Atwood Magazine Presents Mistletones: 2023’s Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. 2!

Atwood Magazine's Mistletones 2023, Pt. 2
Atwood Magazine's Mistletones 2023, Pt. 2
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

Just like that, first of December
Counting down ’til we’re together
Only one thing on my wish list
Bring my love back home for Christmas
Mistletoe makin’ me lonely
Santa Claus just can’t console me
Only one thing that I’m missin’
Bring my love back home for Christmas, yeah
– “Back Home For Christmas,” Mimi Webb

The most wonderful time of year has come around once again, and we’re ready to ring in the festivities with a fresh batch of holiday songs and winter wonders!

This year’s holiday season is marked by a resounding sense of appreciation, hope, excitement, and yearning: Many of our 2023 Mistletones picks capture what we might deem that “classic” holiday cheer – evoking feelings of togetherness, connection, and love – whilst just as many take on a more nostalgic or wistful tone, aching with the sorrow and loneliness that often accompanies the holidays.

Just like that, first of December, counting down ’til we’re together. Only one thing on my wish list: Bring my love back home for Christmas,” Mimi Webb sings in her new song “Back Home for Christmas,” channeling the spirit of Christmas and all the excitement (and heartache) that comes with the holiday season. We’d be remiss if we didn’t share the next line, too: “Mistletoe makin’ me lonely, Santa Claus just can’t console me.”

Whether we’re basking in the glow of Markéta Irglová’s “My Happy Place,” Äyanna’s “Christmas All Year,” and Elle Darlington’s “christmas is you,” bouncing around to Gareth Donkin’s dreamy, Wham!-y “This Winter,” or dwelling in the brooding depths of laye’s “Jesus why do you hate me” and Jeen’s “xmas angels,” all of this year’s Mistletones manage to embrace the spirit of this special season – lighting a fire deep inside us with captivating soundtracks and heartwarming reflections on life, happiness, and the people who matter most to us.

We hope these songs help inspire a sense of community and connection, love and togetherness for all who listen. This year’s Mistletones submissions are so great in number, and these songs are so special, that we’ve chosen to split them up into multiple features. See below as artists from around the world share what the holiday season (and holiday music) means to them, and listen to our Mistletones Holiday Songs playlist on Spotify.

From our family to yours, happy holidays and happy new year!

Love,

Mitch Mosk, Editor-in-Chief

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Atwood Magazine's Mistletones listen to MISTLETONES on Spotify Atwood Magazine's Mistletones

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Featured here are Markéta Irglová, Mimi Webb, Äyanna, laye, Gareth Donkin, Jeen, Beta Radio, Savannah Sgro, Elle Darlington, Ellie Bleach, Taylah Carroll, Sara Noelle, Celeigh Cardinal, Zai1k, Spring Summer, Barbra Lica, King of Cups, & Bad Moves!

Dive into these songs and our holiday interviews!

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:: Markéta Irglová ::

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“My Happy Place” by Iceland-based Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová is cinematic and reassuring. Accompanied by a choir and coated with solitary dreaminess, it takes us to a scene of calmness where we stroll amongst the gratitude and the holiday traditions. The chorus, with an augmentation of bells and sense of togetherness, intensifies these traditions. ‘Merry Christmas, merry Christmas, love to you and your family, merry Christmas, merry Christmas, peace, and joy, and harmony,’ sings Irglová, spreading the message that should be spread all year round.  – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Markéta Irglová: I have always loved Christmas. It is a very happy time, during which core memories are made with our families and friends. There is something in the air and we all feel it. Christmas is a very special time of year. Where I come from, as children, we believe that the presents are given to us by baby Jesus. They miraculously appear under the tree at the ring of a bell on the evening of the 24th. It is the origin of spirituality for us all.

In Iceland, however, the traditions are different. Presents are brought to children as early as thirteen days before Christmas, when the thirteen sons of a couple of trolls decend from the mountains, one every day, and visit the towns. They leave a gift for the children in their shoes, in exchange for a humble offering of their favorite foods and drinks. Believing in things we can not perceive with our senses is healthy for us, children and grown-ups alike.

How does music impact your holiday experience?

Markéta Irglová: Very much. Music that I am already familiar with brings back memories from the previous years, puts me in a festive mood and helps me soak it all in. When I was growing up, my mom would always play the same record, a collection of Czech carols. It became a tool for time traveling, accessing all the Christmases before by downloading the culmination of happy memories every December. I didn’t become familiar with all the Christmas songs about Santa Clause until I was a teenager.

