Atwood Magazine Presents Mistletones: 2020’s Best New Holiday Songs

Atwood Magazine's Mistletones: Best New Holiday Music 2020
Atwood Magazine's Mistletones: Best New Holiday Music 2020
To celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year,” Atwood Magazine’s Mistletones features fresh holiday/wintertime tracks and exciting covers of beloved classics. December has a knack for bringing out some of the most poignant, tender, and celebratory music, and we want to highlight that excitement by showcasing new and alternative holiday greats! Spice up your holiday season with songs you can listen to now and cherish in the years to come.

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Mistletones by Atwood Magazine

Featured this year are Goo Goo Dolls, Ingrid Andress, Todrick Hall, HONNE, Phoebe Bridgers, Bear’s Den, Lera Lynn, VÉRITÉ, Øzwald, girl in red, Grouplove, Circa Waves, The Sea The Sea, Office Romance, Josie Dunne, and many more! Dive into these songs and our holiday interviews!

click on the artist’s name to jump directly to their section

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additional interviews from Shea Diamond, Calexico, Ingrid Michaelson, Nova Miller, Celeste, The National Parks, Mayer Hawthorne, Creature Comfort, Dana Williams, Kerry Ellis, Kandle, John Mark Nelson, CLAVVS, Total Brutal, andrews’, and elkyn!

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:: Goo Goo Dolls ::

“This Is Christmas”

Mitch Mosk

It's Christmas All Over - Goo Goo Dolls

A raw, stirring ’90s-esque alt-rock ballad full of hope and longing, “This Is Christmas” is easy to fall in love with because it’s familiar as it is fresh. The standout single off the Goo Goo Dolls’ new holiday album It’s Christmas All Over aches in all the right ways, capturing the complex emotions this season conjures up for so many while rising and falling in triumphant aplomb.

Yeah, it’s cold and it’s grey
I’m in love with this day
‘Cause it’s Christmas
Yeah, the light in your eyes
And the smile on your face
Says it’s Christmas
It’s a word or a smile
That can change someone’s life
With some change in your pocket
Just to get through the night

It’s “Iris”-gone-Christmas, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that in our book: Mellow guitars and dulcet piano set a warm backdrop alongside the seasonal sounds of bells and big, reverb-drenched drums – but it’s John Rzeznik’s intimate performance that ultimately wins us over, as he deftly transitions between soft, earnest reflections in the verse and grandiose, sweeping outpourings in the chorus.

Wish on stars above
For the ones we love
This is Christmas
Drove a thousand miles
Just to see you smile
This is Christmas
Sing with me softly, my dear
‘Cause it’s all I can give you this year
This is Christmas

A stinging sadness falls over the song like a cloud, muffling this cheerful occasion with the bittersweet recognition of ever-present hardships; for many, that means not being able to spend Christmas with their loved ones this year. In thie future, it may mean something else to you – no matter how joyful and gay the holiday season is, we know it’s not that simple – and Goo Goo Dolls’ “This Is Christmas” is a reminder that it’s okay for Christmas to be hard. Nobody’s life is a Hallmark card, but we’re doing our best and that’s enough.


Atwood Magazine: What inspired you to write “This Is Christmas”?

John Rzeznik: Honestly, it was pretty simple, it was like, “We should write a couple of originals.” There’s great new Christmas songs. There’s some great ones. I mean, Mariah Carey’s song, that’s the biggest Christmas song ever. And it’s a great song. It’s very traditional in the Phil Spector kind of way. You know what I mean? And she did it so well. But I just wanted to write something that was kind of reflective and it’s sort of what I was envisioning was me driving up to see my family in Buffalo ’cause on Christmas morning, my wife and I drive with our daughter up to Buffalo to see my family, we do Christmas with them too. And it’s just… And I thought about how weird it was gonna be this year, but we’re still gonna do it and I just… Just something like… I mean that’s what Christmas is about. And the line that gets me in that song is, “Sing with me softly my dear, ’cause it’s all I can give you this year.” We’re all broke, everybody is broke. It’s like, this is where people might discover the real meaning of Christmas. I don’t know, because it’s like, “Look what I made for you,” or, “Hey, I drove 1000 miles to come see you and I don’t have any gifts, but I just wanna be here with you.”

How does this song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

John Rzeznik: Well, I mean I think… I mean it’s obviously, it’s a melancholy-type thing. And I mean I think that that’s a big part of Christmas, because there is inevitably nostalgia attached to every Christmas because… And you think back, and you think about… I think about, excuse me, I think about Christmas as good ones from the past and ones that weren’t so good, and a couple that were very lonely, but that’s something that I think it’s good to reflect on. I think it’s good to reflect on the good and the bad, and… But to be teachable in those moments and learn like, well, how can I make it better? How can I make it better? That’s all I want, I just wanna make things better. I just wanna do something, and it can be… It can be ignored by the general public, I don’t care, but I just wanna know that I did me. That’s it, it’s all I got. That’s all I want.

With so much holiday music out there, what do you feel your new holiday album brings to the table?

John Rzeznik: Well, I think it’s got some authenticity to it. I think the tongue is firmly planted in the cheek, it’s very tongue-in-cheek in a lot of spots and as it should be. But I also thought it was something that was gonna be useful this year. See because my whole theme in my life, and the question that I ask people, is like, “What did you do during the pandemic to try and help people out or to make things better?” We’ve all but been abandoned by our government, looks like it might change, but we were all forced to fend for ourselves, but more importantly than fending for yourself is looking out for your neighbor. Just something as simple as knocking on the door, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a few days. How you doing? You all right? Good. Do you need anything?” I do a lot of these little three-song concerts, trying to raise money to help out wherever I can because there’s a lot of people in a lot of need. And there’s a big food drive initiative that we’re doing locally in the town I live in. And so we’re gonna do silent auctions and raffles for stuff, and because there’s an enormous jump in food insecurity, and this is in New Jersey, too.

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:: Ingrid Andress ::

“Christmas Always Finds Me”

Francesca Rose

“Christmas Always Finds Me” by country singer Ingrid Andress is the classic kind of Christmas song, evoking countryside scenes of a thick snow-covered ground, glistening icy trees, and Christmas wreaths and lights daintily decorating cottages. It’s slow and soothing with the accompaniment of piano and strings. Lyrically it addresses the things over the festive period that aren’t so jolly- traffic jams and shopping malls, mistletoe nowhere in sight, and no signs of snow- but the sentiment is always the same.

It takes me back to younger days
Of stockings on the fireplace
And presents stacked
And waiting by the tree
And even if I’m all alone
A million miles away from home
It shows up in warm memory
Another year older
Getting harder to believe
But somehow Christmas always find me

Given the absence of magic this year, the lack of traditions, and the distance between family, “Christmas Always Finds Me” is both appropriate and relatable.


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season?

Ingrid Andress: I freaking love the holidays. Mostly because it signifies being with family and reflecting on how blessed I am to have the people I have in my life. Also food just tastes better on Christmas for some reason, not sure why. “River” by Joni Mitchell is one of my favorite holiday songs. So well written and sounds like a warm cozy blanket.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own? How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Ingrid Andress: I enjoyed a good challenge, and writing a Christmas song has always been something I wanted to try. But as I was thinking about the holidays this year, it made me realize how different they’re going to be for everyone and it made me a little sad. But there’s a silver lining in everything, and I thought about capturing the feeling of hope and comfort in the song because no matter what we’re going through, Christmas still has a magical way of finding it’s way into all of our lives, and it’s a beautiful thing.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel “Lonely Christmas” brings to the table?

