The logo for The Sleigher.
Credit: Julia Terbrock

HO HO WHO: Phoebe Bridgers, the patron saint of sad indie girls who are too young to have known peak Fiona Apple, has gifted us another melancholic Christmas cover. The release can now safely be called an annual tradition, following her 2017 take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,”  2018’s cover of McCarthy Trenching’s “Christmas Song” with Jackson Browne, and 2019’s update of Simon and Garfunkel‘s “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night,” which features Matt Berninger and Apple. This year’s cover is Merle Haggard’s “If We Make it Through December,” which is a painfully perfect choice for 2020, complete with layoffs, isolation, and hope. The track was released on an EP of the same name along with the past covers.  

GOT LAID OFF AT THE FACTORY: Bridgers’ prayerful delivery of Haggard’s lyrics cut straight to the heart of what makes this holiday season extra challenging for many: Recession and unemployment. Though Bridgers isn’t convincing as a small-town parent who lost her factory job and has to explain to her daughter why there won’t be a big Christmas this year, her tender vocals over muted piano capture the emotional weight of the moment. 

IT’S THE COLDEST TIME OF WINTER: This song greets harsh realities without losing hope, with plans to be in a “warmer town come summer time,” and the chorus, “if we make it through December we’ll be fine.” Bridgers encourages us to self-soothe (I suggest taking a deep breath during the line “everything’s gonna be alright, I know”) and think warm thoughts without faking our way through the “happiest time of year.”

CHEER FACTOR: 0/10, but that’s the point. While not a full wallow-in-sadness-on-the-floor track, it is a wistfully-look-out-a-window one, and should be respected as such.