Kristian Noel Pedersen “Everyone Knows the Claus” (2019)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

It is quite possible that Kristian Noel Pedersen has written more original Christmas songs than anyone, ever. (Well…. maybe Make Like Monkeys has given him a run for his money…) Kristian is headling into his 11th year producing a Christmas album of all originals, which should make bands who struggle to write one new Christmas song… feel a little inadequate. So why am I writing about Kristian recording a COVER song? Well, because when Kristian decides to record a cover, he goes big. To my knowledge, I can’t recall a full reimagining of an entire Christmas album until Kristian took on the challenge (I’m sure some of my fellow Christmas-music aficionados will correct me). His target? Hanson’s Snowed In, an album that I am not familiar with, despite my dedication to Christmas music. But that leaves me to ponder, what album should/would you need to cover to truly make this a worthwhile endeavor? You have to cover a record that is known because especially within Christmas music, there are only a few that maintain catalog sales (and this one is one of them). Then, you also have to choose an album with originals, otherwise, it is as if you are just covering a sequence of tracks, rather than a specific artist’s album. So, I really think Kristian made a great choice targeting the Hanson LP. The first two singles are up, but the original is where the interest truly lies. “Everybody Knows the Claus” does NOT sound like Hanson. I’m going to have to agree with Kristian in his correspondence with me, his version has turned the song into a “weirdly fucked punk thing.” With dramatic vocals and a driving, fuzzy bassline, I can’t imagine Hanson ever sounding like this. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what the rest of this record sounds like and I will not forget the donuts.

Yet another album to look forward to, A Kristian Kinda Christmas XI is coming to an internet near you in the next few weeks. Luckily you have a new Hanson LP and TEN previous records to tide you over. Tune in and listen as Kristian adds to his likely world-record worthy Christmas music legacy.

Bottom Line: Kristian’s Christmas-music ambition is boundless and inspiring. I love this effort, which only looks even more impressive with every new boring cover of “Blue Christmas.”

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Dariynn Silver “Rest Ye Merry” (2018)

Dariynn Silver "Rest Ye Merry"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I don’t normally write about straight-up Christmas carols. This is generally a pretty secular Christmas music blog… and if you want Christmas carols, there are a million other places to listen to them. That said, every so often, a treatment just hits me. British Columbia’s Dariynn Silver released a version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” last year that deserves some notice. The vocal melodies are great – her pacing and the words she highlights are truly unique. However, it may be piano in the bridge that just got me. It was just beautiful, and frankly, I thought you might think so as well.

Bottom Line: Who would have thought it? A honest-to-goodness Christmas carol on Christmas Underground. I am full of surprises today.

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Ariane Zita “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away” (2018)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Someday I’ll finish my mix… but in the meantime, maybe I’ll help you finish yours. Ariane Zita, an indie folk singer/songwriter from Montreal, has a Christmas advent calendar that is turning out to be quite lovely, Un Noël à Botch. The first track, “Christmas Can’t be Far Away,” is an Eddy Arnold cover, and TBH, not a song I was familiar with. Ariane’s voice is is beautiful, and her arrangement makes the song feel particularly intimate. The calendar continues in a similar fashion, each song building a soundtrack to that first snow.

Bottom Line: This is truly the season of beautiful songs, and Ariane Zita could very well put out more than everyone else combined…

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Forest Creatures – Noble Fir (2018)

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

Oh those seasonal bands. Those spectacular seasonal bands. There are a few, a few bands who come together for explicitly Christmas music, the obvious ones (for my readers being Christmas Aguilera and Sunturns), and now Forest Creatures are making their claim for elite status. Not only do they only release Christmas music, and not only have they released something for the past three years in a row, but they have released FULL ALBUMS three years in a row. There are some bands that have matched this feat… but Forest Creatures are really taking this to another level. A healthy mix of originals and covers, all performed beautifully – so beautifully that you find yourself wondering where they find the time? This year’s entry is Noble Fir, which follows in last year’s beautiful Was That Christmas? in brilliant fashion. The title track is a standout for sure. Their interesting arrangement for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” was pretty damn great and unexpected. The calming bliss of the other two originals, “Silent Morn” and “Christmas at the Cabin,” combined with this coffee I’m drinking has put me in a serene, blissful mood that this bitter, overworked Christmas blogger kinda, really, truly, definitely needs. This record is fantastic, for those who like that sort of thing…

EDIT: Woah. Mind. Blown. All three originals have EXACTLY the same running time… 2:37. That is crazy.

Bottom Line: Forest Creatures have maintained an incredible track record of fantastic, FULL-LENGTH Christmas records – a nearly unmatched feat.

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Le Couleur “Le Dernier Noël” (2018)

Lisbon Lux Records
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Le Couleur are an electro pop band from Montreal, and while I truly don’t speak a lick of French, I’m presenting considering it, among three other french-language tracks for my mix this year. “Le Dernier Noel,” if Google translate has not led me astray, is a song about a Christmas party with romantic intrigue, booze, and if I’m not mistaken, cocaine. You know, some real Bing Crosby shit. So, if you find yourself like me, in the (hopefully) last 2 days of wrapping up your Christmas mix and need something to liven things up, this might just do it.

Bottom Line: Le Couleur have a fantastic groove, one that makes you forget you have no real foreign-language skills.