Now I believe there are two main groups that Christmas songs fall into. The festive fun ones that make you want to go iceskating with friends or catch up on your Christmas shopping, and then those peaceful, mystical ones that make you want to light a candle and sit quetly at home with a book and a cup of something warm. It’s nice to have both, though I am more drawn to the mystical ones.

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

Markéta Irglová: This is my second Christmas song. The first one is called Magdalena, I released it two years ago, and was written from the perspective of a person alone on Christmas, trying to make it through the holidays without their loved one. This one, called “My Happy Place” is the hopeful and cheeerful counterpoint to Magdalena, in that it radiates the atmosphere of togetherness and celebration. The comfort we find in being able to rely on certain traditions being in place year after year, even as the world changes and us with it.

I started working on the song on tour with Glen last August. I would chip away at it during soundchecks, sometimes joined by the string players. It wasn’t apparent then, that it was a Christmas song, but it became so later as I developed it further. For me writing a Christmas song is not something I would be able to force, I think. That is why I so appreciate when it makes itsself available to me. I always try to follow the song’s lead, and help it become what it wants to be.

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

Markéta Irglová: Mio, the producer of all of my music as well as my husband, helped me with the sonic invocation of Christmas through the use of certain elements, like a choir and strings, bells and chimes, cymbalum, which is more specific to my own roots and traditions, and an organ which I associate with the church.

We also tried to instill the feeling of peace and stillness, the coziness of being at home with your family or seeing familiar faces. gathering in town square for the holiday festivities. The song points to how much bigger our hearts get during this time of year. How much more gracious, generous and kind we become, and what rewards that transformation affords us. Being at peace with the world, feeling grateful and connected to one another. The Christmas Spirit is a very real thing.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Markéta Irglová: Peace and Love. Not very original but very much necessary regardless. Especially considering how we tend to get overwhelmed and stressed by all the preparations leading up to Christmas. It is nice to have things that remind us of the things that matter the most.



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:: Mimi Webb ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Mimi Webb: I love Christmas. Me and my family have always loved making a big deal of to always be together and celebrate this time of the year. In the last couple of years, I have also used this period as a time to reflect on all the amazing things I have been able to accomplish in my career. Leona Lewis’ “One More Sleep’ is one of my favorite holiday songs, it’s such a classic.

Music helps you get into the holiday spirit; it wouldn’t be the same without the classic Christmas songs. What is Christmas without Mariah Careys holiday songs? I also have such vivid memories of my mom listening to Michael Bublé in the house when I was a kid and that was always a sign that the time of the year was approaching.

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

Mimi Webb: This song came about in such a fun and organic way, we originally wrote this song as a love song and not a Christmas song, but we quickly realized it had a holiday vibe to it, so we decided to try to change the lyrics to make it a Christmas song and it just worked!

I have always wanted to release a Christmas song; I feel like every artist has done one at some point and it becomes timeless and such a special thing that comes back every year.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Mimi Webb: The song feels like the perfect mix of fun and festive. A lot of Christmas songs are very slow and emotional, but Christmas is also a time to party, be happy and celebrate with your friends and family so I feel like this song fits well into those festive moments.

`Every year we see a lot of beautiful covers and new versions of timeless classics but there haven’t been many new original songs. Who knows this might become a classic one day?



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:: Äyanna ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Äyanna: The holidays always feel like coming home. I watch the same three movies every single year to get into the Christmas spirit. Elf, the grinch and Jim Carey’s Christmas. Some of my fondest family memories happened during the Christmas season. My favourite songs are really all the cheesy classics: “Last Christmas,” “Santa Baby,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” now I can add “Christmas All Year” to that list.

Music acts as a soundtrack to family time and togetherness in my household. I’m Jamaican and on Christmas Day we play a lot of reggae, believe it or not there’s a Jamaican version of every Christmas song, which I think is cool.

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

Äyanna: My mum definitely is the reason I made a Christmas holiday song. She challenged me to do a Christmas song and at first I wasn’t really interested. But when I asked myself “if I were to make a Christmas song, what would I say?” That’s when I became inspired.

I love being the centre of attention and as the only girl In the family, I’m used to being spoiled… so feeling like the present at Christmas time inspired this song.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Äyanna: It’s a fun play on the concept of feeling like a present. It’s playful and tongue in cheek as well as being just so steeped in happiness and love. All the emotions of Christmas.

I’ve never heard a Christmas song about being so in love and celebrated by the one who loves you before. It’s a song you can play with your loved one when you want to be thankful for being loved and appreciated by them. I think It’s contemporary and a classic at the same time. I’m so proud of it!