Ingrid Andress: I think my song brings a more chill energy to the Christmas pile. I’m all about the energetic Christmas songs, but sometimes we need a moment to take a breather during the holidays.

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:: Todrick Hall ::

“Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees”

Mitch Mosk

Todrick Hall has single-handedly redefined what a holiday song can look and sound like with this irresistible yuletide banger. A dazzling rework of his 2019 hit “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels,” “Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees” is unapologetic, fun, dramatic, and expressive – a catchy, Christmas-y electro-pop overhaul that brings the club to our living rooms. Hall’s performance is impeccable, and with such provocative, memorable lyrics like “Santa’s thiccc, three Cs,” “All I want for Christmas is a cure for COVID,” and “Trump is the new scrooge,” one can’t help return to this enthralling tune again and again.

“I think that the LGBTQ+ community has its own language, its own sense of style, its own humour, its own voice, and based on all those reasons it only makes sense that we would also have a series of our own Christmas carols,” Hall explains.

Rum-pa-pum-pum, get an ugly sweater
Sugar plum, plum, this is Yuletide weather
All the reindeer and the sleigh is loaded
All I want for Christmas is a cure for COVID

“Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees” is a fantastic 2020 Christmas present, and one we’ll be playing well into the new year. Todrick Hall has found away to not only leaves his mark on the sh*tshow that 2020 is and was, but he’s also managed to end it on a high note.


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Todrick Hall: I love the holidays! I’ve been a huge fan of Christmas since I was a child. I grew up dancing in the nutcracker and it was the highlight of my year, because it was the one time I got to be on stage and live out my dream! This holiday season has been extra special because this year has been a rollercoaster of events. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time working on my mental health and re-falling in love with myself and I’m so excited to cuddle up and watch Jingle Jangle–my new holiday film. I’ve never seen anything that has had so much representation. Watching Jingle Jangle this year has honestly made my entire Christmas.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Todrick Hall: What inspired me to do my own holiday song, I just started working with a team in London and they said you should put out something for Christmas. People need a pick me up right now. Honestly, I didn’t have anything I wanted to contribute also I had so many friends who are artist making music. But I already made a COVID friendly song of Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels titled Mask, Gloves, Soaps, Scrubs and it performed really well. So, I decided to see if I could make a Christmas version of my most popular song and see if I could put in Christmas puns. And I fell in love with it! I was even able to put together a COVID friendly video in the same location where we shot the first video which now has 40 million views! I was blown away that so many people loved it. I love NHHH but once it came out I realized how many kids were following me. And I wanted to put out a version just as fabulous as the first version but was appropriate for kids and families to watch. So, I put out Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees and I have been blown away by the response. And I’m happy that it has made everyone’s festive season a little more sparkly and fabulous.

How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Todrick Hall: The song captures the holiday spirit because it is completely catered to the holidays and what everyone thinks of when they think of Christmas and America’s shopping, the nutcracker, giving gifts, Santa Clause, and the Radio City Rockets! A big part of what made NHHH so popular, in my opinion, is the colors, the synchronicity of the dancers and choreography. So, I chose really festive colors and I think it just really puts you in the holiday spirit. Plus, I have a brand new costume that has really big shoulders and Santa Claus gloves, complete with metallic nails, so it just felt more festive. And the energy in the room felt more festive. We had reindeers and snow! What could be more holiday than that!

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Todrick Hall: With so many holiday songs out there, I feel like this contribution is important and relevant because it represents a group of people who have been marginalized and underrepresented for so long. I think that the LGBTQ+ community has its own language, its own sense of style, its own humour, its own voice, and based on all those reasons it only makes sense that we would also have a series of our own Christmas carols. I love that people who are able to do little gatherings this year with their chosen family they are going to have this song to make them feel fabulous and to be able to walk around in heels and just be extra and over the top during the holiday season. Up until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of content for us to celebrate christmas in our own way with our own community. I hope that this will be making a lot of playlist for people. And I hope that Bells, Bows, Gifts, Trees will be a delightful addition to playlists of people in the lgbtq+ community all over the world this holiday season.

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:: HONNE ::

“Warm on a Christmas Night”

Francesca Rose

A re-write of their 2016 debut single “Warm on a Cold Night”, Honne’s take on a Christmas song has the heated warmth of being sat by a living room fire, the lights dimmed and the flames illuminating the room. The groove of the original is replaced with strings and piano and a slow jingle of bells, making it an instantly festive version. While the majority of the lyrics remain the same, some have been altered to fit with the occasion: ‘rabbit in the headlights’ becomes ‘reindeer in the headlights’ and ‘Yeah, you keep me warm on a cold night/ Warm on a cold cold night’ becomes ‘oh, you keep me warm on a cold night/ Warm on a Christmas night.’ Atmospheres like this give you more reason to stay at home.


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

HONNE: I love the holiday season. Not so much for the presents etc, but because, at least in the UK, everything grinds to a halt for a few days. Our families can get together, everyone is always available, and it’s one of the only family occasions we know we won’t miss by being away on tour!

Ohhh favourite holiday songs…’Wonderful Christmastime’ by Paul McCartney has to be the one. Have you ever REALLY listened to it? The synth sound and the tape delay that changes pattern. The little 8 second guitar solo.  It’s such a weird and experimental song and people have just accepted it as being normal, and I love that. Well done Paul.

What inspired you to rerecord “Warm on a Cold Night” as a holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

HONNE: All I can remember is being in the studio with Andy, and one of us out of the blue turning to the other and saying ‘we should turn Warm On A Cold Night into a Christmas song’. I think the idea came because it always felt like such a cosy winter song anyway, so it made perfect sense.

We wanted to keep it classy and not too gimmicky, so we thought strings were our best bet. We wanted to capture those dramatic dynamics that are often in Christmas songs. So we reached out to our friend Tobie Tripp, explained what we were after and showed him some examples. Within one day he arranged and recorded the strings for the whole song entirely by himself. He’s a genius.

How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

HONNE: In the UK, it’s so cold at this time of year that most of our efforts are spent trying to keep warm. So in that respect it is spot on. Haha. But overall we feel the song captures that feeling of being with your partner, wrapped up warm and cosy with the fire lit. And whether that’s with a partner or friends or family, spending quality time with the people you love is what the holiday season is all about.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

HONNE: That’s a good question. I think it brings a little bit of class. Holiday songs can be a little bit cringe at times, as much as I love them, but I think we managed to dodge that and keep it classy. But also maybe it’s a little bit cheeky. So maybe we’re bringing classiness and cheekiness to the table. That’s the table we all want to be at, right?

:: Phoebe Bridgers ::

“Carol of the Bells”

Mitch Mosk

Phoebe Bridgers’ 2020 holiday cover (if you can call it that) is hauntingly beautiful and cautiously optimistic. “If we make it through December, everything’s gonna be all right I know… It’s the coldest time of winter, and I shiver when I see the falling snow.” No, Merle Haggard did not predict COVID-19 back in 1973, but he did manage to perfectly capture the feelings associated with distance and separation during a time of family and coming together. Bridgers’ performance is achingly vulnerable and muted; a ghostly, softly tranquilizing lullaby here to make the holidays a little bit easier this year.

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:: Bear’s Den ::

“Christmas, Hopefully”

Francesca Rose

After Only Son of the Falling Snow lit up our 2019 holiday season, Bear’s Den are back again as a part of our 2020 soundtrack. “Christmas, Hopefully” comes as part of an EP of the same name. Featuring two other tracks, “Favourite Patient” and “Berlin pt II” (one based around frontman Andrew Davie’s fiancé who has been a doctor during the pandemic and the other a continuation of their 2016 Christmas song “Berlin”), it’s released around the festive period but doesn’t necessarily have the distinct sounds of a Christmas song. “Christmas, Hopefully,” although consisting of the sad musings of a recent breakup and the coming to terms with that (‘I don’t mind, I don’t care/ I don’t need your love/No, maybe I never did/ I am strong), is the most festive sounding. There are subtle bells in the background and the overall delivery is like walking through fresh snow as your surroundings are chilly and lonely.