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Pre Nup “War, On Christmas” (2018)

Pre Nup - Oh Well

Jigsaw/Debt Offensive Records
Buy: US-Jigsaw (CD) | Canada-Debt Offensive Records (CD)

“We’re doomed for sure. / Apocalypse creeps closer every year. / Keep this in mind, / we’re all fucked. / At least it’s Christmas time.”

THE DARKEST TIMELINE CONTINUES!

Here is Calgary’s finest with a FUCKING AMAZING indie pop jam that I cannot get out my head. Pre Nup come out swinging with fuzzed-out perfection, while name checking the illuminati, pretending the chemtrails are Santa’s sleigh, and highlighting a government plot to foment carnage. You know, the perfect appetizer to the oncoming meltdown Christmas season.

Bottom Line: Sharpen your knives, this Christmas feast is going to be bloody. Pre Nup have thrown down the Christmas gauntlet, and bloodied a few noses in the process. (Heads up, this song is a hidden track on the CD version of their debut LP, Oh Well.)

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Peach Pit “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)” (2017)

Peach Pit "Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day?"

Kingfisher Bluez
Buy: Demo Version 7″ | iTunes | Amazon.uk MP3 | Amazon.de MP3 | Amazon.fr MP3

Kingfisher Bluez puts out at least one charity Christmas 7″ every year, and this year they put out two, single-sided 7″ singles to benefit 1-800-SUICIDE and Crisis Centre BC. Vancouver’s Peach Pit was the first of the duo, releasing a demo version of the Sufjan Stevens’ feel-good hit, “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!).” The version is quite solid, and while it doesn’t not stray far from the feel of the original, this song isn’t covered very often and hasn’t worn out its welcome; Perform this song admirably, and I’ll likely be on board. Now, the fully-produced version that is available for digital download from the usual outlets (come on Bandcamp! come on 7Digital!), definitely benefits from the extra flourishes. The guitar lines replacing Sufjan’s keys add an extra edge that is certainly welcome for such a conflicted song. So, while I do prefer the fully produced version to the demo, I still strongly encourage you to pick up the demo 7″. Suicide prevention is extremely important, as anyone who has felt that particular pain can no doubt tell you.

Bottom Line: Peach Pit deliver a 1-2 of delicious Sufjan Stevens goodness.

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Forest Creatures – Was That Christmas? (2017)

Forest Creatures - Was That Christmas?

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp

I don’t have much time, as I have to work this Saturday, and I’ve just got a few minutes to get this down. Forest Creatures are a Vancouver band of folkies who have put together two (yes, TWO) whole records of RIYL Sufjan Stevens Christmas folk music. When I say “RIYL Sufjan Stevens,” it is both a compliment to the taste level, as well as a hint that this record is going to have a dash of Jesus for sure, but not heavy-handedly so. The production is outstanding, warm and layered. They mix it up with covers (“I Heard the Bells”) and excellent originals (“Christmas Like I’ve Never Felt”), each one done beautifully. This is a cohesive, beautiful record that you could put on and enjoy all the way through, which can be VERY hard for a Christmas album to achieve.

Bottom Line: Forest Creatures have come in from the cold, Canadian winter to warm our hearts with lush, indie folk.

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Lab Coast “Yule See” (2016/2017)

Lab Coast "Yule See"

Self Released
Buy: Bandcamp (NYOP)

Originally released last year on Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada VII, Calgary’s Lab Coast have generously re-released this killer track on Bandcamp for our FLAC-downloading fun! This is one of the most interesting approaches to a Christmas song I’ve heard in the past few years. There are no cliches, no “baby, please come home,” rather, the narrator is wondering why they are still loved. Many of you have likely felt inadequate, when faced with someone who loves you more than you think you deserve. “How did I become the apple of your eye? / I don’t know now.” So he walks around, thinking, “Would you still love me as I am / It’s not 1993 / I’m so broke I might as well / wrap myself under your tree.” It’s a powerful song, wrapped up in 2:06 of RIYL Real Estate-indie rock. This is pretty much written for my sensibilities, and thus, here we are. Enjoy.

Bottom Line: This is short enough, interesting enough, and rocking enough to (spoiler alert) make my mix. Maybe yours too! Now with extra FLAC-goodness!

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Fast Romantics “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (2010)

Fast Romantics from 2010

Self Released
Buy: Stream

Originally released as a Youtube video back in 2010, the Fast Romantics managed to put together a wonderfully upbeat, profane (my mix is gonna have lots of swearin!) version of the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” which I had been trying to hunt down for a good while – even messaging the band at one point. How I never found this Soundcloud stream from Aporia Records, is beyond me. But alas! It is now mine! The Fast Romantics, for those unfamiliar, are a wonderful indie rock/pop band from Toronto. The early lineup you hear in this delightful Christmas song is clearly fantastic – the groove, the keyboard melodies, the driving bass – it is so damn good. The latest lineup retains two original members, and the recent additions (and the new record, American Love) are fantastic. (Also check out FR member Kirty’s self-titled solo record, it is beautiful.) I would love to hear the new version of Fast Romantics tackle a Christmas song… just sayin…

Bottom Line: The Fast Romantics’ version of this classic Grinch tune is the best one I’ve heard – resurrected from the past for your listening pleasure.

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