The kind of Christmas music that doesn’t make you want to turn it off instantly
No Scrooges allowed on the 21st December. As Paul Kelly has made it, Christmas music is supposed to make you feel good – not the mind-numbing stuff they play at the shops.
Just good tunes to have in the background as you cook Christmas dinner and have drinks with your loved ones.
Polish Club – ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’
Taking on Mariah Carey’s Christmas classic ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ was always going to be risky, but Sydney rockers Polish Club absolutely nailed it with their raucous rock aesthetic and an epic video full of absolute legends spreading the Christmas cheer.
“We’ve been playing All I Want For Christmas Is You from the very beginning,” explains vocalist Novak. “I’ve always loved Mariah Carey in general and especially that song. We tried it one night a few Decembers ago and more people than we expected knew it, and it turns out loved it too.”
A must for every December BBQ, for the video the band gathered a bunch of their famous mates, from DZ Deathrays and Northeast Party House to the Sunrise Cash Cow and Anthony Albanese, to help put their spin on seasonal classic ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Check it out below.
The Teskey Brothers – ‘Dreaming Of A Christmas With You’
The Teskey Brothers can really do no wrong and here we have pure magic.
Back in 2020, they released two original Christmas songs, ‘Dreaming Of A Christmas With You’ (+ accompanying video) and ‘Highway Home For Christmas’!
Speaking of ‘Dreaming Of A Christmas With You / Highway Home For Christmas’, The Teskey Brothers said: “Our first Christmas tunes! These two songs are both inspired by the lockdown we all faced this year. The story speaks to the separation of lovers and family, in Victoria’s case divided by the great Murray River, holding onto hope for a reunion at Christmas. You’ve got a lonely soul at home who’s ‘Dreaming Of A Christmas With You’, while their loved one is hightailing it down the ‘Highway Home For Christmas’. After a slow year off the tools, it was so much fun to get back together and record these tracks live in the room.”
Peach PRC – ‘I’ve Been Bad Santa’
The TikTok sensation and Adelaide pop artist Peach PRC (aka Shaylee Curnow) has a way with making catchy tunes with relatable lyrics.
‘I’ve Been Bad Santa’ is jingly but nothing overbearing and instead sees Curnow move away from her bubblegum pop roots. Slowing down the tempo, there’s stacked, bright vocal harmonies, deep sub bass and shimmery xylophones.
If you’re feeling some extra bah humbug, Peach’s got ‘Christmas Kinda Sucks’ on the same EP. As its title implies, ‘Christmas Kinda Sucks’ avoids the typically nostalgia associated with Christmas music and instead sings: “This tree looks kinda high, then again so do I / Can’t smoke up a mistletoe, but damn I tried / I hate this winter theme, it’s 38 degrees / A bump’s the only snow I’ll ever see.”
I also highly recommend following Peach’s cooky life on tiktok for some laughs over this period.
Kingswood – ‘A Kingswood Christmas’
If you’re looking for a whole album to rip into, Melbourne alt-rockers Kingswood celebrated their love back in 2020 for some iconic artists and the Christmas standards they’ve made legendary over the years with their first festive record A Kingswood Christmas.
An album perfect for late nights by a fire, rousing sing alongs or for a simple nostalgia break with family, A Kingswood Christmas is the Melbourne band’s way of paying tribute to some classic music and the brains behind them. The band’s love for jazz, big band and the style of rich instrumentation that has formed many American and global western music trends comes through strongly on the record.
Incorporating favourite Christmas standards including ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, A Kingswood Christmas covers a wide range of the universal Christmas catalogue.
Amy Shark – ‘Christmas Lights’
Amy Shark has taken on Coldplay’s ‘Christmas Lights’.
The singer/songwriter’s rendition replaces the piano balladry with acoustic touches. “In typical Amy Shark style I have picked a sad song for the holidays, with Coldplay’s ‘Christmas Lights’,” Shark explained. “This feels like the song to play at the end of the night when everyone is full and sleepy on the sofa.”
It’s the perfect Aussie Chrissy song to see us through the silly season.
Velvet Bloom – ‘A Christmas Kinda Love’
Melbourne’s Velvet Bloom is a neo-soul, alternative-pop and jazz-rock music project with ballad style vocals who we’ve adored for a while now.
Released as a one-off Christmas tune in 2021 to bring a little magic back to everyone’s lives this holiday season, the cool and transcendent tones of Maddie’s voice alongside her band is a real hands up in the air swaying kinda feel.
You get me?
Mitch Tambo – ‘Away in a Manger’
The enchanting lyrics of ‘Away in a Manger’ have always resonated with Aussie singer songwriter Mitch Tambo, dating back to his school choir days. Now a proud father, the song holds even more significance.
“The words in Away in a Manager tell such a beautiful story which now has a much deeper meaning for me since I became a dad,” Mitch said. “Each time I perform it I picture my baby girl Phoenix, which makes me think of all the parents doing it tough at this time of the year trying to provide for their families.”
Aside from being busy in the studio, Mitch has been rehearsing for one of the year’s biggest nights – Carols By Candlelight on the Nine Network which will be broadcast nationally on Christmas Eve. Mitch will be adding lots of special festive cheer to the extravaganza when he brings the magic of ‘Away in a Manger’ to life!
