or amazon playlist above and download either entire the playlist or individual songs. Or see our Amazon store for the very best full albums by artists on the playlists.

  1. The Man with all the Toys – The Beach Boys (138): OK, I know the Beach Boys aren’t really indie or alternative, but I’m amazed how many people have not heard this song. It’s a great warm up song that was originally released in 1964 on Christmas With the Beach Boys. This is the 2005 remake from Brian Wilson’s What I Really Want for Christmas. Love the classic Beach Boys harmonies.
  2. Walk Out To Winter – Aztec Camera (138): A very creative and influential Scottish band formed by Roddy Frame. You may recall the standout Oblivious
  3. Carol of the Bells – The Bird and the Bee (148): This musical duo from Los Angeles has worked with a wide variety of musicians from The Flaming Lips, Beck, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. This fits well after the Beach Boys with more beautiful harmonies on this re-interpretation of a classic holiday song.
  4. Christmas Time – Chris Stamey (129): You may know Chris from his bands the dB’s or the Sneakers or perhaps thru his work with Yo La Tengo. But in any case, here’s another sound alternative to the typical holiday saccharine…
  5. Holiday – Glo-Worm (149): Influenced by the Cure and Everything But the Girl, Glo-Worm began as a two-piece ensemble and then expanded to a trio playing lo-fi, indie pop. Unfortunately, they only released one album called Glimmer where this song is found.
  6. Jonathan David – Belle and Sebastian (150): More of a reference to the biblical duo of Jonathan and David then a typical holiday song. I especially like the fact that this song is on the album “Push Barman to Open Old Wounds” and can be found along with the song “The Loneliness of a Middle Distance Runner” (which unfortunately isn’t a great running song at 108 bpm, but a great song anyway).
  7. Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight) – The Ramones (153): From the 1989 album “Brain Drain” which also contained one of their bigger radio hits “Pet Sematary” (written for the Stephen King movie of the same name). While that song was pretty commercial and definitely not the Ramones at their best, this one actually sounds more like a typical Ramones rocker, just with a little holiday cheer…
  8. You are my Joy – The Reindeer Section (153): The Reindeer Section is a “super group” made up of some of Scotland’s finest indie rockers including Mick Cooke and Richard Colburn (Belle and Sebastian), Aidin Moffatt (Arab Strap), John Cummings (Mogwai), Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol) as well as select members of Astrid, Hercules, Eva, Mull and Historical Society, and V-Twin. They only released two albums, and this was on the second titled “Son of Evil Reindeer”
  9. In This Home on Ice – Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah (155): This even has a running reference with the line “To see how far I’ll come a-run a-run, run, running”
  10. Father Christmas – The Kinks (155): A classic by one of my all-time favorite bands. Father Christmas tells the story of a department store Father Christmas who is beaten up by a gang of poor kids who want him to “give us some money” and tells him to give the toys “to the little rich boys”. It ends with my favorite line “remember the kids who have nothing, while you’re drinking down your wine”
  11. Holiday – The Hopefuls (157): Indie-pop band from Minneapolis that won “Artist of the Year” and “Best Pop Artist” awards at the 2005 Minnesota Music Awards. This song is from their debut album released in 2004 “The Fuses Refuse to Burn”
  12. Sleigh Ride – The Late Greats (158): Just a fun up-beat take on this traditional holiday song.
  13. Another Rock and Roll Christmas – Gary Glitter (164): You probably know Gary from “Rock and Roll” (also known as “The Hey Song”, or the “Hockey Anthem”)…but this song may be his next most successful song reaching #7 in the UK. “Come on, Rock n’ Roll for old Saint Nick” and keep running because “Tonight old Santa never, ever stops”.
  14. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Bright Eyes (165): This is a traditional English Christmas carol that has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Julie Andrews to Neil Diamond. But leave it to a band led by Conor Oberst (who some have called the next Dylan) to give it an updated, faster-paced new life. Can’t find this on itunes, but it is here on amazon: A Christmas Album
  15. Is This Christmas? – The Wombats (167): Just another fun song that will give you a jolt of holiday cheer…”and the ice burns up the hill until we all lose our feet and it never really snows”–not sure what this means, but it could be about running.
  16. I Wish it was Christmas Today – Julian Casablancas (168): Here’s the Strokes frontman being very successful going solo and serving up a song that you might enjoy even if it wasn’t a Christmas song…and it’s fast-paced…it’s like really good xmas candy.
  17. This Time of Year – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (171): Gotta love the fast pace and the way they capture the spirit of Christmas with “This time of year is my favorite time of year ’cause all of us are here together”
  18. Maybe This Christmas – Ron Sexsmith (176): While it seems like a slow song, the beat is actually fast. Sexsmith has won acclaim not only from critics but also from fellow artist like Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, and John Hiatt…it’s easy to see why with well written earnest songs like this one “Maybe this Christmas will mean something more…”
  19. I Smell Winter – Housemartins (177): If you only download one song, make it this one…or check out the whole “London 0 Hull 4″ album–it’s awesome. The album title refers to the band’s home town of Kingston upon Hull (usually referred to as just “Hull”) and is in the format of a sports result. It also refers to lead singer Paul Heaton’s declaration that the Housemartins were only the fourth best band from Hull. An furthermore, Hull had 4 great bands, but London had 0. The “better” bands were: Everything but the Girl (also a favorite), Red Guitars, and the Gargoyles. Hard to imagine too many better bands anywhere. The Housemartins are the ultimate “80′s nerd band” with candid political vitriol in their lyrics, but pleasant and up-beat in their sound. Their songs are perfect running music (the album “Now That’s What I Call Quite Good” is on my 5 favorite running music albums of all-time). It didn’t make as much news as the Beatles, but nice to see that the Housemartins are now on itunes too.
  20. Drinking up Christmas – Dwarves (185): Just a fun song to end the list. Not available at itunes, but can download from Amazon for $.90 here: Drinking Up Christmas