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:: laye ::

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The sophomore EP by Canadian singer-songwriter laye, entitled losers, was released in September and it’s a collection of attitude-driven emo pop. Her newly released festive track, “Jesus why do you hate me,” follows a similar style but with added synths and 80s’ drum beat. It’s not necessarily a festive song but it represents the angst and everyday emotions still experienced this time of year. ‘It”s getting pretty dark for a white Christmas. I thought talking to you’s supposed to fix this, so how come I’m hurting?’ she ponders, before erupting into a playful chorus that questions her relationship with religion. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

laye: XXXXXX

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

laye: XXXXXX

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

laye: XXXXXX



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:: Gareth Donkin ::

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Gareth Donkin’s latest release, “This Winter,” radiates ’80s nostalgia. The intro jingles like Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone” before Prince-like vocals and synth-led groove take the spotlight. The UK based singer/songwriter and producer’s debut album, Welcome Home, was released in August and “This Winter” is a further introduction to his warming and retro-inspired soundscape. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Gareth Donkin: To me, spending as much time with family and friends is one of the most important things. Equally, I love to lounge about, play games and eat a lot. My favorite Christmas songs are “Last Christmas” by Wham!, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney and “Christmas Time is Here” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

How does music impact your holiday experience?

Gareth Donkin: It only elevates my holiday experiences. I listen to music every day of the holidays without fail surrounded by loved ones! What’s not to love about that?

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

Gareth Donkin: I felt like I needed a break from writing love songs and focusing on the release of my debut album. After I produced the beat in September (which felt strange), I had the help of my good friend and bandmate Coby Tom who co-wrote the lyrics and played acoustic and electric guitar on the song. I’ve never released anything like this before, but I’m feeling festive and excited to be sharing it in time for the Xmas season.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Gareth Donkin: It really is a nod to all of my favorite seasonal songs I grew up listening to at home with family. The warm and nostalgic sounds tied with rich harmony is what gives it “that holiday feeling.”

There are some amazing modern holiday songs out there. But I think my song is one for all age groups because of its classic feel. I can only hope that it appeals to as many people as possible but it might not be for everyone!



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:: Jeen ::

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“Xmas angels” by JEEN, written and recorded in her attic, is grungy and moody with a chorus that flows with sweet melancholy. Emotions aren’t sugar coated but they are addressed introspectively with a hint of sparkly dreaminess. Words like, ‘I hear your voice in my head as I lie in this bed, on these nights before Christmas time,’ for example, whirl like snow under moonlight. The Toronto-based artist’s next album, Gold Control, is due out February 2. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Jeen: I try to enjoy this time of year for what it is and be grateful for everything we have here but I am a restless person so I struggle with the downtime a bit. Also, the holidays are great for some people and the absolute worst for others, so that disconnect / paradox of the whole thing can make it difficult too I guess.

As for favorite holiday songs, I’d have to pick the three I have done covers for in the past, “White Christmas,” “Fairytale of New York,” and “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” by Blink-182.

Since music is also how I make a living, it’s pretty much always on my mind. Outside of working, I really don’t listen to much music right now to be honest, but I like hearing holiday music when I’m out shopping and at grocery stores and stuff…. Of course it has its limits in terms of how corporate everything can feel this time of year, but it’s nice in doses.

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

Jeen: I’ve wanted to write an original Xmas song for awhile but every time I tried, it ended up sounding too fake, like I just never hit on anything good enough to pursue. I liked the flow of the melody for “xmas angels” and how it was a little more untraditional / melancholy, and I think that made it easier for me to consider as a potential release.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Jeen: It’s more of a reflective song, and this time of year always makes me look back on everything. Maybe it’s just the idea of a new year or whatever, but the song is retrospective and so are the holidays for me. 2023 was a rough year, so it isn’t exactly the happiest holiday song in the world… Maybe it’s more of a song for people who are just trying to get through it this year.



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:: Beta Radio ::

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Sonically, “Space Christmastime Continuum” by the duo Beta Radio conjures up images of a cabin in the woods, the kind of folk music aesthetic that soothes and encourages calm. However, whatever the scene you’re located in and whatever the pace and routine of your everyday life, Christmas is the same: memories of the past (bad and good) returning like ghosts and the muddled reality of utopian imagery and gruelling inconveniences. This is explored in “Space Christmastime Continuum,” for example, ‘And then propelled into silver and gold/ And to stories made holy and told and retold/ Cold wind blows you inside/ Lost keys reside in the snow/ Yet the vibrant always arise/ Beside the abominable,’ making us question what is really Christmas. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Beta Radio: My relationship to the holidays and the holiday season is that every year I have to buy presents and it always sneaks up on me. Favorite holiday song is the Harry Simeone chorale version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

Whenever I go to the store to buy presents, I can listen to Christmas music on my iPod and feel the feeling of listening to Christmas music while I’m buying presents.