Stella Donnelly – ‘Season’s Greetings’
Stella brings life back into Christmas music.
How good is a true blue Aussie song with explicits? It’s bloody good. This one goes out to the not-so-perfect families that we still love, telling the story of what happens when the black sheep of the family attends a family party.
“From the moment I wrote ‘Season’s Greetings’, I could visualize a video concept for it. I wanted to try and exaggerate the sometimes-nuanced atmosphere of a blisteringly hot, Australian Christmas lunch,” Donnelly says of the video for the track, directed by Aussie indie artist Julia Jacklin and Nick McKk.
The good, bad and ugly, we just have to embrace it and cheers to that.
Maple Glider – ‘Mama It’s Christmas’
Always delivering a vulnerable, visceral, and altogether enthralling experience, Maple Glider, aka Melbourne-based Tori Zietsch, penned an absolute heartbreakingly beautiful track ‘Mama It’s Christmas’.
The closing track on her 2021 debut album To Enjoy is the Only Thing, this song is a deeply personal song sung to her brother that just may see water swelling in your eyes as she sings “I should have reached through the phone / Slapped you hard on the cheek / So that you could know pain like I do when you leave.”
It might not exactly be ‘feel good’, but it sure is beautiful.
Jimmy Barnes – ‘Blues Christmas’
Australia’s favourite rock n’ roll and soul singer Jimmy Barnes celebrated Christmas early this year with his new album Blue Christmas. The title track, which is our pick for Gravy Day, sees Barnes take on the iconic Elvis Presley song.
“One of the greatest surprises I ever got from our children was when they all snuck away into the garage and secretly recorded themselves singing carols for me,” Jimmy said.
“That recording had me weeping like a baby. It was the most beautiful gift I ever got.”
This album is his gift back to the kids, the grandkids and “everyone out there who just wants to sit and sing with their family on Christmas”.
Barnes’ version of ‘Blue Christmas’ arrived alongside a live video of Barnes performing the song, decked out in a leopard print suit in front of a Christmas tree alongside a nine-piece backing band. Go on, indulge.
Tim Minchin – ‘White Wine In The Sun’
The classic. One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in my life. Tim Minchin has captured the beauty of Australian Christmas’, it’s humble and comforting – embracing the uniqueness of hot summer Christmas day. ‘
White Wine in the Sun’ proved even more important in COVID times. No matter where you were in the crazy world, with loved ones or not, we could pour out a white wine and toast to the ones you love.
This live recording of ‘White Wine in the Sun’ always gets me teary.
John Farnham & Olivia Newton-John – ‘The First Noel’
Okay this one is a classic but we couldn’t have an Aussie favourite list without the GOAT. The legendary John Farnham and the beloved Olivia Newton-John join forces on the Christmas classic ‘The First Noel’. The track comes off their joint album Friends For Christmas (Deluxe Edition).
On the album, Farnham said “I have always loved working with Olivia. To record a Christmas album seemed like the right, almost inevitable thing to do. I hope everyone enjoys listening to it as much as we loved recording it together.”
Slow and classic, with two of the most renowned voices, this one’s just a good one to pop on for when you just need to take a moment amidst the chaos.
Gretta Ray – ‘It’s Almost Christmas In Philly (Acoustic)’
It’s hard not to love Gretta Ray. Taken from Gretta Ray’s triple j ‘album of the year’ and ARIA nominated album, Begin To Look Around, ‘It’s Almost Christmas In Philly’ is a gleaming highlight with stripped back sonics and hushed vocals – it’s perfect for popping on in the background while sitting around the tree with a glass of wine.
“It’s a song about driving through North America with my dear friend Sam while I was opening for Gang of Youths in 2018,” Gretta says.
“It’s the most folky sounding song on Begin To Look Around, and with this version, I wanted to hone in on that even more.”
AC/DC – ‘Mistress For Christmas’
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, Jingle all the day, I just can’t wait ’til Christmastime, When I can grope you in the hay…”
A timeless classic, this 30-year old track is a bit cheeky and best played loud if you like your Christmas with hard-hitting rock’n’roll.
Located on the band’s 1990 album, The Razors Edge (the album featuring ‘Thunderstruck’), ‘Mistress For Christmas’ well and truly sees Brian Johnson’s Christmas list up close and personal, asking Santa for a little something on the side.
Paul Kelly – ‘How To Make Gravy’
Now the whole reason for this article! On the 21st of December, our protagonist of this song wonders “who’s gonna make the gravy? I bet it won’t taste the same.”
Telling the story of a prisoner named Joe writing a letter to his brother Dan, there aren’t many songs that have cemented themselves within our culture as much as How To Make Gravy.
How To Make Gravy is a tale of longing to be reunited at Christmas, as the song narrates the letter of an incarcerated Joe. “Who’s gonna make the gravy now? I bet it won’t taste the same / Just add flour, salt, a little red wine / And don’t forget a dollop of tomato sauce for sweetness and that extra tang” he explains the recipe to his brother, all the while reminiscing and mourning being away from the family.
In hard to deny this this song holds a special place in ours hearts.
So throw on these tunes and reflect on the holiday season this Australian summer.