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season, at this junction in 2020?

Andrew Davie: I think Christmas is a mixed bag… A lot of fun but also slightly intense familial and social events that you need to be really “on” for. This year the anxiety aspect of it or the presentation of everything as perfect has been kinda disrupted and in a way there’s a sense of relief that there isn’t an occasion to live up to but also sadness that I won’t be able to see family/friends as much as I’d like to.

How does music impact your holiday experience?

Andrew Davie: Massively. I’m all over it. Music might be my favourite thing about Christmas – and the food….

I know you spoke to this a bit in your press release, but what inspired you specifically to write “Christmas, Hopefully”?

Andrew Davie: I think for me, I always think just before it hits Christmas: “Hopefully this year such and such will/won’t happen” – I think it’s all part of the worry that’s kinda caused by the hype of it. I think there is a sort of image of Christmas as a perfect family occasion but actually the reality for most of us is that it’s messier than that. In my family, we all try really hard to make it work but it never quite works out. I think I wanted to write a song that spoke to people who find this time of year difficult and just felt like someone else’s saying: “I find it difficult, too.”

How does this song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Andrew Davie: Negatively! Only joking. I think it’s a very hopeful and nostalgic song, Kev’s piano playing is really beautiful and life-giving, Joni Mitchell vibes everywhere. Jools Owen (horn player & drummer extraordinaire) even tries to sneak in a horn line that resembles a classic christmas song right at the end too. I’ll leave you to see if you can hear it…

What feelings come to mind when you sit down to write a “holiday” song? Is there a specific mindset or thought process that comes to the fore when you embark on that endeavor?

Andrew Davie: With holiday songs, it’s just a backdrop or a setting really. I think with all our songs, a sense of mood or place is important whether that be musical or lyrical. Probably why we have so many places in our song titles: Longhope, The Star of Bethnal Green, Berlin Pt i & ii… With music I can’t show you visually where the song is happening but the title and the first line of the lyrics can take you there before the song really starts. Winter/Snow/Christmas… it’s a setting we all know and we all have our different histories and relationships with. That setting opens up doors for me to write the song and hopefully provides a door into the song for a listener.

“Favorite Patient” is an eerie, very powerful listen. Can you talk about this song, and the decision to include this track on your EP?

Andrew Davie: It’s not really a Christmas song but the intensity of the feelings behind it and the story’s relevance now really made us as a band want to put it on this E.P and put it out this Winter. I wrote this song about my fiancé’s last couple of years training to be a doctor working in various different specialist areas: acute medicine, A & E, Psych Ward’s etc. She’s been incredible throughout the whole time and rarely complains about it. I, however, sit at home and write songs and complain about everything!!! One day she told me that her “favourite patient” had passed away and the true weight of her job really hit me. It’s not just being a doctor or nurse or volunteer, it’s the personal relationships that are built up with patients that people don’t think about and it really struck me.

The only times that she ever really complains about her job are when she feels she wasn’t able to give a patient the amount of care the patient deserves. That usually boils down to lack of funding/resources. It’s a truly selfless career and the career of a songwriter can be quite a self-absorbed one. This year I’ve really been able to see that in a way I hadn’t before and once the pandemic hit, I just wanted to find ways to help her and support her. Every Winter is tough on the NHS with an increase in patients everywhere, it is always underfunded and overstretched and on top of that we have the second wave of this pandemic coming in. The NHS is essentially the beating heart of the UK and given everything it’s been through this year, we wanted to show our support in whatever way we could. All profits from the pre-sale of the E.P will be going to NHS Charities Together – an amazing charity that helps to support doctors, nurses & volunteers working for the NHS.

How did “Berlin, Pt. II” come about and how does it follow up to its “predecessor”?

Andrew Davie: The idea with Berlin pt ii was to talk about the same relationship that was alluded to in the first song but to revisit that story 10 years later. Both stories use Winter in Berlin as a backdrop and it’s based on a trip I took there around 10 years ago around Christmas. Both songs deal with different kinds of distance and the complexities of personal history. I think Berlin as a backdrop to songs that confront those kinds of things makes sense. When I walk around Berlin, I feel overwhelmed by the recent history of the city. It’s probably my favourite city in the world and yet has been through so much. I take great comfort from that when I look around the world sometimes.

All told, Christmas, Hopefully is a really powerful set of songs. How do you feel these three tracks mesh together? Are they intertwined, for you?

Andrew Davie: Yes and no. To some extent they are all separate, they all belong to different experiences but they all evoke the same feelings for us. I hope one day, we will be able to put out all the Winter songs we’ve written as an album and that album will make sense. This year, I’ve found it hard to write songs but have found it easier when I’ve been honest and truthful to the reasons why it’s been difficult. This collection of songs encapsulates a confusing, complex year which has challenged all of us in different ways we couldn’t have imagined. These songs feel a part of that journey of reflection, fear and fundamentally of hope moving forward.

Last year you shared some of your favorite older holiday songs. Do you have any more recent favorite holiday tracks?

Andrew Davie: I’ve been pretty obsessed with the Home Alone soundtrack over the last few holidays. It’s just awesome! The Maccabees did a kind of medley of it (which is genius!!) too. The Staves “Home Alone, too” is probably the best Christmas song I’ve heard in recent years and listening to the Staves around Christmas time/Winter is good for the soul. I think I like Home Alone too much…

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:: Lera Lynn ::

Love One Another

Mitch Mosk

Lera Lynn’s Love One Another EP is a soft and tender December singalong – three gorgeous acoustic covers of timeless classics (including Joni Mitchell’s “River”), and one tender original with a resounding message for all to hear and hopefully internalize. “Love One Another” is a breath of cool, smoldering folk rock that isn’t exactly a “Christmas” song, but it certainly carries the spirit of this sentimental, unifying time of year. “Suddenly everything’s changed, there’s more time to sit and watch the rain; more need to be less estranged from yourself and all you have gained at least for now,” Lynn sings, her voice an earnest harbinger of togetherness and connection. Fresh off her fifth studio album, the Nashville singer/songwriter burns bright again at this year’s end.


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Lera Lynn: Like so many of us, the holidays evoke nostalgia for me. Say what you will about holiday marketing (I’ll agree) but I do look forward to spending time and energy on sending thanks and love to folks at the end of the year. Also, it’s nice that the world shuts down for a minute. Some of my favorite classic holiday pieces are “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Bing Crosby Christmas Classics” and “Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas” by Ella Fitzgerald.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Lera Lynn: I love holiday music but I also want my music to be relevant year-round. That can be tough when the word Christmas is running through the lyric so I tried for a more seasonally ambiguous approach with the words and employed a lot of tones I’ve used in my previous recordings.

How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Lera Lynn: When I wrote the lyrics for “Love One Another” I really wanted to focus on the feeling that comes at the end of the year when the world slows down and we can simply BE at home with our loved ones without FOMO. Sonically I think the song captures that feeling well too.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Lera Lynn: This song focuses on the most important aspect of the holidays: loving each other, no matter our differences. It praises the ice and snow for forcing us to slow down. There’s a certain sadness when all the leaves die and the sky is bleary grey. Most holiday songs fight that with cheeryness (which I’m grateful for!) but I also find beauty in the grey and use it to shift my focus to giving love.

