The Best Holiday Music of 2020

17 new tracks to jam over your (much needed) winter break.

We made it. Battered, bruised, and irrevocably changed, but like Pearl Jam in 1991: we’re still alive. Having survived the pandemic-plagued dumpster fire that’s been 2020, no one can be blamed for wanting to kick back, clean the bong, and indulge in some holiday tradition.

Holiday music this year feels particularly non-denominational; just ask HAIM and their religion-blending remake of The Waitresses’ 1981 classic, “Christmas Wrapping,” updated for 2020 with a decided lean toward Judaism.

This year brings a host of fresh holiday music to help take the edge off, not to mention providing something more than an endless loop of Mariah Carey, Wham!, and—God forbid—the new Justin Bieber Christmas record. So queue up your streaming service of choice, grab another slice of pie, kick back, and just let the sound of the holidays wash over you.

Dean & Britta feat. Sonic Boom, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips teamed up with Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom for a new collaborative holiday single covering this John Lennon and Yoko Ono classic. All proceeds from this single benefit The Sled, providing assistance to underprivileged NYC public school students and their families.

Sonic Boom feat. Dean & Britta, “I Wish it Was Like Xmas Everyday (A Little Bit Deeper)”

Dean and Britta also turn up on Sonic Boom’s new holiday release, which is a reworking of Peter Kember’s track “Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)” from All Things Being Equal. You can read more about that album in our interview with Kember here.

HAIM, “Christmas Wrapping 2020”

Hey, you got your Hanukkah in my Christmas! Well, you got your Christmas in my Hanukkah. Wait a minute—it’s two great tastes that taste great together. Play it again and turn it up!

Charly Bliss & PUP, “It’s Christmas and I Fucking Miss You”

After releasing two of the best records of 2019 (and touring them together) Charly Bliss have teamed up with their Canadian cohorts PUP for a recording of “It’s Christmas and I Fucking Miss You,” a song CB originally shared on a recent live stream. Putting a quarantine-addled spin on an otherwise traditional holiday original, the pair continue to complement each other’s work, the Toronto rockers injecting C-Bliss’ pop-rock sounds with a punky edge.

STRFKR, “Happy Fucking Holidays”

This track has been floating around STRFKR fans for years as a hidden gem that originally appeared on a holiday compilation for Portland’s the Willamette Week in 2007, and is finally seeing its official release in 2020. Happy fucking holidays, indeed!

Phoebe Bridgers, “If We Make it Through December”

The indie hero of 2020 churns out a Merle Haggard cover recorded to benefit a wildly worthy cause: Downtown Women’s Center.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries”

Much like the Charly Bliss/PUP jam above, this tune is rather self-explanatory. Considering all of the sobbing that made up most of 2020, another good soul-cleansing cry won’t hurt anybody.

Grouplove, “A Grouplove Christmas”

Catch those warm Los Angeles holiday vibes with this melancholy and symphonic lament. The sound of snow falling on the beach.

Tegan and Sara, “Make You Mine This Season” 

The duo dropped this holiday cheer on the Happiest Season soundtrack back in October, and recently performed this stripped-down version on The Kelly Clarkson Show.

The Marías, “We’re the Lucky Ones”

On the softer side, The Marías have shared an introspective take on making it through 2020. “Even though it’s my favorite holiday and immediately gives me a sense of warmth and nostalgia for happier times, it also makes me grieve for the ones who lost their lives and didn’t make it to Christmas,” they shared. “I feel like one of the lucky ones. We are all lucky to be alive.”

Chance the Rapper, “The Return”

If you need a “quiet storm” kind of Christmas, let the guy in the baseball cap from Chicago warm up that chilly soul with this smooth holiday love groove.

Chilly Gonzalez with Feist and Jarvis Cocker, “Snow Is Falling in Manhattan”

Chilly takes a seat at the piano and warms up the season with a couple of famous friends on this bittersweet tearjerker of a tune reminiscent of classic Destroyer.

The Raveonettes, “Snowstorm”

It’s been nearly a decade since The Raveonettes dropped their last holiday gem,  2011’s “The Christmas Song,” so the time was ripe for a new seasonal recoding from the Danish duo. They didn’t disappoint with the melancholic “Snowstorm,” reflecting so many of our feelings right now in the lyrics: ” All I dream is Christmas lights/But now the world/Is not the same/Not the same/ It’s in flames/We are apart/From loved ones/No Christmas time, no sleigh rides in the…snowstorm.”

Julien Baker, “A Dreamer’s Holiday”

Julien Baker also took a somber approach to the holidays, offering up a minimalist take on Perry Como’s “A Dreamer’s Holiday.” “I chose ‘Dreamers Holiday’ because I found it incredibly unique as far as holiday songs are concerned,” Baker shared. “It’s a very understated song—both lyrically and musically; while it’s technically about a ‘holiday’, it doesn’t directly reference any specific holiday theme, it leaves the lyrics a bit more open-ended.”

Poppy, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas”

A glass of wine, a kitty, some lights strung in your hair—sound familiar? This sad song will have some folks sobbing in their chardonnay, so prepare accordingly.

The Bird and the Bee, “You and I at Christmas Time”

Ah, now that’s much more on the uplifting side of the holiday. A jaunty rhythm and Inara George’s honey-sweet vocals are just what Santa ordered. Cookies for everyone!

Bleached, “Jingle Bells”

Let’s go! Turn up the distortion, plug in Mr. Microphone and let’s jingle this Christmas to rock city! Bleached have got the right idea.

BONUS

Vince Guaraldi, “Skating”

It’s a classic, but it has a calming new animated visual—because you’re worth it. Seriously. If you made it this far, you’ve earned this moment of pure musical bliss. See you on the other side, party people.

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