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

Beta Radio: We started doing Christmas songs a decade or more ago and decided that we were going to do it again this year.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Beta Radio: Because they sound Christmasy probably. Words about Christmas, bell sounds, a choir of children…. That type of stuff. Our song brings words and music about Christmas to the table.



:: Savannah Sgro ::

when it's december

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Savannah Sgro: I honestly always hated the holidays growing up because my parents were divorced and it wasn’t a fun time having to split time on the day of the holiday. I feel like now since I’ve spent so many years not enjoying this time of year, I’m being very festive and trying to make the most out of the holidays and it’s become a very special time for me! Haha!

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

Savannah Sgro: I always wanted to have a song that was Christmas-y about having that person you haven’t seen all year and then you finally see them and have a situationship, just because you’re in your hometown together at the same time, hahaha! (This may or may not be from personal experience.) I wrote this with Josh Oliver on a Zoom session earlier this year!



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:: Elle Darlington ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Elle Darlington: Christmas has always been my favourite season. I always looked forward to performing in the school nativity play as a kid and decorating the tree with my mum. Now I see it as the perfect time to reconnect with my family and friends since I moved away from my hometown. My favourite holiday songs have to be “All I Want for Christmas Is You’ by Mariah Carey,” “Snow In California” by Ariana Grande, and more recently, “santa doesn’t know you like i do” by Sabrina Carpenter.

Holiday music is what sparks the festivities off for me. As soon as I hear any kind of sleigh bells i get super excited and in the festive spirit! Because Christmas has always been a special time for me, I associate the music with those happy memories. So I like to make the most out of it and have music playing at all times before January comes around!

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

Elle Darlington: As I love holiday music so much, it seemed like an obvious decision for me to create my own. Many of my favourite powerhouse vocalists have amazing Christmas songs, like Mariah, Ariana and Kelly Clarkson. I took a lot of inspiration from their big vocals and riffs and runs when making “christmas is you.”

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Elle Darlington: The title says it all really! “christmas is you” emphasises how it’s the people around you that make Christmas so special, not material things. It’s about appreciating the people you love over the holidays which is really important to me.

“christmas is you” feels really classic and sweet whilst having lyrics that are conversational and feel like something I would say. Which was key for me in order for the song to feel authentic. I also included some whistle notes and pretty ad-libs throughout the song which made it sound super unique!



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:: Ellie Bleach ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Ellie Bleach: Like all relationships, extremely nuanced and confusing. I think every secular Brit has no choice but to love Christmas for the sake of their mental wellbeing. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel in the bleak, dark winter. That being said, I’ve always been terrible at ‘scheduled fun’ and tie myself in knots over underperforming Christmas joy. It runs in the family.

Christmas music is one of my favourite parts of the season and like tertiary relatives you see once a year, you’re forced to love them by exposure. My favourite Christmas song changes annually but I think “Stop the Cavalry” has got to be up there. I do have a definite least favourite Christmas song, and I set myself a challenge of trying to go the whole season without hearing it. In 2019 I made it to New Year’s Eve. (I know people do this with the song ‘Last Christmas,’ but I’d never deny myself of such a banger!)

My childhood was filled with carol singing in the school choir, and feeling strangely guilty staring at the Salvation Army brass band in the middle of my hometown’s shopping centre. Nowadays, the holiday season in the music industry seems to be a nostalgic underworld of end-of-year lists, but all snobbery evaporates with the first few chimes of Mariah Carey’s masterpiece.

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

Ellie Bleach: I’ve been told before that my music has a Christmassy quality to it, in both song structure and production, so it’s always been a goal to contribute to the ‘Christmassy’ canon. I asked myself, ‘What would an Ellie Bleach Christmas song sound like?’ and even if it doesn’t become a radio hit for decades to come, I think at least it’s answered that question.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Ellie Bleach: The track follows a nostalgic narrator returning to their hometown for Christmas, addressing their long lost love from years ago. There’s a distinct melancholy about returning to a place you no longer call home and remembering how everything felt huge.

I try not to think of my music in terms of filling gaps in an imaginary market. There are already too many Christmas songs. But, I’d like to think this one has a special place carved out on the maudlin end of the Christmas spectrum. Plus, I’m happy I finally got a doo-wop tune out of my system.



