The sun has risen on the beginning of the end of 2020, as December rolls in. The Christmas season is officially upon us in Ireland, following a touching broadcast of the Late Late Toy Show on Friday, and amongst calls to support Irish businesses in these difficult economic times it is equally important to support Irish artists. Here are some Irish Christmas songs to listen to this Christmas.

D. Cullen and Sinead McConville – Christmas Ain’t the Same (Miles and Miles Away)

D and Sinead’s gorgeous duet is an appropriately mellow offering to mark a subdued Christmas this year. The lyrics, about a couple missing each other at Christmas, likely will ring true for many people around the globe this Christmas. However, its message it ultimately uplifting: “we’ll share the same sky and ring our bells high till you’re home.” An elegant and understated Christmas track.

‘Christmas Ain’t the Same’ will be released this Wednesday, 2nd December, and you can pre-save the track here.

Callistan feat. Evelyn Finnerty – Come Home This Christmas

Callistan’s track featuring Evelyn Finnerty is a more quintessential Christmas song than D and Sinead’s, but it still carries themes relevant to 2020; it is also about being apart from those you love at Christmas and longing for their return. It features a catchy and singable melody that I can see myself singing year after year at Christmas. Choral backing vocals and bells galore complete the Christmas feel.

You can listen to ‘Come Home This Christmas’ from Friday, 4th December by pre-saving the track here.

Irish Women in Harmony – Together at Christmas

‘Together at Christmas’ is no hidden gem when it comes to Irish releases this Christmas. The song follows on from the Irish Women in Harmony’s cover of the Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’ earlier this year, and features over 30 prominent and upcoming Irish artists, plus a heart-warming tween choir. ‘Together at Christmas’ features a patchwork of lyrics from other Christmas songs, blended together to create a new, affecting story, written and produced by RuthAnne.

‘Together at Christmas’ is available now, and you can watch the official video here.

Zaska – Santa Don’t Come to Everyone

Last Christmas, avid collaborator Zaska released a lively, jazzy Christmas song featuring Carly Coonagh and Niall McCabe on duet vocals. It is a song to return to this Christmas for a cheerful but realistic message. The song playfully rejects the overt consumerism of Christmas, “I know you probably don’t want it, I bought it for you because it’s Christmas time,” but ultimately it expresses that “all we need is love this Christmas time.”

You can listen to ‘Sant Don’t Come to Everyone’ here.

Covenant is the debut EP from Rotlaust, a project which celebrates composer Jack Penders’ compositional adaptability. The project, taking its name from a Norwegian word meaning ‘rootless,’ is an outlet for Penders to experiment with multiple genres and atmospheres in one place. Penders is also a well-established drummer in the Dublin music scene. His drumming prowess is naturally apparent on this EP, which expresses his impressive technical ability excellently. The EP features guest vocals from Kev Peelo, and was produced by David Redmond, both members of another of Penders’ music projects, alternative rock band LNT.

Covenant is notable for its fluid expression of genre and its capacity to convey a nuanced narrative, despite being entirely instrumental. It communicates a comprehensive understanding of conventions of ambient, heavy rock, and film music, amongst other styles. The EP opens with washes of guitar and piano as heard on ‘Cold Fluorescence.’ A textural watercolour of sound develops, where intricate splashes of drums interrupt the otherwise sparse sonic palette. Liquid-like synths and reverberating, distant voices give the impression of floating in an ocean of sound. The title track on the EP contrasts significantly, with staccato guitar riffs and loose drums playing slow, cathartic parts. The drums and guitar take turns leading the track, the drums playing a steady, rolling rhythm and the guitar, a jubilant melody. As the track builds, the instruments climb in speed and intensity to culminate in a dynamic peak.

‘Sun Circles’ is calming and restorative, like a long, pensive walk. The song conjures nature, blooming foliage and summer growth, but the positive atmosphere of the song quickly changes course; a bleak voiceover speaks of imposer syndrome and anxiety, and a discordant melody follows suit. Balance is restored, however, and the song plays out on an uplifting note. ‘All This Silence’ is a climatic point on Covenant, conveying a futuristic dystopia through a droning, rhythmic synth. It is a sonic snapshot of an energetic sequence of events, intense and cinematic like the apex of an action movie. The final track on Covenant continues with this dystopian theme; it is a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ 1999 single ‘The Day the World Went Away,’ as despairing as the original, and potentially more menacing.

Covenant is available for streaming on Spotify here.

Last night, the Irish-Canadian artist 0Stella and newly established, Irish artist Callistan held an intimate listening party on Zoom to premier their new track, a remix of 0Stella’s 2019 alternative rock song, ‘Fire.’ For this release, Cal took ‘Fire,’ cut it up, and stitched it back together into a dance-pop track. The remix of ‘Fire’ is due for release this month. 0Stella opened the meeting by playing ‘Fire’ live and acoustic, before delving into a behind the scenes look at the track.

0Stella describes the track as a ‘declaration of imperfection;’ she created it to empower people, especially women and young people, to embrace their imperfections and love themselves regardless. It is a powerful and authentic message coming from 0Stella and Cal, who are both outspoken advocates for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights having worked with Girls Rock music camps in Ireland and Canada.

0Stella played the original version of the track on her DAW, sharing her screen on Zoom, to show off the intricate layers of the production. The full arrangement is dominated by her vocals and a gritty, heavy guitar and bass; however, underneath this there is a sophisticated and complex architecture to the song. Layers of gentle synths and backing vocals, and an introspective string arrangement, hide beneath the rough exterior. It was perhaps unintended but this struck me because it mirrors how emotions behave, particularly those caused by the anxiety and insecurity 0Stella was hoping to address here. Often, harsh emotions such as frustration or hatred are placeholders for other, subtler forms of pain.

After this, Cal talked us through his reworking of the song. Like me, he was drawn to the understated synths and brought these into the spotlight in his interpretation to produce an upbeat, dance-pop track. Similarly, he shared his screen and talked us through some of the main elements of the song and how they related to the original before playing his version through in full. The ability to host this kind of behind-the-scenes meeting and show off the intricacies of a song is a welcome side-effect of the virtual nature of the world at the moment. It is a great experience to find any positive aspects of the times we are currently living in, and this preview and listening party for both versions of ‘Fire’ certainly felt like one of those positive moments. Accepting yourself and your imperfections is an important affirmation to advocate for at any time, but it is particularly relevant in these times of high worry and concern. The remix of ‘Fire’ will mark Cal’s first official release, and it is a strong starting point for him with this new project.

‘Fire’ will be released on 25th September, and you can pre-save the track here. In the meantime, you can listen to the original version of 'Fire' below.

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