It’s that time of year again! The week of Thanksgiving, or as it’s known in the music industry, the brief period when every artist releases their holiday singles. Most years, it’s a grab bag of lackluster reworks of beloved classics and forgettable too-new-sounding originals, but sometimes a few standouts emerge to strike that perfect chord of modern yet familiar. This year, Austin-by-way-of-Los Angeles singer-songwriter Molly Burch possesses what I’d consider to be two of 2022’s best new Christmas songs. “Cozy Christmas” and “December Baby,” released on Tuesday, Nov. 22, both embody my platonic ideal of a stellar contemporary holiday single: they’re fresh-sounding and fun, yet still familiar and warm enough to gently stoke the coals of nostalgia.
Much of the two tracks’ cozy qualities stem from Burch’s voice, which is smoky and retro in the way old vinyls are. Over the groovy twinkling beat of “Cozy Christmas,” it immediately lends an air of unplaceable timelessness. Wait, have I heard this song before? Definitely not — it’s new — but it sounds like a burrowed memory that’s emerged anew, something you would’ve caught a whiff of while holiday shopping in the mall with your parents long ago and are remembering again. Portions of the song’s melody recall Wham’s “Last Christmas,” which probably helps, and it adopts that light retro-pop beat that the newer classic Christmas songs all have. But its charm is combining those elements with a chiller outlook on the holiday season: “This Christmas will be cozy/ Finally have someone to hold me/ Let’s get all cuddled up, I just wanna get close to you.”
Its B-side, “December Baby,” is the ideal Christmas ballad, in that it isn’t overly saccharine, or so melodramatic and mining the trauma of the holidays that it ends up sounding insufferable. Burch’s is sweet and lightly blue, as she reflects on a since-concluded relationship, and her first time falling in love and finding the magic in the holidays. We would pair this with a watch of Love Actually to get the full wistful holiday season effect.
In retrospect, it isn’t a surprise Burch has refined the Christmas song formula; in 2019 she released a complete album dedicated to the season, filled with a mix of covers and originals, as well as features from John Early and Kate Berlant — a signifier of real taste if there ever was one!
Other musicians who have released equally quality holiday songs this year include Phoebe Bridgers, who delivered a fine cover of The Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine,” Remi Wolf, who shared two twisty, strange takes on “Last Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland,” and Tkay Maidza, who released her frosty original, “Nights In December.” But if you ask us, after that last bite of turkey on Thursday when the radio immediately switches to exclusively playing holiday tracks until New Years, I’ll be hoping to hear one of Burch’s new tunes.