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:: Taylah Carroll ::

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Our conceptions of Christmas are wrapped in clichés, the figures constructed from myths and consumerist culture. We all have the same image of who Santa is and what he resembles but what if Santa is not like that all? ‘I saw santa she′s a witch, she cuts through clouds on her broom stick while bloated men decorate our lawns’ sings the Melbourne-based artist. ‘See a sullen b**ch just doesn’t sell, so well.’ Starting off with a slight eeriness, like candles flickering in a darkened room, “maybe santa is a witch” progresses into a casual toe-tapping groove. There aren’t any elements that are distinctively festive but then maybe Santa isn’t festive at all. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Taylah Carroll: I actually adore the holiday season – contrary to the somewhat sassy and wry sentiment of this song. I feel like it’s a time in the year where everyone takes pressure off of themselves and we get to just enjoy each other. Being summer here in Australia probably contributes to that energy. Work is off, and school is out!

In saying that… I do believe the thing that makes holiday songs so powerful is the poignancy of the time. Like all sources of great happiness, it can be a time of deep longing or sadness too. I think that juxtaposition is at the core of most moving things. Happy//Sad! It’s a definite genre and vibe.

One of my fave holiday songs is Fairytale of New York, by The Pogues.

How does music impact your holiday experience?

Taylah Carroll: Absolutely any and every experience can be improved by music, so, it’s pretty necessary. I grew up with music almost always playing in our house, especially if we were hosting a gathering or dinner. Summer is also when I seem to have the most spare time – so I’m more likely to make playlists or discover new music.

Most songs that elicit great nostalgia seem to be anchored in summer memories don’t you think? That or around love. I’ve only ever fallen in love in the summer though… a fact that affirms my point above, about feeling free to enjoy and be enjoyed around this time of year.

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

Taylah Carroll: It really just started as a challenge I gave myself on a whim. ‘I wanna write a Christmas Carol’ – it’s only fitting, foreshadowed by the name, haha.

Giving myself this brief and the natural deadline that follows (no one wants a holiday themed song in February), made writing it feel more like writing an essay. Usually when I write a song it’s more like a spontaneous outpouring, something forcing it’s own way out of me. This was more controlled and in a way, it forced me to be more creative. Confines breed creativity – give yourself strict parameters, and you have to think more about how to work within them in an inspiring way.

I was mulling over what to write about for a good while, without actually sitting down and wrestling with any melody or words. I had taken Italian throughout school and remembered learning of La Befana – an Italian Christmas Witch that delivers gifts to children on Epiphany Eve (The 6th of January). That felt like interesting territory to me. Diving deeper, I learned of a deep and rich pagan history of Christmas Witches and it interested me that the idea of Santa Clause has proven far more prolific and ‘successful’ in popular (capitalist) culture, over-shadowing these forgotten women of festive history.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Taylah Carroll: One way the angle of this song feels relevant to my current experience of the holiday season, is that the women in my life are still really the drivers of any hospitality, gift-sharing, and festive organisation that it involves. Although we’ve come far, I think it’s one example of the unfair distribution of unpaid and unsung labor between the sexes in many cultures.

The chorus is also viscerally sentimental to me. “All the kids sing and sway, eyes squint sun in their way, tinsel sticks to their face, I’ve known a peace like that.” Though there are many things at the moment that make it hard to be sentimental about Australia, I do remember very happy, sticky, school performances in December, and feel lucky to have had them.

I guess it’s a holiday song with an agenda, and an edge. It views the season through a lens beyond mere indulgence, joy or love – or even sadness. It begs some very real questions. What if Santa really IS a witch? What other unsung women of history are yet to be unveiled? Who is going to do it?!



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:: Sara Noelle ::

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It wouldn’t be Mistletones without the inclusion of Sara Noelle, who’s keeping to her tradition of releasing a festive tune. “Winter’s Glow” is hauntingly whimsical, the kind of song that could have been played live in the Roadhouse in Twins Peaks season 3, should there have been a festive episode. It’s more dream pop than her previous ones, the usual softness and melancholy intensified with the glow of synths. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Sara Noelle: It’s something to look forward to every year. The holidays for me are about gratitude, family, music and discovering the wonder of new and old traditions. I love all the classic tunes — everything on the Home Alone soundtrack and John Williams score. And the Flaming Lips are the best at Christmas! Imagene Peise is one of my favorite Christmas records. There’s some great Christmas blogs out there (like Christmas a Go Go & Christmas Underground) who highlight new songs every year which have been fun listening to and getting to know.

Music has always been a big part of the holidays. I grew up singing carols around the piano with family. Now I annually release a new holiday original (this is the fourth year!) which is a new tradition I look forward to every year.

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

Sara Noelle: I have always loved Christmas music, and since I started putting out my own Xmas tunes it’s become part of the season for me. I try to write Christmas songs as if it’s something I’d write all year around.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Sara Noelle: It’s about trying to let go of the year before and leaning into the joy of the season, moments of warmth.

