12 New Christmas Songs for a Vast Array of Holiday Moods

Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at [email protected] and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

Silversun Pickups, ‘Just Like Christmas’

The grungy Los Angeles band Silversun Pickups heard potential in “Just Like Christmas,” which was more like a country song when the Minnesota band Low introduced it on its 1999 album, “Christmas.” It’s a song about touring Scandinavia, seeing — and scoffing at — the snowy image of Christmas but feeling its attractions anyway. With sleigh bells and rippling, echoing guitars, Silversun Pickups find a chiming optimism in the song, embracing a joyful illusion even as they realize it’s temporary. JON PARELES

Samara Joy, ‘Warm in December’

Samara Joy sings with a jazz trio in “Warm in December,” taking on an aspiring standard as she goes swooping, quivering and hopping through her phrasing. The way she leaves room for her backup to improvise echoes the exchange of affection that the song promises. PARELES

Phoebe Bridgers, ‘So Much Wine’

Phoebe Bridgers’s annual Christmas cover is, by now, a modern tradition; she’s previously released renditions of such holiday laments as Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” and Tom Waits’s “Day After Tomorrow.” This year, she tackles the folk duo the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine,” a dark but ultimately tender tale of Yuletide overindulgence. While the original version is played for macabre comedy (“I had nothing to say on Christmas Day when you threw all your clothes in the snow”) Bridgers, characteristically, amps up the pathos and issues an impassioned plea to sober up for the holidays. “Listen to me, butterfly,” she sings in a trembling voice, “there’s only so much wine that you can drink in one life.” LINDSAY ZOLADZ

The Tribe, ‘This Christmas’

This team-up of soft soul music stalwarts takes on Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” with charm and adoration. High points include Freda Payne’s careful, tender entreaty to “shake a hand,” and Michael McDonald absolutely howling, “The fireside is blazing bright/And we’re caroling through the night.” (The song also features Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx and several other singers and musicians.) Proceeds from the track benefit the Donny Hathaway Legacy Project (DHLP), a mental health-focused charity established by Donnita Hathaway, Donny’s youngest daughter. JON CARAMANICA

Sam Smith, ‘Night Before Christmas’

’Tis hardly the season for something unholy, so Sam Smith’s “Night Before Christmas,” a new holiday original written with the musician’s longtime collaborator Simon Aldred, is tasteful, traditional and sweetly soulful. “With everything closed now, there’s nowhere to go,” Smith sings over a sparse guitar arrangement, but the atmosphere soon grows merrier with the addition of piano, percussion and a fleet of backup singers. “Baby, this time of year can make you feel old,” Smith sings on the chorus. Coziness, though, is the cure: “But when I’m with you, I don’t feel the cold.” ZOLADZ

The Linda Lindas, ‘Groovy Xmas’

This is how you do it — a jubilant, surf-ish rock jam about the small details of holiday thrill, including the ones that never, ever change: “Same playlist every year/Mariah brings the cheer/And pumpkin spice lattes are here.” The Linda Lindas continue to extract maximum happiness from every available moment, including watching the cat lap up water from the Christmas tree stand. CARAMANICA

Stars, ‘Christmas Anyway’

Stars, the long-running Montreal indie-rock band, offers a pandemic-era Christmas song in “Christmas Anyway,” singing about a long-delayed reunion — “Two years since we did this” — fraught with unresolved tensions. Amid strumming guitars and a stolid backbeat, they sing about how “we got through it somehow,” and how a holiday can offer at least a temporary reconciliation. PARELES

Summer Walker, ‘Santa Baby’

“Santa Baby” is one of the classic holiday flirtations, and Summer Walker is one of contemporary R&B’s great emotional reckoners — an optimal match. But Walker’s version of this classic is restrained, and almost a little reluctant. Just a sweet little plea for some seasonal blessing. CARAMANICA

David Byrne, ‘Fat Man’s Comin’’

David Byrne applies his quizzical-observer perspective in “The Fat Man’s Comin’,” a brief, brawny and elaborately arranged chamber-pop bolero about “a roly-poly man in the dark, he’s riding.” It’s perfectly poised between objectivity and amusement. PARELES

Old Crow Medicine Show, ‘Trim This Tree’

“Trim This Tree,” an original from Americana stalwarts Old Crow Medicine Show, is a spirited, occasionally hilarious snapshot of Christmas in modern, overdeveloped Nashville: Sloshed reindeer ride by on a pedal tavern, the ornaments are exclusively from Dollar Tree, and, as the frontman Ketch Decor puts it in a Springsteenian croak, “In front of this Airbnb, there’s a Joseph and a Mary and Jesus all lit up like a Walmart.” Even in such environs, though, the group’s rollicking sound manages to rustle up some genuine down-home cheer. ZOLADZ

Imogen Clark, ‘I Got Dumped for Christmas’

The Australian songwriter Imogen Clark bashes her way through the self-explanatory “I Got Dumped for Christmas,” with sleigh bells and power-pop guitars. “Your timing was extraordinary,” she jabs, nicely capturing how seasonal expectations can go so badly awry. PARELES

Norah Jones, ‘The Christmas Waltz’

Norah Jones has nearly doubled the track list for the expanded version of her 2021 album “I Dream of Christmas,” mostly with bluesy, louche studio tracks and live remakes. Her version of the vintage Tin Pan Alley song “The Christmas Waltz” — written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, once recorded by Frank Sinatra — cheerfully trades a waltz for a shuffle, bringing in a quivering harp and an insinuating saxophone, playing with meters but still sounding fond. PARELES

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