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:: VÉRITÉ ::

“Blackout Christmas”

Mitch Mosk

Kelsey Byrne’s stirring song is as ethereal and soaring as it is a visceral tearing apart of the self. Sweet harmonies and smooth bass grooves make for a enchantingly expressive display of longing for togetherness: That traditional heartache that burns so much brighter this year, than in years past. “I don’t want to remember the way that you held me when I was your baby, wrapped me up and kept me warm.” VÉRITÉ expresses in two quick minutes what takes some of us years to recognize and reckon with: A depth of feeling and memory intrinsically tied to another. “‘Blackout Christmas’ is a song that forgives your indulgence and escapism, especially if you’re feeling a bit heartbroken this holiday season,” she shares. Whether your heart is empty or full at this time, prepare to be moved.

Now it’s a Blackout Christmas
So I don’t have to miss you
Theres no hoping no wishing that you’ll come home
Stumbling around the kitchen
Crying and breaking dishes
I would give anything for you to come home
I spent the whole year
Waiting for you to call my name and
Tеll me you’re sorry for the way you brokе my heart when you didn’t


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

VÉRITÉ: Honestly, I don’t love the holidays. I love spending time with my family and the lights, but there’s something always a bit lonely and sad about the holiday season. I love classic holiday songs from Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

VÉRITÉ: I’ve had the idea to cover a Christmas song for a while, and didn’t intend to write my own, but honestly, the idea came when I was on a run. I was thinking of covering Blue Christmas and I realized I’d much prefer a black Christmas.

How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

VÉRITÉ: The holiday is sometimes lonely but there’s a beauty to the stillness and the sadness it can bring. I wanted to create something timeless and beautiful for my fans.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

VÉRITÉ: “Blackout Christmas” is a song that forgives your indulgence and escapism, especially if you’re feeling a bit heartbroken this holiday season.

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:: Øzwald ::

“Quarantine Christmas”

Francesca Rose

It’s only natural that someone releases a quarantine-based Christmas song this year. Why sugar-coat things or drift off into fictionalized lands when we might as well just accept the truth. Christmas is about memories after all. “Quarantine Christmas” by Øzwald, the side project of Jason Wade and Steve Stout of the band Lifehouse, keeps with the Øzwald sound: chilled out and hazy with a sunny optimism bouncing along. ‘Have a very merry quarantine Christmas’ the song begins, ‘We know that 2020 won’t miss us/ New year’s eve will be waving goodbye’ There’s a tinge of melancholy to “Quarantine Christmas” but it’s balanced out by the warming blissfulness and lightheartedness of both the lyrics and the melodies.


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Steve: My parents have buckets and buckets of Christmas decorations, always go pretty far out with it and we listened to the same 6 Christmas CDs in a CD changer every year – lots of oldies, one was definitely the Carpenters Christmas CD and something that included ‘Dominick the Donkey.’

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Jason:  We’ve been talking about doing an original Christmas song for a couple of years and we wanted to write something that was relevant for the times and wanted to make something that felt warmer and more tropical than the weather in Nashville where we live.

How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Steve:  There’s a lot of serious, romantic or sad Christmas songs out there and we wanted to write something a little more left of center and quirky.  Feels like a nice break from all of the classics we love on a playlist together.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Jason:  We wanted to do more of the stuffing and the mac n cheese vs. the turkey and the prime rib type of song… in all seriousness, we were having fun and not overthinking it, we hope people have as much fun listening to it as we had recording it.

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:: girl in red ::

“two queens in a king sized bed”

Francesca Rose

“two queens in a king sized bed” sounds like a sweetly typical love song, all gentle and twinkly and centred around intimacy. Except most Christmas love songs are written from a heterosexual point of view. Thankfully Marie Ulven AKA girl in red has written a clear cut lesbian  song, emphasizing also that the magic of Christmas time shouldn’t just be for Christmas. ‘Two queens in a king-sized bed/ There’s no mistletoe above our heads/ But I’ll kiss you anyway/ On Christmas day’ go the opening lines before building up a scene that’s detailed and dreamy.

Two queens in a king-sized bed
Like angels in the snow
My only wish is one more year
And then I want them all
Your freckled cheeks, our tangled feet
The closer, the better it gets
So let’s stay right here
Until forever disappears

“two queens in a king sized bed” is girl in red’s first track to be produced with someone else rather than just herself but the additional touches, leading to a more polished coating and distinctively festive feel, are what it give that extra magical touch.

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:: Grouplove ::

“A Grouplove Christmas”

Francesca Rose

You can always rely on Grouplove to bring some joy to the ears. “A Grouplove Christmas’’ isn’t as high energy, with its accompaniment of just piano, but there’s a subtle John Lennon vibe that gives it its sweetness. Lyrically it’s a combination of festive romance and tedious realities: delayed flights, inconvenient snow, having too much to do mixed with the desire to get lost in someone’s company.

Let’s just forget about the presents
And the things we need to do
Let’s just snuggle by the fire
We can drink up all the booze
‘Cause baby, I wanna spend Christmas with you
I wanna spend it with you

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:: Circa Waves ::

“Miss Christmas”

Mitch Mosk

A rollicking addition to the indie rock holiday catalog, Circa Waves’ “Miss Christmas” is a buoyant outpouring of joviality and sweet spirited enthusiasm. The Liverpudlian band take listeners on a wily joyride through dreams of missing Christmas, and waking up to find you didn’t. The innocent excitement of that discovery is enough to propel a wash of jubilation and eager joy that resonates for a dynamic, enthralling three and a half minutes. It’s this kind of simple euphoria that makes a holiday song instantly relatable: And with that, Circa Waves not only make a holiday-themed song, but an actual anthemic ode to the holiday season.

Yeah, I dreamt that I missed Christmas
Yeah, I slept right through
No turkey or presents
No mistletoe kissing you
But I woke up on Christmas morning
And I could hear the sleigh bells calling me
And there’s a sign on the wall that says, “Stop here first”
And the kids are going crazy and running down the stairs
And when I see those faces, they light up the room
Thank God I didn’t miss Christmas
Thank God I didn’t miss Christmas with you, woo
Hoo hoo, hoo hoo


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Circa Waves: I love Christmas. My family has done it the same way since before I was born and it’s a really long day of eating and drinking together. This year will be the first time we can’t see each other which is sad but it makes me realise how much I love it. Favourite christmas song right now is John Lennon – Happy Xmas but it changes all the time. The Ramones – Merry Christmas is always up there too.

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Circa Waves: Kieran wrote the song on piano a long time ago and we’ve always talked about recording it but could never find the time. If nothing else 2020 has given us all the gift of time so we thought fuck it, why not. It seems like almost every other band had the same thought this year as well, maybe this will get bands writing christmas songs again instead of whatever turd Simon Cowell decides to float out every year.

How does it capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Circa Waves: Well for a start there’s sleigh bells all over it. We had to have a very serious discussion about how loud they should be in the mix, it got heated because everyone feels very strongly about these things. In the spirit of Christmas though, we managed to come together and agree that yes, they should be louder.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Circa Waves: Well ours is the best one so it brings that quality of being the best.

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:: The Sea The Sea ::

Stumbling Home (for the Holidays)

Mitch Mosk

My favorite folk duo from upstate New York have the incredible talent for compelling their listeners into soothing, tranquil dreamlands. Following the August release of their enchanting third album Stumbling Home, The Sea The Sea’s Chuck and Mira Costa turned around an intimate, stirring four-track holiday EP. Stumbling Home (for the Holidays) introduces us to three dazzling folk originals and a reimagining version of “Silent Night” full of those lush harmonies that have long made this band so alluring to begin with. While the entire record is a sincere delight, its first two tracks – “Joy” and “Tie a Ribbon on the Year” are utterly mesmerizing: Sweet, soulful, stripped, with nothing to hide and everything to give. “Joy” is a particularly alluring invitation to reflect on this time of year, and what it means for us, for others, and for our society at large. With lyrics full of introspection and wonder, The Sea The Sea have injected their glistening homegrown folk into our holidays with genuine love and compassion.