It’s a more relaxing, meditative tune — with some sounds that aren’t necessarily super Christmassy. So I hope it brings some new soundscapes to people’s holiday playlists.



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:: Celeigh Cardinal ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Celeigh Cardinal: My mother has always loved Christmas; it was her time to shine. So as kids, my siblings and I loved everything about Christmas, we were spoiled with presents, baking and our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. As I get older, I’m finding more joy in the association of this holiday with my mother; her love of it, and the hard work she put in every year to create these incredible experiences. My favorite Christmas songs are “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Let It Snow.”

Christmas IS music. Once the Christmas with Boney M album starts to play in December, I know the season has begun.

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

Celeigh Cardinal: This song was written at a CMI Incubator program during an afternoon co-writing session. Myself and two artists, singer/songwriters Ashanti Marshall, AKA Karimah, and Brady Allard, AKA Warming, tried to go out of our comfort zone and write a fun party song. However, we are all sort of ruminative writers and ended up writing a sad New Year’s Eve song. So, it is a holiday song with a twist of artistic melancholy.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Celeigh Cardinal: I always feel lonely at parties, and I have a good amount of social anxiety. Holidays really are the time for parties and gatherings, so for me, this is a true part of my holiday experience. That and trying not to indulge in too many cocktails so I feel comfortable, which works half the time.

I think this song reflects the truth of how holidays or parties can make people feel isolated. I believe it’s important to normalize the conversation about sadness during the holidays because it’s so alienating for folks who are hearing happy songs or watching people be celebratory when they don’t feel that way. What this song brings to the table is commiseration and community for the ones who really need it.



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:: Zai1k ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Zai1k: As a kid around this time I would ride around with my mom listening to Anthony Hamilton’s Christmas album he dropped called Home For The Holidays. Music gives it the vibe music plays a part in what actually makes the holidays all “Christmassy.”

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

Zai1k: My Christmas song is a spin to one of Anthony Hamilton’s songs off his album “Home For The Holidays”

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Zai1k: The song make me wanna be around family and friends. My song brings more of a Gen Z feel to it more for people around my age group.



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:: Spring Summer ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Spring Summer: I’m really not a stuff-person, I feel deep sadness over how tough the holidays can be for many families, and shopping for gifts sends me into a loopy mess (which typically ends with no presents for anyone) – BUT – I love picking out a Christmas tree on a cold December night, putting on a great record and decorating with some egg nog! Tinsel and string lights and holiday music make me so happy!

When we decorate our tree we always listen to an album called Molto Groovy Christmas – fun, Italian movie-music style instrumental versions of popular holiday tunes, produced by my husband Roman and our friend Alessandro Casella. (It’s not on the streamers but you can find it in record stores like Amoeba, or Bric-a-Brac and Dusty Groove in Chicago). William Bell’s “Everyday Will be like a Holiday,” Reigning Sound’s “If Christmas Can’t Bring You Home,” and Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” are also on repeat!

Music makes everything better! I can get kinda down over the holidays. A couple years ago I lost my dad suddenly, one week before Christmas. I was so sad! It’s an especially tough time to be blue when others around you are so joyful. But I noticed any time music was playing I could forget. It’s truly the best drug there is!

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

Spring Summer: My father-in-law had suggested I write a Christmas song about food and how it brings people together during the holidays. I have never really been able to write when it’s not from the heart – and writing a holiday song wasn’t on my to-do list – but as an exercise I thought I’d give it a try… He loves chestnuts and roasts them every year, while we all gather round in the kitchen to eat them. I started there – but I was quickly stuck! (I don’t have THAT much to say about food). So I pivoted to more familiar territory: In the context of feeling sad about my dad passing, it felt good to daydream about what would make for the best holiday.

I made a quick demo and sent it to my friend Mac McCaughan. I wanted him to sing on it – but I also felt the song wasn’t quite finished. It was so exciting to hear what he sent back!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Spring Summer: I think fantasy and Christmas go hand in hand. The idea of finding the one you love in the crisp, snowy air… Does it get any better? And since I was a teenager, the ultimate fantasy locale for me was and is New York City.

We are so lucky to be able to find a song for whatever mood we’re in or wish to be in. There are songs for feeling blue. Songs for feeling joyful. Songs for dancing. Songs for crying. We made a song for holding loved ones close… even if just in daydreams.



