Six festive Aussie music releases from 2021 that are not half bad

The end of November seems like the right time for dropping festive albums.

And heaps of artists are tempted to get into the Chrissy market… sorry, spirit. Like in the forever green meme starring a certain Canadian singer, “Christmas is coming. Michel Bublé emerges from his cave”.

Thankfully, many Aussie artists have made an effort to approach the topic in a less pretentious way, releasing festive tracks worth your while. I’ve chosen six of them that will conjure up a magical Christmas 2021 vibe for you.

PART 89 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

No matter how we all might pretend, everyone LOVES a good Christmas ballad. The traditional English-speaking carols are not that bad, either. And if you put a cheerful Aussie spin on them (after all, it’s summer Down Under in December), then you’ve got a recipe for a banger.

On the other hand, how many times can you listen to different takes on “Silent Night” or “White Christmas”? If you’re not Mariah Carey, nobody will buy your version of “All I want For Christmas Is You”, either. So musos have to truly get creative to offer audiences something worthwhile, either by coming up with their original festive songs or nailing those new renditions. And if they can drop an LP combining both, even better.

So let’s look at some 2021 examples made in Down Under.

Delta Goodrem

Only Santa Knows (Deluxe Edition)

I’m not sure why but when Delta Goodrem is mentioned, I automatically think of Kelly Clarkson. And I mean it as a compliment. Because, to me, the two singers have a similar vibe: one part diva, one part entertainer, and one part a strong personality.

Another thing they have in common, it turns out, is producing fantastic Christmas albums.

Delta Goodrem’s Only Santa Knows was released in 2020 already. It contains the classics (including my beloved “The Little Drummer Boy”) mixed with the singer’s own (i.e. the title track). There’s also another original song featuring an Aussie female icon, Olivia Newton-John (“Merry Christmas To You”).

This year, four new songs have been added to the album, and they’re all new renditions of Christmas favourites (like “Frosty The Snowman”).

Now, it might not sound that inviting or innovative. But Delta Goodrem is in a league of her own when it comes to putting a grandiose, musical-like touch on music. The LP is extremely well-produced, and the song arrangements – surprisingly tasteful. The singer herself sounds awesome.

Kelly Clarkson would be proud 🙂

Gretta Ray

It’s Almost Christmas in Philly

Gretta Ray released her debut album, Begin To Look Around, back in August 2021 to rave reviews. I’d seen the singer once before at Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne when she’d supported… Mumford & Sons (!!!).

So I’m not surprised that her first LP would be so widely praised. Including by Rolling Stone Australia who wrote this about it: “The album marks a turning point” for the Melbourne-based muso and “comes in as strong as a June wind and swirls with pop melodrama and nostalgia.”

Such is also one of the songs from the LP that Gretta has just released as an acoustic version. It’s very much an account of a troubled relationship. And maybe it doesn’t have the Chrissy spirit in mind as its main objective, but the track’s vibe and lyrics instantly transport you to a festive Philadelphia.

“It’s almost Christmas in Philly
They really go all out with these lights
This dense and decorative city
Is buzzing with suspense as it will soon be draped
In white”

I used to live close to Philly when I was younger, and I would go downtown to see the Xmas lights and decorations. So this song definitely has a personal feel for me. But, at the same time, it tells a touching story of having a person to lean on when going through a rough time emotionally.

Apart from her own song, on “It’s Almost Christmas in Philly” Gretta has also covered one of the most beautiful Christmas songs, “River” by Joni Mitchell.

Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train

Before anything else, you have to know that this is not a release for everyone. It’s not what you expect from a Chrissy album, either. It’s much more.

For instance, it has 22 tracks and lasts for 1 hr 14 mins – which is pretty unusual these days. The amount of collaborations is mind-blowing, too. Vika and Linda Bull, Jess Hitchock and Kate Miller-Heidke have contributed vocals to it, amongst many others.

Additionally, Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train “traverses language and cultural significance, from a Latin hymn to a traditional Irish folk ballad, and a well-known carol sung in te reo Maori” (the language of New Zealand’s native population). It offers a variety of genres and musical styles, from acoustic ballads, choral chanting to rocking out and bluesy jams. Paul Kelly does take you on a ride around Christmas on this record.

