The middle of December usually means that Christmas music is unavoidable. Maybe your local adult contemporary radio station playing nothing but the classics, or perhaps those familiar songs can be heard wafting out of downtown storefront. Despite the omnipresence of holiday music, it’s generally a limited playlist. Most of the time, the songs you hear are either decades-old recordings (even the newer standards like “Last Christmas” and “All I Want for Christmas is You” are over 25 years old) or new recordings of those old songs (Michael Buble and Pentatonix have made a lot of bank in this regard).
Inspired by the stagnancy of holiday radio, The Young Folks’ staff has chosen some of their favorite, newer Christmas songs to add to your party playlist this season.
The Regrettes – “Marshmallow World”
Written by Carl Sigman and Peter DeRose and later made famous by the likes of Bing Crosby and Darlene Love, “Marshmallow World” is a Christmas song that never actually mentions the holiday. Instead, the song cheerily details how the world becomes a sugary confection when it snows. L.A. punk band The Regrettes were the latest in a long line of people throwing their covers into the ring a few years ago, releasing a version of the wintry track that perfectly captured the harmonies of Darlene Love’s version–this time, with an edge. The amped up instrumentation and lead singer Lydia Night’s intense vocals pay homage to the song’s most iconic version while still making it their own. – Bri Lockhart
Deep Sea Diver – “It’s Christmas Time (And I’m Still Alive)”
Sure, a lot of the fun Christmas songs are about the excitement and anticipation of this “magical” time of year, but a lot of the best Christmas songs (IMO) have some level of sadness to them (see my other classic faves: “Last Christmas,” “Merry Christmas Darling” etc), and this simple song leans into the depressive–but not totally! The song builds slowly in power, with a jaunty climax that conveys the brief joy of making it another year. It sounds sad, but it’s a little triumphant and it’s a simple, well-done song that immediately puts your life and your holiday stress in perspective. Throw it in among the other radio hits and people might chill out a bit–or get too introspective. – Beth Winchester
August Burns Red – “Flurries”
While most of ABR’s Sleddin’ Hill album contains the expected hardcore covers of familiar Christmas tunes, the one fully original piece stands out beyond just being unique. The instrumental rift begins with the twang of a guitar designed to invoke early Saturday mornings heading out to a snow covered hill to take in the fresh snowpack. As the track builds to the more signature August Burns Red churning, the sense of fun escalating goes with it. It really isn’t hard to imaging sledding turning into a snowball fight and more. It’s surprisingly evocative and an absolute joy. – Travis Hymas
Alec Duffy – “Every Day is Christmas”
The Killers – “A Great Big Sled”
Fall Out Boy – “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out”
Capital Lights – “His Favorite Christmas Story”
Is “The Christmas Shoes” just a little too depressing for your needed melancholy Christmas? Don’t worry, because Capital Lights’ ballad about a missed Christmas connection will get you right in those feels. The song itself maintains a certain joyful beat that you can only get from musical acts more interested in being youth group™ approved than hitting charts while delivering a full life’s tale, joined together by the repeated tale of the aforementioned missed connection. Obviously the more interesting parts are the details implied by the lyrics than anything particular about the sound, but it’ll still stand out from the rest of your playlist for the soft tears it might evoke. – Travis Hymas
Kacey Musgraves & Leon Bridges – “Present Without a Bow”
From Musgraves’ largely solid, but underappreciated, Christmas album A Very Kacey Christmas, this duet with Leon Bridges deserves to be in heavy rotation everywhere. Sure, you can hear it sometimes on country-specific Christmas radio stations, but it needs to be in the mix with the mainstream stuff. It’s sweet, with a dash of melancholy, and Musgraves’ and Bridges’ voices are both so full of emotion. The melody is catchy and cozy, and the imagery is just cute enough to fit in alongside other slightly kitschy Christmas tunes. It would fit in right next to “Hard Candy Christmas,” and would work as an excellent replacement for all Taylor Swift Christmas covers. – Beth Winchester