Every year, the holiday season seems to inspire some of our favorite bands to write new music. KEXP has rounded up some of our favorites below. Need even more songs for rockin’ around your Christmas tree? Be sure to check out previous round-ups for 2015 and 2014. Happy holidays from everyone at KEXP!
She & Him – “Christmas Memories”
Is there any better band to kick off a list of holiday songs than She & Him? The retro-lovin’ duo of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel released a Christmas album back in 2013 titled A Very She & Him Christmas, and this year, they follow it up with Christmas Party, an LP out now on Columbia Records. They call the release a “unique gathering of friends and family,” and they’re not kidding. Drumming on the whole album is Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, The Chapin Sisters and Jenny Lewis bring the harmonies, and even Zooey’s husband Jacob and their daughter Elsie join in the merriment.
Sloan – “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas” b/w “December 25″
Veteran Canadian rockers Sloan share a new 45″ for the holidays, available as a limited edition 7″ single (only 500 copies) pressed on translucent red vinyl with four holiday cards featuring wintery collages by drummer Andrew Scott. This is not the band’s first foray into festive songs: back in 2012, they did a split single w/ fellow Canadians Fucked Up, delivering a very traditional cover of the classic “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
Joe Henry and Billy Bragg – “If We Make It Through December”
One of 2016’s highlights was having these two iconic songwriters combine forces for an intimate live performance from KEXP’s Gathering Space. For Amazon Music’s streaming Acoustic Christmas compilation, Joe Henry and Billy Bragg pay tribute to one of the many fallen musical heroes of the year, Merle Haggard. This heartbreaking tale of a factory worker laid off before the holiday season struck a chord with listeners (no pun intended); upon its release, the song spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles charts from December 1973 to January 1974.
Tennis – “Holiday Road”
And Acoustic Christmas isn’t the only collection Amazon Music is sharing this year. There’s also Indie for the Holidays, which features 41 songs for the season from artists like The Dandy Warhols, Robert Pollard (of Guided By Voices), SOAK, The Melvins, Fruit Bats, and well, 36 more! It wasn’t easy narrowing it down to one pick (I can’t post all 41, y’know), but I ended up choosing this charming re-work of “Holiday Road” by Tennis. If you’ve seen the 1983 movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, you’ll recognize this song by Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.
Low – “Some Hearts (at Christmas Time)”
It’s not exactly surprising to have a new holiday song from Low — the Duluth trio did release a whole EP titled Christmas back in 1999. And this song would’ve fit right in. The band add the note: “To friends who have moved away and friends who have passed on this year. To one and all, especially those who are alone, we wish you a Merry Christmas and new hope for the new year. May we all find ways to lift each other.”
Michael Angelakos – Merry Christmas, Mr. Fields
Not content to release just one holiday song, Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos has released a whole dang album, complete with a short film. The spirited overachiever teamed up with Brent Katz (formerly of Harlem Shakes) on the concept, and with director Hana Haley for the video, which was filmed in four days at Buffalo’s Nichols School, Angelakos’s alma mater. Yeah, what did you and your friends do this summer? To top it all off, proceeds from the record will go to charity and to the Nichols School Arts Department. Now that’s truly the Christmas spirit.
Natalie Prass – “Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time)”
Natalie Prass gets it, too. Proceeds from her holiday single are being donated to SPARC: the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community. The Virginia-bred artist (and member of Jenny Lewis’s band) writes on her Facebook page, “I’ve had to personally ‘force’ myself into the holiday spirit this year. I’m sure many others can relate. With that being said, I’m hoping this video makes you want to dance and feel free to be who you are — no matter how alone you feel or how different you are than your family or community.”
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time)”
We shared this video earlier in the week in our KEXP Music News, but how could we not share this video from Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings again and again? Directors Alex Howard and David Hatter say they were inspired by the stop-motion animation you’ve seen in classic Rankin-Bass TV holiday specials, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rolling Stone reports, the video consists of 3,200 photos and was created entirely on an iPhone 6 Plus. In total, it took three months and 600 man-hours for Howard and Hatter to complete. In sharing the video, Dap-Kings band leader Gabriel Roth wrote, “We wish you could be home with us this Christmas, Sharon. We love you and miss you.”