What is a Wise Man, but just a man
wiser than he was before?
And what is time then,
but remembering a time when
we thought that we knew more?
Say the word frozen in our mouths,
the one we heard the angels sing out loud
Let the cold turn our breath into a cloud:
“Joy”… “Joy”
What is a season but just a time
to lean into the light a little more?
What is believing, but learning how
to see when everything’s an open door?
Say the word frozen in our mouths,
the one we heard the angels sing out loud
Let the cold turn our breath into a cloud:


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

The Sea The Sea: In previous years, the holidays have been the time of year when we’re home the most–so it’s been a time when we get to celebrate ritual, routine, tradition, and we’ve come to be really grateful for that time, and for opportunities to create and introduce each other to those things over the years. One of those things is the Nat King Cole holiday vinyl Chuck grew up listening to, Alvin & the Chipmunks–also, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Sufjan Stevens’ Songs For Christmas are always favorites.

What inspired you to record your own holiday songs, and how did you go about making them your own?

The Sea The Sea: We were inspired this summer to start documenting the different holiday tunes we’ve learned over the years, and during that time also started to feel inspired to take a swing at writing our own–the three originals that came out of those few days are all on this EP–they’re all very different, but they still feel like part of a collection to us. And because these were all recorded in the months following finishing up our newest album, we thought it’d be a fun nod to tie them together in their titles.

How does each of these capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

The Sea The Sea: For us, the holidays are always a really intense dose of so many emotions, and our favorite holiday songs always seem to conjure up some combination of them that rings true for how we’re feeling at the end of a year. The holidays also always feel like the most connected to measures of time–so, songs that carry some mix of joy and melancholy, longing and celebration–and I think each of the songs on this EP has its own version of those things.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

The Sea The Sea: “Joy” and “Tie A Ribbon On The Year” feel like more seasonal songs than holiday-specific songs even though they borrow holiday imagery–we wanted to write songs with lyrics that resonated with the time of year, but that weren’t too different in the sonic world from songs you’d listen to throughout the year. We mixed those in with a new arrangement of a classic song in “Silent Night” and then “It Won’t Be Christmas (Without You)” is our original take on what we love so much about classic jazz standard versions of holiday tunes. Essentially, we wanted to create songs that would just feel really good to listen to.

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:: Office Romance ::

“Magic in the Air”

Francesca Rose

While Christmas parties are inexistent this year (via Zoom doesn’t really have the same effect), Office Romance are supplying the cheesy celebratory atmosphere that comes with an annual Christmas party. Office Romance, formed of Syd Butler, Seth Jabour, and actress Amy Calson, are unique in the sense that they’ve come together exclusively for the festive period. Their debut LP, Holidays of Love (a follow-up to their 2012 EP I Love the Holidays), is consistently uplifting and the opening track “Magic in the Air” taps into the epitome of holiday cheese but with the level-headedness that comes with creating an original.

It’s the greatest time of the year/ friends gather for holiday cheer/ pull out the tinsel and the bows/ let’s hope this year we have some holiday snow-oh-oh’ begins Carlson, the words seemingly released with a wide grin. This year is not full of gatherings, and it might not seem like the greatest time, but luckily music has the capability to bring familiar scenes to us and our moods.

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:: Josie Dunne ::


Mitch Mosk

“Two years ago she took our breath away with “Cold in December,” and this holiday season Josie Dunne has come back with the tender and transformative “Holidays.” “Had months of cold fronts, so this year I’ll find all the reasons this season is always so bright,” Dunne sings softly at the start; she then proceeds to hold true to her word, listing with vivid lyrics all the reasons this time of year lights us up both inside and out.

With buoyant melodies and evocative samples of The Nutcracker symphony forming the song’s base, “Holidays” is an endearing and enchanting ode to the most wonderful time of year. Seductive beats and Dunne’s golden tones make for a hypnotic, gripping experience through and through – and while she once left us feeling spellbound in sadness, this time around Josie Dunne lifts our spirits with effortless grace. Needless to say, it’s hard not to smile by the end of this song.

Plastic santas
Pine-scented candles
Up on the mantle, it
Feels like winter time
When you’re
Singing from door to door
And layered to keep it warm
‘Cause it feels like winter time
My mood’s up all because
I know that the snow
And the greeting cards mean
It’s the holidays (fa-la-la-la-la-la)
It’s the holidays (fa-la-la-la-la-la)
Got me so full of cheer, I’ll spend the rest of the year
Wishing that every day, were the fa-la-la-la-la-la holidays


Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Josie Dunne: This year, I really wanted to make a feel-good holiday song because 2020 has been a nightmare.  I feel like we’re all looking for something to celebrate right now and for me, time with the people I love at the holidays has always been something that fills me up and re-centers me.  So, we wrote a song about feeling happy at Christmas! It was really kinda that simple when we came up with the idea for it.

I wrote it with my friend Connor Thuotte in July, so in order to capture the holiday spirit while writing it, we dressed up in Christmas sweaters, drank hot chocolate, and had Christmas movies running in the background at the studio. I felt super weird driving to our sessions to work on it every day blasting the Carpenters Christmas album in the middle of like 100 degree weather. Haha! Connor even put up a tree.  So I think by surrounding ourselves in it, I genuinely got into the Christmas spirit when writing it and then all we had to do was record everything that we loved so much about that warm, fuzzy feeling of the holidays. It was easy because we were both looking forward to it so much, this year especially!

What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Josie Dunne: Really, most of my favorite music was made before the end of the 1970s so I’ve always loved Christmas music. It sounds a lot like the Motown and soul music that I grew up listening to year-round.  The melodies are all really timeless and the arrangements are all super beautiful.  It’s hard not to love holiday songs! My favorite is Mele Kalikimaka because I’m obsessed with the Andrews Sisters.

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Josie Dunne: Connor and I really worked to make sure the production felt like a mix of modern sounds and the things we love about traditional Christmas songs. For example, we use chopped samples to make it feel modern, but the main sample is from a classic recording of The Nutcracker symphony.  And we included a little intro that I think feels like a classic Christmas carol, but it drops after a couple seconds into a track with 808s. It’s a real blend of old and new!

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:: & Many More! ::

Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holidays songs?

Calexico (Seasonal Shift): I grew up with the family of six singing songs around the piano with my mom playing and leading us into holiday cheer. In Tucson my family loves eating tamales, visiting the Pasadena lights in Barrio Viejo and going to the Tucson botanical garden for their seasonal celebrations of music, lights and food. Some of my favorite holiday songs are “Oh Christmas Tree”, “Silent Night” and “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. – Joey Burns

Shea Diamond (“Mrs. Claus”): This Holiday season I’ve literally become Mrs.Claus, Christmas is a time of caring and sharing, being with the ones you love and those that love you, good food, good times and of course the love we show by spending all our money on gifts people will never use. New years brings renewed hope, that things can get better. My favorite songs are The Christmas song, This Christmas, All I Want for Christmas Is You… I actually curated a Christmas playlist called Christmas with Shea Diamond that can be found on Spotify!

Ingrid Michaelson (“Christmas Valentine“): The holidays were always such a warm and special time growing up. My family would always get a huge tree and have parties and sing around my father playing the piano. I think my absolute favorite holiday song is ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.’ I also love ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It makes me feel like a kid again.