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:: Barbra Lica ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Barbra Lica: The holidays as an adult can honestly be a little bit stressful. It feels like a whirlwind between negotiating when we see which family members, and what presents to buy for whom…you want to get everybody something nice but you also don’t want to go broke! It’s odd because when I was a kid, I loved Christmas more than anybody; I loved it so much that I forced my family to start unwrapping presents at midnight on Christmas Eve like some kind of holiday loophole.

I have to say, though, this year I feel a lot of those childhood feelings coming back. My little boy just turned two and he suddenly understands that Christmas and Christmas trees and Santa are a thing, so it feels as though I’m experiencing everything again for the first time with him. I’m thinking about wrapping and unwrapping presents together and I’m completely giddy over it. As for my favourite holiday songs, it’s a toss-up between “It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas” and “Last Christmas.”

Well, it’s not Christmas without the classics. I have a special holiday bin where I store my Santa hat and ugly sweaters next to the Dean Martin and Nat King Cole albums. But I feel like every year I’m excited to hear the newest Christmas songs too and pick a winner. This year I’m really feeling Gregory Porter’s “Christmas Wish.”

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

Barbra Lica: Like I said, my little man (Oliver Nicholas Lica), is bringing a lot of that childhood magic back to my life. It’s easy to forget all that anticipation: baking the cookies, shaking the presents…oh and my dad would actually hide the presents on Christmas Eve and write a letter from Santa inviting me on a scavenger hunt. I wanted to record a song that captured all those heart-pounding feelings so that maybe some other tired adults could be transported back in time with me. In terms of making it my own – aside from writing it – I co-produced it with Nicolas Tateishi in his basement studio (read: no time limits) and we really built it up line by line and phrase by phrase with so much love and care.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Barbra Lica: That four on the floor beat is almost unrelenting and is supposed to represent my big-kid heart beating up a storm. We also programmed in sweeping strings, horns, and chimes to represent the magic of Christmas. I think that welcoming in a little magic and letting yourself get carried away in some of the silliness of the season IS the holiday spirit.

“On Christmas Eve” is less about Christmas day and more about the anticipation of it all. It’s that moment where little kids hold their breaths and wonder if Santa is already flying somewhere overhead. It’s me staring at the clock and waiting for midnight loopholes. It’s the quiet house at night covered in wreaths and garlands, in the last few hours before guests arrive. There really are so many holiday songs out there, but I, at least, haven’t heard any quite capture that special “before” time.



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:: King of Cups ::

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A rush of pop-punk playfulness is needed at all times of the year, the holiday season included. “The War on Christmas” by King of Cups pokes fun at the controversies that circulate around Christmas time and the petty arguments that erupt around dinner tables. The energy is contagious and the addition of a choir and twinkling bells are intermingled with the hyperactive guitars and crashing drums. King of Cups, previously known as Black It Out, is formed of Shaun Zizi and Bryan Underwood. “The War on Christmas” follows the single “Missing You,” which was released in October. – Francesca Rose



Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Bryan Underwood: These days, Christmas is more about nostalgia for me. When I was a kid, my entire extended family would stay at my grandparents’ house, so on Christmas morning, there were 50 of us opening presents. It was a beautiful chaos.

My favorite holiday song is “Last Christmas.” Ironically, I’m not a huge fan of the original, but almost every cover I’ve heard has sounded amazing. My favorites would be from The Finals and Jimmy Eat World.

You can’t have a holiday season without festive music. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s like watching a silent film versus talkies. The sound plus the visual is where the real emotion comes from.

Shaun Zizi: It’s an extremely busy time of year for me. From seeing my mom and seeing my wife’s family, it’s a lot of traveling. It’s worth it. I really enjoy being around all those wonderful people. I think the holiday season can be a drag with all the consumerism, but if you don’t pay attention to that and focus on what matters, it’s amazing!

I’m not the hugest Christmas music guy, but “Silent Night” is pretty good for a traditional song. My dad used to sing Elvis songs, so Elvis’ Christmas songs are great! There’s a lot of great chorale Christmas music that’s gorgeous too. “Last Christmas” is pretty good, and so is Jimmy Eat World’s cover.

For a while, I had to write and record a Christmas song in a few weeks. I had to write the lyrics, and melody in a short time. That doesn’t include learning well enough to record. It was super stressful. I did that three years in a row. I told Bryan no more. It was too much. Next time we do a Christmas song, it’s happening way in advance, so I don’t have to stress. Other than that, when I was in college, you better believe we were singing Christmas music. Everyone gets to enjoy Mariah Carey memes on the internet because she’s defrosting.

