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Best new holiday songs for 2019: Kathleen Edwards, Bryan Adams, PIQSIQ, more

Featuring covers and originals by 16 artists including Tenille Townes and Johnny Reid.

Featuring covers and originals by 16 artists including Tenille Townes and Johnny Reid

These artists' holiday songs are among the best new seasonal music of 2019. (Kathleen Edward image by Todd Wolfson; others courtesy of the artists)

Do you rock around your Christmas tree 365? Or are you a 24/7 holidays-hating Grinch? Well, no matter where you stand on all things mistletoe and music, CBC Music has you covered.

From the return of Kathleen Edwards' wry wisdom and PIQSIQ's stunning throat singing to Rob Halford's metal makeover of a Christmas classic and Bryan Adams' rockabilly re-imagining of the story of "Joe and Mary," there's something for everybody on this playlist of 2019's best new holiday songs.


Song: "It's Christmastime (Let's Just Survive)"
Artist: Kathleen Edwards 

Which lyric from Kathleen Edwards' new Christmas classic do you identify with the most? 

  1. "I get that you're lovin' the new John Mayer/ but I don't even have a CD player."

  2. "Meow, meow, meow, meow." 

  3. "Auntie Sue goes for a really long walk/ to buy weed from the swingers living down the block." 

  4. "And the cat pissed on the Christmas tree/ and it soaked through the box of the iPad that you bought me."

  5. "Tell me a story we've all heard before/ and drag it out even more."

  6. All of the above. Help.


Song: "Carol of the Bells"
Artist: PIQSIQ

PIQSIQ's stunning interpretation of this Christmas classic combines throat-singing atop a choral arrangement and it's chillingly beautiful. 


Song: "Make it to Christmas"
Artist: Alessia Cara

Ugh, holiday break-ups are the worst, but Alessia Cara's soulful plea to just "make it to Christmas" is the pop perfect heartsick-salve to help get you through. 


Song: "Last Christmas" 
Artist: Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus' cover is part riot grrrl frenzy and lo-fi spoken-word homage, and it's a thrilling makeover of a song so perfect I didn't think I could love another version other than Wham!'s original. Dacus' tribute to the genius of the late George Michael is also a meaningful nod to the queer history of pop music as one of the threads that connects these two artists.


Song: "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)"
Artist: Tenille Townes

Tenille Townes' distinctive voice cloaks this classic in a velvety mystery, and the beguiling arrangement definitely pushes the rising country star out of her comfort zone and into the realm of jazz-pop-country crossover artist. 


Song: "This Christmas" 
Artist: Dionne Warwick feat. Aloe Blacc

One of the all-time great R&B/soul Christmas songs getting a redux from living soul legend Dionne Warwick? Wait, wait, it gets even better. Warwick enlists Aloe Blacc to up the song's smoulder and transform it into a duet.  


Song: "My Kind of Christmas" 
Artist: Johnny Reid

Speaking of smouldering, this Christmas tune is hot, hot, hot from the opening line as Johnny Reid croons, "Take the mistletoe from the door/ leave the stockings on the floor/ come sit by the fire with me" before kicking it up a notch on the chorus as he tells his lover, "This is my kind of Christmas, a party for two/ you wrapped up in me and me wrapped up in you."  


Song: "Santa Claus Blues"
Artist: Keb' Mo'

Keb' Mo' is always brilliant, so it's no surprise that his first foray into holiday music, Moonlight, Mistletoe & You, is a highlight from start to finish. But there's something about the spare, stripped-down "Santa Claus Blues" that gets inside you. Maybe it's the ache and slide of the guitar, the twinkle of the piano, the loping bass, or Mo''s wry delivery, but it's on repeat from now until the new year.


Song: "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen"
Artist: Rob Halford

Just because you love metal doesn't mean you don't love Christmas, and Rob Halford storms this song with everything he has, all snarls and buzzing power guitars and, yes, cowbell. 


Song: "Joe and Mary" 
Artist: Bryan Adams

A rockabilly song about two crazy kids in love looking for a safe place to go after accidentally getting in the family way? Bryan Adams' new song from his Christmas EP will either have you rockin' around the Christmas tree or trading blows with your more devout relatives. 


Song: "Christmas in Prison"
Artist: Damien Robitaille

This lonesome and wistful tune finds Robitaille paying tribute to legendary songwriter John Prine with a cover of his aching ballad about an incarcerated man behind bars for the holidays who dreams of the woman he left behind.   


Song: "Like it's Christmas"
Artist: Jonas Brothers

I know that handclaps are a little bit last decade, but maybe they're also the next decade because everything old is new again? Whatever the case, the handclaps on this happy-go-lucky love song are like confetti canons of joy, and the brass flourishes only add to the glee. 


Song: "Little Saint Nick"
Artist: Good Lovelies

Who better to tackle the beauty harmonies of the Beach Boys than the Good Lovelies? This cover is packed with '50s pop so sunny you'll practically taste the surf and sand. It's the perfect short but sweet ditty to inject a little light into a dark winter's day.


Song: "Every Holiday"
Artist: Mt. Joy

This indie-rock ballad aches with the weight of seasonal stress, holiday depression and the listless hope that somehow your relationship can survive the ruins and, as Mt. Joy sings, "just make it through."  


Song: "Christmas is all Around"
Artist: Bailen

Yes, this is a cover of the Billy Mack song from Love Actually that's just a rip-off of "Love is all Around" and it's great. Funny and faithful, New York City band Bailen's legitimately great musical treatment elevates the song from artful trolling to hilarious and hooky tribute. 

 

Song: "Skating"
Artist: Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird's innovative and creative cover of  the Vince Guaraldi classic is both familiar and jolting, warm and angular, evoking the joy of spinning circles on a frozen lake as the wind gently cuts paths across your cheeks. This recording brings you into the room with a group of geniuses who care enough about the original to craft a homage that deconstructs and reconstructs without sacrificing the song we all know so well. It's a difficult task and an almost impossible balancing act, but Bird and company handle it with nuance and skill. 

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner