Whether we like it or not, Christmas is here again. And this year, it’s going to be an even weirder one. We’re enduring a holiday season adulterated by limited celebrations with family and friends due to COVID-19. So we need a strong festive playlist to keep our minds off the unusual setting 2020 has handed us.
Luckily for us, the alternative scene has produced even more festive offerings this year. Here are our 15 favorite picks from the Christmas singles and EPs emerging this holiday. They range from sentimental reflections to pissed-off anthems. And there are also a few special covers of classic Christmas songs for good measure.
Senses Fail – “I Wish It Was Christmas Today”
Senses Fail are keeping our spirits up this holiday season. They released two obscure Christmas covers under the title Christmas Has Been Canceled Due To Lack Of Hustle. They’ve revitalized a classic cringeworthy Saturday Night Live sketch from 2000 here. And Senses Fail bring their usual teeth-gritting bite to the sweater-wearing festive number. But it doesn’t detract from any of the original tongue-in-cheek sentiment. If you can’t laugh at Christmas, when can you?
Dragged Under – “This Holiday”
Feeling more infuriated by Christmas’ consumer side this year? Raging at everybody making a fuss about a holiday in the middle of a pandemic? Dragged Under feel your pain, and they laced a truly contagious anti-Christmas anthem with all that fury you’ve bottled up. These rising scene stars, formed by former members of Rest, Repose, have your back with “This Holiday.” They’re bringing us the joy of burning Christmas trees, getting drunk on eggnog and telling Rudolph to fuck off.
Poppy – “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas”
Bringing her signature eerily hushed tones to the festive season, Poppy has graced this year with a full Christmas EP, A Very Poppy Christmas. The most heartbreaking of its four offerings is not to be confused with the blink-182 track of the same name. “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” is a moving ode to being unable to spend the holidays with loved ones. We’re all facing a tough Christmas this year. So this haunting track hits harder than expected.
August Burns Red – “All I Want For Christmas Is You”
Unable to celebrate their annual “Christmas Burns Red“ concert in the usual manner due to the pandemic, August Burns Red didn’t leave us stranded. They’ve delivered a festive offering that will make you see a Christmas classic in a very different light. From the band who brought epic covers of “Carol Of The Bells” and “Last Christmas” comes this year’s instrumental holiday interpretation of Mariah Carey’s timeless “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” We’d appreciate every store playing this shred-happy version throughout December rather than the original, if that’s cool.
LIGHTS – “Deck The Halls”
Reimagined for 2020, LIGHTS adds her signature compelling touch to the classic Christmas carol “Deck The Halls.” If you didn’t already need another festive earworm to keep your mind busy this holiday, this fresh rendition morphs into a different vibe with every verse and keeps you coming back for more. The song features haunting acoustic pauses and intense melodies. And LIGHTS’ interpretation of this 16th-century tune fits her style perfectly as the follow-up to her take on “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” in 2019. This is LIGHTS as we’ve never heard her before, and we’ll happily take another equally infectious Christmas cover next year.
Dashboard Confessional – “Blue Christmas”
2020’s been quite a year for emo mainstays Dashboard Confessional, and their new festive offering reflects that. First, they were forced to call time on their 20th anniversary tour due to coronavirus. Then frontman Chris Carrabba sustained “severe injuries” from a motorcycle accident in June. Echoing their sentiments and the rest of the world’s mindset this year, the band have covered the Elvis Presley holiday classic “Blue Christmas” for the Spotify Singles: Holiday Collection playlist. And they use their own sentimental talents to make the song more solemn than ever.
Tegan And Sara – “Make You Mine This Season”
From the soundtrack to Hulu’s queer holiday movie Happiest Season starring Kristen Stewart comes an original festive track from prolific mainstays Tegan And Sara. Judging by the effect this queer Christmas dedication has already made since the movie premiered, we’re convinced it won’t be their last. The twins are celebrating an LGBTQIA+ Christmas with a catchy ode to falling in love this season. And they’ve brought the joy back to the holidays this year.
We Are The Union – “I’m Working Retail For Christmas”
Working retail this time of year is more stressful than it’s worth. Especially working retail this time of year in 2020. Featuring shelves stocked with holiday cynicism and tacky tinsel that nobody asked for, ska pop-punks We Are The Union are back with a video for the festive denunciation “I’m Working Retail For Christmas.” If you’re heading out to the store to stock up on gifts and things you definitely don’t need, keep this catchy track in mind. And think of the staff echoing the song’s sentiment: “Suddenly hell don’t seem so bad.”
Alex Lahey – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)”
If the Ramones’ iconic “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” doesn’t already have a prized slot in your festive playlist, try out Alex Lahey’s faithful pop-punk cover. Desperately trying to avoid holiday confrontations to further peace on earth, this hyped-up rendition carries its original sentiments. And there’s a fresh vibe, as Lahey tweeted a dedication to a person from her childhood: “This one goes out to the kid who made fun of my hey ho, let’s go T-shirt in year eight.”
3OH!3 – “KISSLETOE”
As if new 3OH!3 material wasn’t enough for us to handle from 2020, the emo throwbacks have fueled our festive season with a holiday track that’s almost as catchy as “DONTTRUSTME.” Charged with all of their usual contagious energy and sneakily crafted gibes, this year’s “KISSLETOE” follows lovers meeting again over Christmas and disagreeing over the significance of a mistletoe. Some may relate to this annual conflict and some not. Either way, this song will certainly pop up in your mind when you see mistletoes.
Dee Snider and Lzzy Hale – “The Magic Of Christmas Day (God Bless Us Everyone)”
We knew someday we’d see the creative minds behind Twisted Sister and Halestorm cross paths and collaborate in the most epic manner. But we never thought it would come with a Christmas cover, let alone a Céline Dion track. As it turns out, Dee Snider originally wrote this track as a holiday present for his wife, Suzette, and it was eventually found and recorded by Dion for commercial release. This year, the feisty song takes the form originally intended, with the addition of Lzzy Hale’s soaring vocals. It’s the perfect belter to add some much-needed metal to your family festivities.
Lil Nas X – “HOLIDAY”
With his new festive outing “HOLIDAY,” Lil Nas X is worlds away from his days sampling Nine Inch Nails and hitting the Billboard rock charts in the process, but we’re definitely still here for it. Ever wondered what Christmas will look like in the future? No? Either way, his video has given us a hell of an insight. And in the video, Santa is actually Lil Nas X. Good luck getting this infectious track out of your head until January.
girl in red – “two queens in a king sized bed”
2020 is clearly the year for a queer Christmas, and girl in red has joined in the celebrations with her holiday number “two queens in a king sized bed.” Who said Christmas had to be loud and brash, forcing neon festive cheer and throwing tinsel in your face? Atmospheric and touching, this tender moment is every bit as joyful as a catchy anthem. It also happily fits in at any time of year.
The Offspring – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
Yes, you read that right. The Offspring are here to save Christmas 2020 with a cover of Darlene Love’s holiday classic, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” While the original song dates back to 1963, the Offspring add their name to the list of scene bands paying tribute to this song along with their trademark contagious attitude draped around it like tinsel. Echoing all the cringey sentiments of a Robert Palmer video, the Offspring’s visual is full of relatable video memories of childhood Christmases. If this is the start of a holiday trend from the punk icons, we’re here for it.
Floor Jansen – “Let It Go”
We never thought we’d see Nightwish frontlady Floor Jansen covering Frozen staple “Let It Go.” But we’ve learned to expect the unexpected from 2020. It turns the Idina Menzel smash hit from the Disney movie into an operatic and symphonic treat. And this crossover hits all the right notes and will definitely keep out the cold this season. We can’t see Jansen sporting Elsa’s iconic blue dress just yet, but we’re here for the metal Frozen queen of 2020. Apologies to anybody who’s only just got this song out of their heads.