Nova Miller (“Only When It Snows”): I love Christmas so much, it’s definitely my favorite holiday. I grew up loving Christmas, my mom would put the tree up on the 1st of November every single year, we’d always go ice skating and play Christmas music way too loud. My whole family are musicians so we just all bring our instruments and jam on Christmas Eve & day, it’s really fun. Some of my favorite holiday songs are definitely Oh Holy Night- Mariah Carey, I’m gonna be cheesy and say Michael Bublé’s whole Christmas album, Last Christmas – WHAM! and the Swedish version of I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (jag såg mamma kyssa tomten) it brings me so many memories.

Celeste (“A Little Love”): The Holidays are a time to spend time with my family and enjoy good food. It’s a great time to wind down and reflect on the year. My personal favourite holiday songs are ‘Baby It’s Cold Outiside’ and ‘Santa Baby’, the original Eartha Kitt version.

The National Parks (“Peace on Earth”): This time of year is magical for me. I remember growing up and just feeling so pumped every time my mom started getting out all the Christmas decorations. There’s something special about the air getting cold, the snow falling and seeing lights on a tree late at night. I love it. I would say my favorite Christmas songs are “Christmas Lights” by Coldplay, “A Very She & Him Christmas” album by She & Him, and then I gotta throw in “Christmas Eve” by Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Mayer Hawthorne (“What Do the Lonely Do At Christmas”): I’m Jewish so I don’t really celebrate Christmas, but Hanukkah songs are awful and most of the good Christmas songs were written by Jews anyhow. James Brown’s “Soulful Christmas” is up there but I think the best holiday jam is still Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime is Here” co-written by Lee Mendelson (Jew!).

Creature Comfort (“Christmas in Quarantine”): I have nothing but good memories attached to the holiday season and some would even say that I’m a little bit obsessed. My best friends used to call me “the Christmas nazi” because ever year, I had to have lots of decorations up and plenty of holiday activities planned. My top 3 favorite holiday songs are “Sleigh Ride,” “The Christmas Song” and “Fairytale of New York.”

Dana Williams (“Happy Holidaze”): I’ve never been a huge holiday person. I think since my dad passed away, I never felt completely enthusiastic about them. However, it’s a nice time to reflect and reset for the year ahead. And I do love the music. Some of my favorite holiday songs are “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “The Christmas Song”.

CLAVVS (“Rather Be Home”): We both really love the holiday season, especially in New York City. It’s pretty magical how the city transforms into a giant light display and everything feels a bit more cozy. We love the hygge vibes. Every year we decorate and put on our favorite holiday records, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You. It’s so hard to choose a favorite holiday song but maybe it would be “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love.

Kandle (“Christmas Mourn”): I could always count on Christmas to be a harmonious time in my household. The annual traditions that were upheld by my family were always a source of warmth and comfort..and wine ; ) My mom sings Christmas carols all year ‘round so I’m fairly certain this is the most proud of me she has ever been! “Sleigh Ride” – The Ronnettes, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love, “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto” – James Brown, “There Ain’t No Santa Claus on The Evening Floor” – Captain Beefheart

John Mark Nelson (“Good to Be Home”): This time of year has always been really special to me. I grew up in Minnesota, which always gets very cold, snowy, and magical around this time. Whatever your personal beliefs are, this seems like a time when people universally want to be around the ones they love, and I think that is a beautiful thing. There are two albums that are on constant repeat for me: Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas and Joel Paterson – Hi-Fi Christmas Guitar.

Kerry Ellis & Brian May (“One Beautiful Christmas Day”): I LOVE Christmas and the holiday season, it’s always a really busy time for me doing lots of concerts and singing festive songs. I love “Christmas Baby Please Come Home” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath The Tree,” so to have my own holiday song out there is pure joy!

Sara Noelle (“Christmas at Sea”): Christmastime is warmth, nostalgia and music. Every year on Christmas Eve we sing carols together, each member of the family gets their own part of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” (my mom, who has the best soprano of the group, always does “five golden rings”). Some of my favorites are “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon along with classics like “Carol of the Bells” and “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” (and really anything on the Home Alone soundtrack). I love subtle Christmas songs like “River” by Joni Mitchell and “A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn’t So)” by The Flaming Lips, ones you can listen to all year round that become extra special during the holidays.

Elkyn (“christmas lights”): I’ve never been a big christmas person but i do enjoy going back home and getting together with everyone i’ve missed. Every year i’ll get together with my brothers and put the Reuben song ‘christmas is awesome’ on full blast, so that’s gotta be a favourite. Also a big fan of Ariana Grande’s christmas ep ‘christmas & chill’, partly because it’s ridiculous but just a little bit of fun. More seriously, the new Phoebe Bridgers christmas song ‘If We Make It Through December’ is beautiful and i’ll definitely be spinning it for most of christmas day.

andrews’ (“silent nights”): Most years I go up to my family’s cabin in Maine. I take the time away to see family, write, and drink plenty of cocoa before the new year. I look forward to it every year and really makes this time of year special for me.

Total Brutal (“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”): “Christmas time is my absolute favorite time of the year. It has a magical spirit that for me doesn’t compare to any other feeling. I grew up in Northeast Ohio with lake effect snow, a mom who made it the most special thing in the world, and a family who loved it just as much as I do. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “This Christmas” are my two favorite Christmas classics.” – Kristen Gleeson-Prata (KGP)

“I agree with KGP, the holiday season has always been one of my favorite times of the year. For me it marks the closing of chapter and gives me the space and time to relax and look back at all the amazing things that happened that year. It might be more difficult to find the silver lining in 2020 but I do believe there is one. It hasn’t been perfect, but in some way, I think the world feels a little more connected to each other. At least I hope that is the reigning feeling after all this. We’re not meant to be isolated and this year has posed a lot of devasting struggle for so many families. I believe we’re all in need of a little connection this holiday season. Hopefully music will do what it’s always done and bring people together while we zoom our families from afar, look at Christmas lights from our car and remember what the holiday season is all about. I’m looking forward to discovering new indie Christmas songs this year but just like KGP I have always enjoyed the classics as well. O’ Holy Night has the most beautiful melodies and of course I’m digging Misty’s “Merry Christmas, My Love!”” – Emily (Total Brutal)

What inspired you to record your own holiday song, and how did you go about making it your own?

Calexico (Seasonal Shift): I really like Gaby Moreno‘s album ‘Posada’, JD McPherson’s ‘Socks’, and some of the classics like John and Yoko’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. These songs and albums as well as others inspired me to try writing my own. Sometimes I start with a melody that feels like the holidays and winter time and then I map out chord changes and finish with lyrics to match the mood. – Joey

Shea Diamond (“Mrs. Claus”): Justin Tranter reached out to me about The Happiest Season, I was inspired by the feel of Christmas spirit that Justin had created months before Christmas in the studio, I was inspired to Mrs. Claus and to tell Mrs. Claus’ story since her story around the world had been one of a supporting role – not really seen as important in history. With the strides women have been making, I wanted to make this song a celebration of their strength. The process was actually the most fun I’ve had during Christmas.

Ingrid Michaelson (“Christmas Valentine”): Anyone who remotely knows me knows that I LOVE Christmas. So recording and releasing holiday music has always been fun for me. In terms of making it my own, I just try to lean on a classic feel but out my own vocal twist on things.