And yes, if you know anything about Paul Kelly, you can expect a new version of his famous anthem, “How To Make Gravy”, to appear on it as well.

On a different note, can you imagine this is album no. 28 in Paul Kelly’s history but only the first Christmas one?

Shannen James & Paul Dempsey

Fashionably Late (Every New Year’s Day)

Not every song published in the festive season talks about Santa, Christmas presents or a snowy day in New York. The one Shannen James recorded in a duet with Paul Dempsey (from Something For Kate) is a love song, for a change.

As opposed to the rest of the releases in this post, this single talks about New Year’s Eve/Day, not Christmas. The storyline is pretty simple. But I bet heaps of us have been in this situation before.

Someone gets dressed up for a New Year’s Eve party, hoping that the subject of their romantic dreams would ring in the New Year together with them. And that person never shows up, making the whole party a bitter and disappointing experience rather than a festive one.

I watch them dancing
They walk holding hands and
I start to worry it’s passing us by
No resolution I just wanted you but
The clock is ticking its way onto midnight

Needless to say, the two Aussie singers compliment each other perfectly on this track. And it makes for a very mellow song to listen to whilst sipping a glass of wine in the evening, accompanied by the glow of the Christmas tree.

Sia

Everyday Is Christmas (Snowman Deluxe Edition)

It probably hasn’t been the best year for Sia, despite having directed a motion picture and being nominated for an ARIA award in the movie soundtrack category. So she might have decided that the best way to finish it on a high note would be dropping an extended version of her Christmas album from 2017.

Sia’s music has a very distinct character. She’s a powerhouse singer who has gained international fame and respect (if maybe tripping over her feet a little sometimes on the way there). So if anybody can afford a playful spin on Christmas, who better than the Adelaide-born muso?

Everyday Is Christmas was already pimped in 2018 when three new songs were added. The original album contained 10 songs, some of which have racked up an impressive number of listens (“Snowman”, for instance, has been streamed nearly 350 million times only on Spotify). The current version has grown by another three songs.

I have to give it to Sia, though – all tracks on Everyday Is Christmas are original compositions. So many Chrissy lovers will want to check out the album for that reason.

Also, considering that Sia has (co-)written songs for Beyoncé or Kylie Minogue and collaborated with Flo Rida or David Guetta, you can expect a solid record. Pair that with cheerful imagery, and you’ll get a recipe for a perfect Chrissy album with festive bangers. Which it is, surprisingly.

URTHBOY, NARDEAN, LOREN RYAN

ON MY WAY HOME

And just as I was about to close my list, Urthboy announced on his socials that he’d be releasing an Xmas track which dropped just a few hours ago.

Moreover, it turns out this is a three-artist collab where Urthboy doesn’t play the first violin but leaves a lot of space to his accompanying female vocalists.

I have the impression that this song was written with an aspiration to be the Aussie equivalent of Chris Rea’s “Driving Home For Christmas”. And whilst it might not reach the height of an undisputed festive banger yet, it does carry an obvious but important message.

There is “something” about this time of year. Nobody can explain it, but it’s a fact. We mostly want to spend it with friends and family, right? And a lot of us travel really long distances to get home for 25 December. It’s also a time that evokes a lot of beautiful and unforgettable memories. Even I have crossed continents a few times to sit at the Christmas table with my Mom and Dad and have something to remember when I’m feeling homesick.

So when the three musos sing “It all feels so different at Christmas”, you can’t help but sing along. Trust me 🙂


BONUS

PUB CHOIR

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU

Technically speaking, this release is from last year. But I reckon it’s worth sharing because of its super positive vibes.

Have you heard of Pub Choir? If not, I wrote about them here. Basically, what they do is invite you to a place (a pub, a festival, a public place) for a massive karaoke where they’ll teach you a famous song. It sounds pretty basic and revolutionary, but you wouldn’t believe how many people dig this sort of entertainment Down Under.

Last year, for obvious reasons, they couldn’t do a regular gathering. Instead, they took advantage of the virtual space and the fact that everyone was glued to their screens anyway. Based on musical guidance that Pub Choir provided, they asked people to record their versions of “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. And then, they put it all together in one awesome video.

So forget what I said at the beginning about not doing another rendition of Mariah Carey’s cult Chrissy hit. And give this one a listen:


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