While it’s hard to find fast bpm and quality Christmas music for running, there are many great holiday songs that you should consider adding to your collection…here’s a few other non-running holiday favorites:

  1. Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland – Grandaddy: If you like Alan Parsons, this will make you smile. Not on itunes, but find here at Amazon: Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland
  2. Thanks for Christmas – Three Wise Men (aka. XTC): Not on itunes, but find here at Amazon: Just Say Noel
  3. A Change at Christmas (Say it isn’t so) – The Flaming Lips:
  4. Christmas Song – Chris Garneau:
  5. Child’s Christmas in Wales – John Cale:
  6. Every Day Should be a Holiday – The Dandy Warhols:
  7. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – Ryuichi Sakamoto :
  8. Christmas is Coming Soon – Blitzen Trapper:
  9. Frosty the Snowman – Cocteau Twins:
  10. Lonely This Christmas – Lucky Soul:
  11. December Will be Magic Again – Kate Bush: Can’t find on itunes, but is here on Amazon: December Will Be Magic Again
  12. Remember (Christmas) – Harry Nilsson:
  13. It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop – Frightened Rabbit:
  14. The Christmas Song – The Ravonettes: Song: Music video:
  15. Story of Isaac – Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega:
  16. 2000 Miles – The Pretenders:
  17. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft: Couldn’t help myself…
  18. Christmas Fire – The Deer Tracks:
  19. The First Song – Band of Horses:
  20. Star of Wonder – Sufjan Stevens:
  21. Jesus, Etc. – Wilco:
  22. Winter Wonderland – Eurythmics:
  23. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen:
  24. Christmastime – Smashing Pumpkins:
  25. Joy – Tracey Thorn: (formerly of “Everything but the Girl”. Her new album “Tinsel and Lights” is full of great xmas music)
  26. Tinsel and Lights – Tracey Thorn:
  27. When The Bells Start Ringing – My Morning Jacket:
  28. Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses:
  29. Cause – Rodriguez:
  30. Always in the Season – Pomplamoose:
  31. Christmas Lights – Coldplay:
  32. Jesus Christ – Big Star:
  33. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues:
  34. For the remainder of songs below, see “part 3″ playlist from itunes above:

  35. Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band
  36. Christmas Party – Dr Dog
  37. A Christmas Song – Jethro Tull
  38. River – Joni Mitchell
  39. Xmas Curtain – My Morning Jacket
  40. Angels – The XX
  41. Green Grows the Holly – Calexico
  42. I heard the Bells on Christmas Day – The Civil Wars
  43. Santa, Bring My Baby Back (to me) – Eleanor Friedberger
  44. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve – The Head and the Heart
  45. Blue Christmas – Heartless Bastards
  46. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Paul McCartney
  47. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen
  48. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Rufus Wainwright
  49. All That I Want – The Weepies
  50. Holiday – Vampire Weekend
  51. Sock It To Me Santa – Bob Seger
  52. ault Lang Syne – Andrew Bird

If you are looking for a good Alt/Indie Christmas music CD, check out this compilation CD w/ the Decemberists, the Thrills, the Dandy Warhols, the Alarm and more Alternative Rock X-mas

Know any more great Christmas music for running or just great holiday music? Please comment and share…

There are a number of ways to get BPM for your music collection. See this comprehensive post from mmartins.com on BPM detection software.

Want more music? See all of our playlists and more songs listed by bpm…Bold Pace Music

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