Nova Miller (“Only When It Snows”): I put out my first Christmas song when I was 13 called My Perfect Christmas! So, I’ve been waiting to put out more holiday music cus I love it so much. This year we decided pretty late in October and just bundled up in the studio for two days. I finished Red Dress over the phone with my manager, Lolene who is also a writer, and we recorded only when it snows in one day. It was especially important to me to put out some festive holiday music this year since I know it’s kind of a special and weird Christmas for a lot of people including myself. I can’t fly back to Sweden to be with my family this year. So, I wanted to do this to my fans to let them know that they’re not alone this season and we will spend the holidays together. I am the self-proclaimed princess of Christmas! Lol

Celeste (“A Little Love”): I was inspired by how even throughout this hard year people have shown kindness and love to each other. I wanted this song to be a little different to your normal holiday song and so that was the vibe I brought into the studio with Jamie Hartman, my main collaborator on the song.

The National Parks (“Peace on Earth”): To be honest, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Christmas songs sometimes. I think a lot of it gets old and overplayed as Christmas comes closer and some of my favorite Christmas songs are less stereotypical because of that. I think when I sit down to write a Christmas song, I have that in mind. I want it to be a song that feels real. This year, writing a Christmas song was especially interesting.

Mayer Hawthorne (“What Do the Lonely Do At Christmas”): Talented musician, producer and friend Jeff “Gitty” Gittelman (Jew) pitched the idea to me. I’ve always loved the Emotions version but the sleigh bells are a little corny. I wanted to make a version that could be mistaken for a non-holiday song if you weren’t paying close attention.

Creature Comfort (“Christmas in Quarantine”): I wanted to write something that captured how unorthodox the holidays would be this year. But to be honest, this year my girlfriend has been my saving grace. I know that there are others out there who are thankful for the love and friendship that is getting us through these weird times.

Dana Williams (“Happy Holidaze”): I’ve always leaned on music and writing to express myself. I’m better at writing my feelings than talking them out. I think what makes it my own is that I am speaking from personal experience. It captures my experience this holiday. I’ve always wanted to write a holiday song but it never felt right until now. This holiday is like no other holiday I’ve ever experienced. It’s so unsettling.

CLAVVS (“Rather Be Home”): I wrote this song in 2018, before our first Christmas in New York after we moved here. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to go see our families that year, and I was feeling pretty sad about it. I would walk home from my restaurant job late at night underneath all the beautiful holiday lights and just feel lonely and homesick. That’s where this song came from. I sang it for Graham and we both felt like it had a classic feel to it, so we wanted the instrumentation to match that.

Kandle (“Christmas Mourn”): I wrote “Christmas Mourn” with my pal Debra-Jean Creelman (founding member of Mother Mother) over a couple of zoom dates in November. We tracked it with one mic in the living room with sleigh bells (surprisingly hard to play) and a couple glasses of wine. It was Deb’s idea and she sent me a voice note with a few pretty chords one day and out poured the song. The lyrics came to me quite effortlessly since as we are all trying to deal with the loneliness of a Covid Christmas this year.

John Mark Nelson (“Good to Be Home”): I have never been a person who can write or create a Holiday song in July. But, I would like to release a Holiday album some day. So, I just try to make one song every year when I get into the spirit of it. Hopefully some day they all fit together. When I make Holiday tunes, I try not to treat them any differently than I would if I was making any other song of mine. So I try to just think about what I would add to any plain old song before I reach for the sleigh bells and glockenspiel.

Kerry Ellis & Brian May (“One Beautiful Christmas Day”): I have sung endless festive holiday songs over the years and thought it was time to have my own. I had a rough version of the song that I brought to Brian’s attention. We then worked on it together and came up with “One Beautiful Christmas Day.” I’m so proud of it, and hope the song brings people lots of comfort and joy.

Sara Noelle (“Christmas at Sea”): Dan Duszynski and I worked remotely to record these two songs, an original and a cover of the Vince Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time Is Here” (during this remote time we also recorded a covers EP, Four Songs). The original, “Christmas at Sea,” is a hopeful, peaceful tune with the undercurrent of 2020 melancholy and anxiety. I wanted it to sound like a song I would write normally but with hints of late December in it.

Elkyn (“christmas lights”): For fun! It’s been a crappy year and I’ve been trying to do as much music as possible so it was really nice to do a Christmas cover. I’m a big fan of Coldplay and thought i could do a classic elkyn version of ‘christmas lights’. It originally started as a pad, guitar and vocals, in true elkyn style, then worked with my producer Mark to give it a big ole christmassy tinge.

andrews’ (“silent nights”): I kind of just liked the irony of using a Christmas classic name and making it about something entirely different. I will probably keep doing it for a few years.

Total Brutal (“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”): “I’ve jumped on any opportunity to get creative this year. Exercising creativity has helped keep me sane! This was the fastest turnaround for a song that I’ve ever been a part of. We decided to record a Christmas song about a week before I knew it needed to be completely done in order to post it and share it with people for the holiday season. Looking back, I’m so proud of how fast we all worked to make this happen. It felt like a fun challenge where I could stick my head in the sand for 7 days and come out with this cool jangly Christmas song by one of my favorite artists, Eels. I was really excited at the idea of doing a Christmas song with my best friends. They all have so much individual style so making it our own was easy. Misty’s voice is unmatched and has more character in a single syllable than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. She brings the warm charm, for sure. Hayley is a little creative genius, both musically and artistically. She writes the best and most interesting bass lines, sings like a Christmas angel and we should all beg her to release her unreleased music. And Kristen… come on. The most solid. When Kristen is playing on a track, you know it. Her style is so uniquely her own and she brings so much class and vintage vibe to the song. I’m thrilled with the way our song turned out.” – Emily

How does your song capture the holiday spirit or season, for you?

Calexico (Seasonal Shift): Writing and recording songs that brings people together, despite differences of background or beliefs, is the best kind of holiday spirit there can be. Our band and featured guests on this album come from around the world where everyone brings something special to the holiday experience. – Joey

Shea Diamond (“Mrs. Claus”): The songs I wrote capture the spirit of Christmas by reminding us to be free during this season. We have an excuse to have fun, wear our ugly Christmas sweaters, eat too much and you can literally Blame it on Christmas. We couldn’t have a Christmas without Mrs. Claus, the most unrecognized and unappreciated figure in Christmas; even Frosty and Rudolph got their own song. I felt there would be no Christmas without Mrs. Claus.

Ingrid Michaelson (“Christmas Valentine”): Anything with the word SNOW in it captures the season for me! And the song itself makes me smile and feel cozy and warm.

Nova Miller (“Only When It Snows”): I just went full out, ho ho ho´s, bells and strings!! I even made a music video for Only When It Snows that’s the most extra Christmas you will have seen in a while (it’s coming out soon). Red Dress is a little more on the sadder side which is also a reality for a lot of people during the holidays, I felt like I wanted to capture both.

Celeste (“A Little Love”): Giving a little love is something we all do during the holiday season, whether that’s in the form of gifts, cooking for family, or just spending time with people we love.

The National Parks (“Peace on Earth”): 2020 has been a year filled with so much confusion and heartache and uncertainty and not as much joy. I sat down and just started thinking about that and I just let my mind run wild and that’s where the song was born. I think it captures the spirit of this season because of all that. We’ve all been through so much and I think we can all agree that what we need is a little peace on earth. It’s a unique song for a unique time of our lives.

Mayer Hawthorne (“What Do the Lonely Do At Christmas”): So many people are spending the holidays without their families this year so it’s super sad but feels incredibly on brand for 2020. Hopefully next year I can do a more upbeat, celebratory number.

Creature Comfort (“Christmas in Quarantine”): This year has been crazy to say the least, and I know that everyone wants the holidays to be the same as they always are, or even better, but the reality is that this pandemic is going to make it more difficult than ever to see all our friends and family. In the song, we included references to Christmas parties, Christmas cards, eggnog and Santa, and all of these things are different this year – but mistletoe is the same. The true meaning of the holidays is about being with the one(s) you love.

