If you love Christmas music, we’ve got new songs from a dozen artists you should check out. There are pandemic inspired holiday tracks, a few covers of classic Christmas songs, and even one classic updated with lyrics inspired by 2020.
Nicole Atkins kicks off our mix with “Every Single Christmas.” Online she writes, “A couple years ago I had this idea for a Christmas song chorus that reminded me of Brenda Lee and Ronnie Ronette called ‘Every Single Christmas.’ My good friend JD McPherson finished the song and included it on his now iconic 50’s style holiday record, Socks. Since then, I’ve kept hearing it in my head as a fast and wild Christmas punk song - like Cyndi Lauper and Brenda Lee, the spirit of the NY Dolls and The Ramone’s ‘Palisades Park,’ all rolled up into a National Lampoon’s Christmas movie.
“Since we’re all home due to the pandemic, my band and I recorded this song at a socially distanced session down at Muscle Shoals Sound, down in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” continued Atkins. “You know, the legendary place where they made albums from the Stones, Staples Singers, Paul Simon, and little ol’ me with this year’s “Italian Ice.” Then I sent the tracks over to northern Sweden so my friend Nicholaus Arson, guitarist from the world’s greatest live band, the Hives, could play guitar and organ on it. After that I sang the vocal in my home studio, aka closet and my husband mixed it at our home. I wanted to make a holiday song that I haven’t heard in a long time or maybe I have never heard before, so here it is. ‘Every Single Christmas.’"
Loneliness is a theme for many of the original tunes this year. Anthony D’Amato brings us “Merry Christmas, I Guess” - a wistful song about spending Christmas alone. He sings, “Merry Christmas, I guess / We're all just doing our best / To make it through this wretched year alive / Merry Christmas, I hope / I've still got rum and Coke / And a pack of cards to help me pass the time”
Jillete Johnson continues that theme with “Cancel Christmas” - she sings, “Cancel Christmas this year / It’s just not quite the same without the gang in town / It’s not Christmas this year / It’s just another day that I’ll be hanging round the house again alone”
Penny & Sparrow offer their own contribution to the 2020 Christmas vibe with “Neat Christmas” - a sad song about seeking solace in a bottle to drown away the sorrows. “I know you’re here to pick up the dog / But maybe stay a bit more / This year was long, rough on us all / We both deserve a stiff poor / Can I convince you to cancel the splash / that water will wear down the proof / Let’s you and me get drunk off our ass / and listen for hooves on the roof”
If you’re looking for a more upbeat way to close out 2020, the updated version of “Christmas Wrapping” by Bryan Hansen Band fits the bill. The 2020 lyrics were written by Kim Boyko, Melissa Peterson, and Bryan Hansen to go along with the original music written by Chris Butler of The Waitresses. Boyko sings, "Calendar pages froze in place / Stuck inside for 100 days / Losing jobs or work from home / Get this quarantine over with”
“Flashback to good times / 2019 midnight strikes on New Year's Eve / 'This is gonna be my year.’ / Father Time said, 'Hold My Beer'"
The Scottish punk rockers Skids offer up “Christmas in Fife.” The band was founded in 1977 by the vocalist Richard Jobson, guitarist Stuart Adamson (later of Big Country fame), and bassist Williiam Simpson in the Scottish the city of Dunfermline. Jobson says “Fife is a special place full of crazy but loveable people. The song is a fun tribute to them and everyone else on the planet who has gone through so much over the past year. We hope it puts a smile on your face. Merry Xmas Punk Rockers!!”
Marc O’Heartman is the musical alter ego of Dr. Marco R., a Medical Doctor from Germany. Marco uses psychotherapy to help people cope with, and overcome, difficult situations in their lives. He’s released “Light It Up” for the holiday season.
"'Light It Up' is a Christmas song that was inspired by the reactions of Marco's patients to the coronavirus pandemic. The necessity of isolation has caused an upheaval in the lives of people around the world, and for those already suffering fears, compulsions, and feelings of depression, the negative feelings have become greatly heightened. We long for stability, but our foundations continue to be rocked.”
Another new song comes from Ryan Hamilton who recently released “Christmas Wish” featuring Emily Capell. In an article at rocknloadmag.com, he says, “Writing an original Christmas song is not easy. I guess it’s why most artists just cover older ones! Haha. But, like some sort of unexpected Christmas magic, this idea appeared. A guy, alone at Christmas, with a gift under the tree for his lost love. That part comes from a very personal place. But, I took it upon myself to rewrite the story, and give it a beautiful, heartwarming ending. I mean, it’s Christmas after-all!”
We’ve got a bunch of covers for you as well. The legendary Jersey duo of Steve and John Conte (who have played with everyone from Glen Burtnik and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes to The New York Dolls) provide a blistering cover of “Father Xmas” by The Kinks.
Small Town Titans from York, PA offer their take on “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Lead singer Phil Freeman says, "Our cover of this classic is a gift that keeps on giving for us and we're grateful for an era where songs are easily available to be covered. It's all thanks to Ben's (guitar player) insistence on making more content and our manager Shil's suggestion to do a version of a Christmas song. Every year we watch a spike happen in the number of people who discover who we are and what we do. We're just happy if a few people find out about us, but for whatever reason it's usually in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. It's something we may never get used to.”
Soraia covers "Santa Claus" by The Sonics. "We've been wanting to cover a Christmas song for the longest time but didn't feel the joyous, happy songs really fit us. After all, we're mostly sarcastic, a little biting, and we love humor and some depth and darkness in songs. So, for us, 'Santa Claus' by The Sonics captures all of that. And - after all - it's The Sonics! " said ZouZou Mansour, lead singer of the Philadelphia-based band.
And closing things out is a new EP of Christmas tunes by Dan Amato inspired by his love of Christmas music and the pandemic. “ Conceptualized, recorded, mixed and slaved over in his basement in New Jersey, this is the product of a musician stuck in quarantine with two things: no studio to record and an undying love for the holidays. With some instruments, other musician friends and a little bit of patience; what else can we say? Dan Amato is... Home for Christmas."