The holiday classics never go out of style, but it’s wonderful to do a literal seasonal refresh every year on the December playlist.
Whether you’re a total Christmas enthusiast or a grumpy Grinch, there’s something for every music fan on CBC Music’s carefully curated list of the best new yuletide tunes — even Ebenezer Scrooge. From soulful pop and gritty punk to jazz standards and bluegrass twang, we’ve got you covered.
'It Won’t Be Christmas (Till You’re Here),' Begonia
A new Christmas standard? Maybe. There’s definitely a case to be made for this soulful pop standout. It’s sophisticated but not bland, and strikes just the right balance of wistful and warm. Plus, the production details are perfect, from the muted handclaps and fingersnaps to the horns like punctuation marks dancing overtop the keys.
'Christmas Kisses,' Serena Ryder
Ryder mines vintage Christmas song territory — sweet and just a hint of silly — on the first single from her new holiday album of the same name. But what really makes the track feel like a timeless classic is Ryder’s rich voice and joyful demeanour. She sounds like she’s having a blast, and what’s better than a little seasonal cheer at this time of year?
'Cross You Off My List,' Lola Kirke
Kirke’s great new song might just be a seasonal staple. “Cross You Off My List” sounds like an updated take on '50s/'60s pop and on the surface it seems like just a fun, low-fi eff off to a pesky ex — a constantly under-represented theme in holiday music — but its origins are much more political than that.
According to her press release, Kirke actually began writing the song in 2016 following the presidential election. "It was a much more sombre-sounding song that set out to question how to celebrate Christmas in such a fraught environment," Kirke says. "While we're still conflicted about how to invoke the 'spirit of Christmas' in today's political climate, we decided to revise the song — set it to a more a upbeat chord progression and dash it with a bit more hope."
And Kirke’s great, surf-and-twang gender flip on the “Little Drummer Boy” is a gorgeous reinvention of the somewhat tired classic.
'Merry Xmas (I Hope You Get What You Deserve),' Whitehorse
So maybe you’re not in love. Maybe you’re feeling a little more like seeking out some low-stakes vengeance. Maybe you’re like, "Goodwill to all except that person, yeah, you know what you did. You." But also you still enjoy Christmas music? Whitehorse’s breezy, bouncy, bag of middle fingers is the best and the rest of the songs on the married duo’s A Whitehorse Winter Classic — a self-described “melancholiday” spin on the usual yuletide album — is exactly what you need to go along with repeated viewings of just the sad scenes from Love Actually.
'Christmas It’s Not a Biggie,' Say Sue Me
Korean punk band Say Sue Me’s blistering anti-Christmas track is a brilliant bit of bah humbug that would make even Ebenezer Scrooge smile a little.Christmas, It's Not a Biggie by Say Sue Me
'After the Holidays,' Oh Susanna with Michael Johnston
This sultry, tongue-in-cheek Christmas tune checks its own libido with some real talk (an Oh Susanna trademark): “How I want you/ oh how you want to/ here’s hopin’ the feeling stays/ after the holidays.”
'Christmas Time is Here,' Lucius
A gloriously laidback and thoughtful reinvention of a Christmas classic that’s just the right amount of disquietingly beautiful given that it’s a fundraiser in support of the Fug Yep Soundation in memory of the late Richard Swift. The Soundation’s goal is “to raise awareness for addiction and bring community to those suffering.” May everybody find some peace and comfort in this beautiful cover.
'All I Want For Christmas is You,' Ingrid Michaelson feat. Leslie Odom Jr.
Turning Mariah Carey’s brilliantly upbeat classic into a heartbreakingly delicate duet is a bold move, but indie favourite Ingrid Michaelson recruited Hamilton’s own Leslie Odom Jr. to trade verses with, and the result is a stunningly intimate treatment that will leave you in tears every time. So, thanks? Yeah. Thanks. And please pass the tissue.
'A Child is Born,' Laila Biali
Biali’s voice rings true over the shimmery percussion and gentle piano of this short but sweet jazz number/holiday lullaby.
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