Dana Williams (“Happy Holidaze”): Nina Simone said ‘an artist’s duty is to reflect the times.’ So to me this song captures the holiday spirit of 2020 and the emotions we are experiencing. Many of us are separated from our loved ones and trying to find new ways to stay connected and celebrate. I just had a Zoom Thanksgiving. It was nice to have a sense of companionship, but it doesn’t compare to when we were able to celebrate together and hug one another.

CLAVVS (“Rather Be Home”): We leaned into a lot of nostalgic holiday sounds for this one. The “oohs” in the intro and bridge are meant to be reminiscent of songs from the claymation Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. There are dreamy sleigh bells and magical bell hits. It juxtaposes major chords and happy-feeling instrumentation with sad lyrics and melodies, which a lot of our favorite holiday songs do, like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or “The Christmas Song.”

Kandle (“Christmas Mourn”): It was partly written as a tribute to holiday standards by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley — influences that I and Debra-Jean quickly realized we shared a love for.

John Mark Nelson (“Good to Be Home”): Honestly, this song is a bit of an escape from reality for me this year. I am out in Los Angeles, with my entire family back in MN. Due to the pandemic, I had to make the difficult choice to try to keep myself and others safe by not going to see my family. This will be the first year I have ever been away from them. So I wrote this song to remember the gift of past years and to look forward to future years where it will be safe to be together again.

Kerry Ellis & Brian May (“One Beautiful Christmas Day”): Well, it’s been a tough year, especially for people in the Arts, and this song is about bringing people together in whatever form that maybe – a photograph, a memory, a zoom call, but just connecting. That’s what it’s all about.

Sara Noelle (“Christmas at Sea”): During this year, especially when I wrote this song, there were unprecedented wildfires in California on top of the pandemic. So it was nice to think about sailing away on a foggy Christmas morning with someone you love, trying to leave the baggage of the year behind.

Elkyn (“christmas lights”): Sleigh Bells and brass – the most christmassy instruments. I’m a brass player originally, and I’ve done a lot of caroling and christmas concerts with my trumpet over the years, so it only felt right to use it.

andrews’ (“silent nights”): In the past, holidays have brought sad reminders of my former self. As I’ve gotten older, that has changed. I wanted to write about that feeling of memories creeping up on you as you get closer to holiday times.

Total Brutal (“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”): “I usually gravitate towards the Christmas classics or standards, but what I love about this song is that it’s so different. That’s perfect though because 2020 is not a classic year! The hook “everything’s gonna be cool this Christmas” reminds me that even though everything is different this year, it’s still all going to be okay. We will get through. Aside from the song choice itself, hearing all four of our voices together singing these lyrics about friendship and the Christmas spirit gives me all the shiny and twinkly feels. Christmas is all about loved ones, after all, and making music with friends, even remotely, makes me feel so close to them.” – Kristen Gleeson-Prata

With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your songs bring to the table?

Calexico (Seasonal Shift): Our songs from ‘Seasonal Shift’ highlight the importance of new perspectives on the holidays and being inclusive of various cultures and beliefs. I keep coming back to the word inclusivity and togetherness. We started the album session recording the song “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and ended the session writing songs like “Heart of Downtown” featuring Bombino from Niger, Africa. I love the fact that this album has so much diversity. I’m really proud of everyone who’s been involved and helping make this season’s celebration even more special. – Joey

Shea Diamond (“Mrs. Claus”): My songs serves as more than just another option to add to your Christmas playlist. To be honest, questions like this serve as a reminder that there isn’t enough room carved out for Black Trans women to be acknowledged or celebrated in anything, Representation matters. These songs inform you that we are here making music too, and no matter how much you erase us, we will continue to show up, survive, and fight for the chance to be seen as relevant musicians, as our hopes and dreams take a backseat to Toxic Masculinity, binary Extremes, and Transphobia that not only prevent us from being seen and celebrated, but also Solidifiy our Erasure.

Ingrid Michaelson (“Christmas Valentine”): I think ‘Christmas Valentine’ offers a new holiday song with a classic feel. So you get that nostalgia but also get to hear a brand new song.

Nova Miller (“Only When It Snows”): My holiday songs are really focused on vocals like a lot of my music. You’ve probably seen me on TikTok singing whistle tones and doing high belts, I just really wanna put into my songs as well cus that’s really what makes me me. So there’s a lot of space for me to really sing my ass of which is what I truly love the most and feel is what separates me as a singer right now.

Celeste (“A Little Love”): I feel as though my song ‘A Little Love’ brings a fresh new take on the traditional holiday songs, it’s not obviously about Christmas but more of what the time of year brings.

The National Parks (“Peace on Earth”): We wanted this song to bring a spirit of Christmas that helps people look around and see others as their brothers and sisters. We hope this song can uplift people at the end of such a hard year and we also hope that this song can inspire people to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Mayer Hawthorne (“What Do the Lonely Do At Christmas”): Hopefully it helps people get through a difficult holiday season and it might even bring me a little bag of Hanukkah gelt as well.

Creature Comfort (“Christmas in Quarantine”): I think it captures the year 2020 better than most Christmas songs that are out there. Will it be relevant in five years? Probably not. (We can hope!) But I wanted to express the emotions that everyone must be feeling this year.

Dana Williams (“Happy Holidaze”): I think with anything, whether it’s a holiday song or not, there is so much competition and so much great music out there. I try not to compare myself and my music to other people. I really just try to express myself as best I can and try to reflect what’s going on to me and to the world around me. I hope my song brings the honesty of my experience to the table.

CLAVVS (“Rather Be Home”): I guess you could ask that about any artist making any song. But we felt a feeling and wanted to process it like we often do– through our art. This year it seems like a lot of people, ourselves included, won’t be spending the holidays with family or friends, so we decided to release this song in the hopes that it might help someone else feel less alone. It’s a really hard time of year for a lot of people, and this year has been a real struggle for everyone. Our goal is just to spread a little joy.

Kandle (“Christmas Mourn”): We wanted to write something that sounded timeless with modern lyrics about connecting with loved ones over FaceTime and not being able to be with someone you’re in love with. It blends the sounds of classic Christmas ballads, with references to the loneliness of being apart during this particular holiday season

John Mark Nelson (“Good to Be Home”): I can promise you that you will never hear this song 6 times in one hour on the overhead speakers at your local mall. You’re welcome.

Kerry Ellis & Brian May (“One Beautiful Christmas Day”): I wanted to give people something special this year. it was never about competing, just spreading joy and I hope that people love the song as much as I do.

Sara Noelle (“Christmas at Sea”): I wanted “Christmas at Sea” to feel hopeful, timely and a bit romantic but also speak to the uncertainty we are all living through before and beyond the holiday season.

Elkyn (“christmas lights”): I’m a big fan of Coldplay but the main section I think is the best is only in the song for a really short time, so i wanted to make it the main focus in mine! The structure and instrumentation is very different so i think done enough to still make it interesting.

andrews’ (“silent nights”): A moment for reflection and not a trillion sleigh bells, lol

Total Brutal (“Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas”): “In Hayley’s words…. “well, our song is good so nothing else matters.” I love this. There are so so so many great holiday songs out there but we had a lot of fun making ours and I agree that is all that matters. I wouldn’t trade the process for anything. I hope our song brings a little fun, lightness and cheer to the holiday season. Everything is going to be cool, even when it is hard to envision. Thank you Eels for letting us make your song our own for a bit!” – Emily

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2019’s Best New Holiday Songs


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