Since there are only so many times you can fall back on the more traditional pop fare (we’re looking at you, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen and Wham!), a brand new slew of Christmas tunes arrived in 2018 to help spread seasonal joy and keep your holiday parties humming—and your friends asking for a link to your Spotify playlist.
The Flaming Lips, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”
It’s not really Christmas until Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips say so—and they just said so. The fabulous freaks of Oklahoma have shared a brand new video of the band performing Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s classic rendition of “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.” The Lips’ love of Christmas is nothing new; there was the band’s secret Christmas album Imagene Peise: Atlas Eets Christmas, the 1995 holiday tune “Christmas at the Zoo,” and the 2008 B-movie Christmas on Mars. So this spirited new Christmas clip is right on time. Fans who really want to have a Flaming Lips X-mas can order wrapping paper designed by Coyne himself. It’s for a great cause, too: money raised through wrapping paper sales will go to helping people transition out of homelessness in Oklahoma City. Good on ya, Wayne!
Woods, “Christmas Time Is Here”
It’s a scientific fact: The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s 1965 soundtrack album, A Charlie Brown Christmas, is the greatest Christmas full-length of all-time. Brooklyn folk band Woods were smart enough to cover the timeless “Christmas Time is Here” back in 2011. This year, they’ve gussied up the track with a shiny new remix, giving the Charlie Brown favorite a rugged indie rock edge.
Phoebe Bridgers and Jackson Browne, “Christmas Song”
Jackson Browne knows good music. He just so happened to be in the audience when Phoebe Bridgers performed a cover of “Christmas Song,” a tune penned by Omaha singer-songwriter Dan McCarthy and his band, McCarthy Trenching. Browne was so taken by Bridger’s version that he stuck around after the show to tell her just that. So when she was inspired to record the track, she reached out to Browne to join her.
Josh Homme and C.W. Stoneking, “Silent Night”
When you want your Christmas carols with a side of simmering menace, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme is your man. Here, he teams up with Australian bluesman C.W. Stoneking for a raucous reading of the Christmas classic. The guys aren’t just noise—all proceeds from the track (released on limited edition 7″ red vinyl as well as digitally) are going to Homme’s Sweet Stuff Foundation, which looks out for career musicians and engineers, as well as their families, in hard times, and Support Act, a similar organization that does the same down in Australia. The flipside features Homme and his rock star wife, Brody Dalle, reading “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to their three kids.
Robyn, “Last Christmas” (Wham! cover)
George Michael and Wham! nailed an instant Christmas classic with the release of this 1984 fan favorite. This year, Swedish pop sensation Robyn rolled out her own interpretation of the tune. Stripping it down to just a quiet backbeat and some pianos, the singer grabs the melancholy mood of the song by the heart and makes it cry.
Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson feat. Sean Ono Lennon— “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson have been spending a lot of time in the studio lately. She’s set to feature on his upcoming solo album, which is expected next year (they’ve already shared the country-tinged track, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”). During a session at NYC’s famed Electric Lady, the pair was inspired to cover John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1971 holiday classic, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” For Cyrus, the inspiration was obvious: “I don’t think anything could speak louder than what’s going on right now than about ‘War is Over.’” Authenticating the proceedings was Ono and Lennon’s son, Sean Ono Lennon, who joined in on the recording. The trio came together to perform the track on this year’s Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live.
Billie Eilish, “Come Out and Play”
The seventeen-year-old pop sensation with over a billion streams on Spotify to her credit is known for her dark and stormy confessional tracks. On this holiday-themed number, Billie Eilish and her brother teamed up for something different. The quiet and heartfelt track is in heavy rotation on your television over the holidays as the soundtrack for Apple’s current “Share Your Gifts” campaign.
Greg Dulli, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
The Afghan Whigs frontman takes this Christmas classic and breaks it down into a planative and earnest prayer. A ghostly piano plucks out the melody while Greg Dulli croons sweetly over the top. Last song of the night vibes.
Sufjan Stevens, “Lonely Man of Winter”
Sufjan Stevens likes to keep things interesting. Back in 2007, he held a Xmas Song Xchange Contest. For his contribution, the winner—Alec Duffy—received the only copy of “Lonely Man of Winter.” For years, it could only be heard via listening parties hosted by Duffy. Now, Stevens is sharing the tune with the world. All proceeds go to JACK, the Brooklyn non-profit venue for which Duffy serves as founder and artistic director.
Tyler, the Creator, “I Am the Grinch”
It’s an inspired combination: controversial hip-hop bad boy Tyler, the Creator as The Grinch. Such is the case for the 2018 version of the holiday favorite, which features Tyler on a pair of tracks. On “I Am the Grinch,” the rapper makes being a cranky Christmas killjoy sound like a blast, spitting his lyrics over a lovely bed of pianos and bottom-heavy beats.
Sia, “My Old Santa Claus”
Sia went all out for Christmas 2017, releasing a full album of all new holiday songs, Everyday Is Christmas. The album was such a smash that it was updated for 2018, with three new tunes led by “My Old Santa Claus.” The song comes fully loaded with sleigh bells and a playful melody, the chorus a fizzy explosion of bouncing pianos and good feelings.
The Monkees, “Unwrap You At Christmas” and “What Would Santa Do”
The Monkees have returned with their very first holiday album, Christmas Party. The ’60s pop legends brought along some of their musically-inclined friends for the occasion: The record features XTC songwriter Andy Partridge, who delivers the joyful “Unwrap You At Christmas.” Rivers Cuomo shows up to bring that inimitable fuzzy Weezer flavor on the psychedelic rave-up, “What Would Santa Do.” FL