Wake Up and Smell the Sun – Ye Miner St. Christmas Hymnal (2021)

Self Released
Bandcamp (NYOP)

After releasing one of the highlights of the underground Christmas music genre, 2020’s Electric Snow, Wake Up and Smell the Sun (the musical moniker of John Murray) has returned with many gifts. For the past few weeks, WUaStS has been releasing early versions and unreleased demos which have all been pretty damn great. Dark, most certainly, really cool, interesting songs to tide us over while we wait for the new record. These songs did not prepare me for what was coming – one of the sweetest songs I have heard all season. What a happy, and beautiful song “The Tearful Joy of Joyful Noise” is. I am not exaggerating when I say that I teared up listening to this song… I must not be the only one, as the title suggests! Don’t let the first line fool you: “They say “kindness makes the holidays, and mothers make the rules.” / And yet so many solid ways we make us feel uncool….” because the song turns into an amazing affirmation of love:

“So smile away ‘til Christmas Day.
Nobody makes the rules.
And who the hell were they to say what’s precious or uncool?

Sugar plums and turtle doves. Who cares what boy or girl you love?
So true. So true.
I could care less. I’m with you.
So true. So true.
I could care less. I’m with you.

We always knew. We always knew.
We always loved you. We always do.”

Legit tears. So beautiful. Wake Up and Smell the Sun always has such fantastic wordplay, coming up with these great images and interesting angles… but I never expected this simple, direct approach, nor for it to feel both so original and powerful. I am honestly stunned.

Something, in particular, to listen for on “The Tearful Joy of Joyful Noise” is the drumming of Pat Berkery, a friend of Murray’s who has played on records and in bands including the Bigger Lovers, Wesley Stace, Danielson, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the War on Drugs, and many others including and most recently touring with Strand of Oaks. Turns out his drumming was epic enough to change the name of the song! Playing keyboards and organs on both songs is Robbie Bennett, also from The War on Drugs, who plays on my favorite record of the year, The War on Drugs’ I Don’t Live Here Anymore. I wholeheartedly agree with Murray, he does add a “special Christmas boogie” to the flip side of this single, the full-on rocking “Kris Kringle and the Midnight Soul.”

“Kris Kringle and the Midnight Soul” exists as a groove as much as it does a song. The lyrics are fun and playful, my favorite line being classic Murray, “I dream in songs and nativity scenes.” The instrumentation and production of this track are absolutely stellar, a testament to Murray’s aforementioned friends as well as the producers Brian and Amy at Miner Street Recordings, who not only produce and play on these records but are deservedly included in the title of this release.

Murray is often cryptic in his writings, as his tweets and the liner notes suggest we might be receiving even more from him this year. You truly never know – he snuck another one out late last year as well. While that would most certainly be wonderful, these two songs have certainly made me full and happy… and yes, with some joyful tears.

Bottom Line: I fully expect a new release by Wake Up and Smell the Sun to be amazing, but I never expected it to be so damn happy and beautiful.


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