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

Bryan Underwood: I’ve always wanted to write some holiday songs because I grew up listening to them for so long. Shaun was reluctant at first, but he didn’t take too much convincing. Our lyrics are oftentimes a commentary on the world, so we did just that when we started writing holiday music. In our latest song, “The War on Christmas,” we point out how polarized society has become. Christmas is the time when we are all supposed to come together and put our differences aside, but the powers that be are still somehow finding ways to divide us.

Shaun Zizi: What inspired me? Bryan wrote some Christmas music and wanted me to record the vocals to it. So, I wrote the lyrics the only way we knew how. At the time, I wasn’t too into Christmas, and I was going through a comical lyrics phase. So, of course, I had to poke fun at some people who have strong beliefs about something that’s probably not true. I have since changed my views on Christmas. I really like it now, and I love being able to see my family. It’s great. So, who knows, maybe I’ll write some serious Christmas music in the future. How’d we make it our own? We wrote it, and we added a choir to it. I added some orchestration, and Bryan added some jingle bells. It turned out well, I think!

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Bryan Underwood: Although “The War On Christmas” is satirical in nature, we still added the tropes we all expect from a holiday song. Our distorted guitars are accompanied by a string section, the drums incorporate sleigh bells, and we even have a choir.

Our song is the comedic relief you get during a serious moment in movie. It’s that perfectly timed joke to keeps you from getting too emotional.

Shaun Zizi: My band, King of Cups, wrote our song, “The War On Christmas,” to poke fun at people who feel victimized by people who say happy holidays. They forget that Christmas is included in that. We also wanted to remind people to be kind like Jesus because isn’t Christmas supposed to be Jesus’ birthday? I guess our song reminds me not to take things so seriously and to keep a sense of humor about me. It reminds me that people are way more important than material things. It also helps me remember that if I get some delusional views and start screaming about it, someone will write a humorous song about me! But, in all seriousness, the overall vibe of the song feels like Christmas, so there’s that too!

Our song, “The War On Christmas,” is a funny, lighthearted, Pop-Punk song with a Nigerian choir, jingles bells, chimes, and a strings section. It sounds like a Christmas song, without a doubt, but with a Pop-Punk flare. How many people can pull that off? I think our song brings a lot to the table now that I think about it. It’s unique for a Pop-Punk song. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I didn’t really think of that until you mentioned it. Thank you!



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:: Bad Moves ::

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Atwood Magazine: What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs, and how does music impact your holiday experience?

Bad Moves: Full disclosure, I am the resident Grinch of the band, and I don’t know that my cynicism reflects everyone’s perspective. But I find the holiday season isolating for various reasons that I can explore with my therapist. For that reason, I prefer holiday songs that reflect a sense of loneliness. I’ve always liked the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” because of how flatly it describes the stress of the holiday season,”very happy ending” aside. The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” is a near perfect holiday song in my mind, in the way its sardonic aromantic storytelling clashes ironically with its sweeping cinematic instrumental. Both those songs were reference points for us when we wrote “New Year’s Reprieve.” I must also shout out the holiday anthem, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” as well as the Chanukah classic, “Maoz Tsur.”

How does music impact your holiday experience?

Bad Moves: Honestly, pretty negatively. I associate a compulsory optimism with the season that clashes with my aforementioned Grinchiness. The ubiquity of cheery music can drive me a little looney, which might be why I find so much solace in the rare pessimistic holiday song.

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

Bad Moves: In spite of my holiday cynicism I do usually look forward to New Year’s Eve. But it is one of those dangerous nights where if you have a good time, it’s a great time, but if you have a bad time, it’s an abysmal time. The highs are higher. The lows are super low. I wanted to write a song that explored the highs and lows all together, which I think is how a lot of people experience the holiday season.

How does your song capture the holiday spirit and season, for you? With so many holiday songs out there, what do you feel your song brings to the table?

Bad Moves: The holiday season is capped off by New Year’s Eve, but I think it’s underrepresented in song. Still, I can’t even claim that we’re the only DC indie band with a depressing New Year’s Eve song. The Dismemberment Plan’s great New Year’s Eve song “the Ice of Boston,” takes place in Boston though, and ours takes place in the capital city! So we’ve got that going! Let’s hear it for the home team!



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Mistletones: 2023's Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. 1

:: FEATURE ::



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Mistletones: 2022's Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. 1

:: FEATURE ::

Mistletones: 2022's Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. 2

:: FEATURE ::

Mistletones: 2022's Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. 3

:: FEATURE ::

2021's Best New Holiday Songs

:: MISTLETONES ::

2020's Best New Holiday Songs

:: MISTLETONES ::

2019's Best New Holiday Songs

:: MISTLETONES ::

2018's Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. I

:: MISTLETONES ::

2018's Best New Holiday Songs, Pt. II

:: MISTLETONES ::


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