Animal Teeth – “Merry Christmas”
Perhaps not intended as a Christmas release, this is a wonderfully not-at-all-in-the-Christmas-spirit song for all you Grinches out there. Beginning with the lines “Merry Christmas, I love you, and I’m drunk,” the two-minute song sorts through a lot of feelings, with a bit of suddenly explosive drumming over thoughtful acoustic guitar strumming.
Charlotte Cornfield – Seasonal
Charlotte Cornfield’s two seasonal tracks (which may be familiar to you if you’re like us and scarf-down the Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada compilations every year as both tracks have appeared on different volumes) are quite up-lifting. Although “Last Winter” starts off pretty rough – Cornfield sings of the tough time she had last winter – she has a new attitude this year and is determined to beat the winter blues by hanging out with her friends, spending quality time with Netflix, and more. Her other track “Clip Clop” is from the perspective of a Central Park horse during the holiday season and Cornfield encourages you to “Get grooving to the clip clop” and that’s all you really need to know.
Christopher Ma – Chrismas Christmas EP
With a name that’s just a few letters away from “Christmas,” Toronto’s Christopher Ma was born ready to make a Christmas album. On this six-track EP of Christmas covers, he adds some interesting wrinkles into tried-and-true formula. On his “O Holy Night” cover, he makes himself sound like a choir, and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” takes on a twinkling quality from the keys he uses. It’s a fun spin on some classics.
Dadweed – “The Nutcracker in 3D”
Dadweed nicely balance the sweetness and sourness of Christmastime on “The Nutcracker in 3D.” In a sweet power-pop style, the band celebrate surviving another year but they also sneer at the commercialism of the holiday season: “I’ll show you how much I love you, I’ll buy presents at the mall.” For those who have mixed feelings about Christmas, this one is for you.
FLOES – “The Christmas Song”
Did you know you needed a stuttering, synth-y take on Nat King Cole’s classic song? Well, here it is. FLOES make the song sound like a jazz cover all spliced up, with silky-smooth vocals to tell you of chestnuts roasting over an open fire and simple phrases for kids from one to 92.
Floor Cry – “Big Scarf”
On November 25th, 2012, Lenny Kravitz wore a Big Ass Scarf and the world hasn’t been the same since. Floor Cry has commemorated this historic occasion with the aptly named track “Big Scarf.” This lo-fi electro-folk-pop ditty wraps around you nicely and features some excellent lyrics such as: “too big for you is what they said but they don’t know winter like you do”
A Very Strombo Special Holiday Special
George Stroumboulopoulos has invited us and a whole bunch of fantastic artists into his home to celebrate the holidays. There’s a lot of great festive performances on A Very Strombo Special Holiday Special but highlights include: Maylee Todd’s cover of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” Mo Kenney covering Sufjan Stevens’ “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!”, Partner’s “Santa is Real” and Lido Pimienta’s “Noche de Paz/Silent Night”.
James Hoffman – Advent
The holiday season can be a hectic one. Between the crowds in the mall and the crowds partaking in outdoor activities and the crowds in your house, there’s a lot of people around and it’s loud. James Hoffman’s Advent is not loud. Hoffman turns traditional Christmas songs like “Away in a Manger” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” into soft n’ gentle folk songs. Appropriately, Advent ends with “Silent Night” and Hoffman lulls us into a long winter’s nap.
jonathan inc. – when our eyes at last shall see him
We just missed this release last year and it’s a collection you’ll not want to miss. He adds a nice little ambient spin onto some classics, sometimes even re-titling them. The best example of this is “small percussionist (male)” and then there’s changing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” to “save us all (from satan’s power).” The mysterious song titles will definitely help to confuse your Christmas guests.
Laurence Nerbonne – “I Want For Christmas Is You”
Just when you thought you’d heard every possible take on Mariah Carey’s holiday classic! Laurence Nerbonne takes away all the grandiosity of the original, basing the song around a keyboard riff and even some subtle strings. No oversinging here, just a beautiful grounding of the song with a new infusion of soul.
Milk & Bone – “Santa Tell Me”
Milk & Bone have a long-standing Christmas-cover tradition, and this year they’re covering a fairly modern song—Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.” The song already sounds like something this duo would sing, and the song almost reproduces the ethereal, 80s-esque synths. To add to your electro-pop Christmas list.
Peach Pit – “Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It)”
“Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It)” is undoubtedly one of the best songs on Sufjan Stevens’ epic 2+ hour compilation Songs for Christmas and so it’s pretty great to have a band celebrate the holiday season by covering the depressing track. On Peach Pit‘s tight pop-rock take, they toss out Stevens’ banjo and replace his keyboard riff with a surfy guitar riff but fear not, the sadness still remains.
Roxanne Potvin – “Beyond the Tinsel”
“Everyone needs love at Christmas time,” Roxanne Potvin sings on her original Christmas song, “Beyond the Tinsel.” On this folk-pop track, complete with bells, Potvin reminds us that Christmas doesn’t come from the store, it’s about spending quality time with your loved ones.
Samson Wrote – Joy To The Squirrels
Guelph’s Sam Boer says he “got a little carried away” with this new Christmas EP and all that means is it’s completely delightful. He takes the classic “Jingle Bells” and adds a little warped weirdness at the end, produces the definitive version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” tells a hilarious story about how Joseph and Mary met, and ends it off with a spooky and ethereal take on “Silent Night.”
Sleepy Gonzales – A Sleepy G. Christmas
This Vancouver group gets right down to business with this two-song effort. “White” and “Blue” are two classic Christmas covers and you might be able to guess which songs they are. “White” takes the dreaminess of the original and amplifies it a few stages, while “Blue” really emphasizes the sadness of the original song and slows it down just a little bit more. It’s a very pretty one-two punch.
Tomato Tomato – Pinecones and Cinnamon
For the roots aficionado who’s also looking for new Christmas music, look no further than this album-length entry from Tomato Tomato. The album is roughly half covers and new songs, covering classic ground (“Jingle Bells,” “Go Tell It On the Mountain) and new realms (“Christmas Keener,” “The Trouble With Mittens”). The album does pretty well and balancing more whimsical fare (like the rollicking “What’s the Big Deal About NYE”) with some beautiful roots numbers (the soaring “Avalanche”), and the aforementioned “Mittens” song is surprisingly soulful.