Buy: Stream | Bandcamp (soon?) |
Mellow Fellow, a bedroom-pop genius from the Philippines (who it appears, Soundcloud was invented for), teamed up with Manitoba’s wonderful Floor Cry for a lush tale of a sad, sad New Year’s Eve. The chill vibe, and the beautifully layered instrumentation nearly lets you forget that this song is pretty devastating. The fractured relationship plays out as both parties have a full realization of their roles – she knows that she loves him, but only shows it when convenient, and he won’t take the emotional strain anymore. A late night call that remains unanswered on New Year’s Eve, dressed up with some beautiful performances and production. Highly recommended.
Of note, Floor Cry is no stranger to holiday tunes – I’ve attached her covers of “White Christmas” and “Wonderful Christmastime” (please, everyone, stop covering this) to a playlist. Both are available on her Bandcamp as well.
Bottom Line: A beautiful downer – right up my alley.
Buy: Bandcamp | iTunes
Montreal’s MC Paquin’s “Noël Song” is one of the more breezy Christmas tunes I’ve heard in a long time. Splitting time between solo work and being a member of the folk-pop band Jolie Jumper, MC Paquin’s finds the sweet spot between folk-pop and indiepop with “Noël Song.” The airy production, strolling beat, and lovely brass accents will leave you tapping your foot (unless you have no feet). Readers of this blog will know I normally gravitate toward the rougher edges of Christmas tunes, looking for those tracks that don’t quite buy into everything being perfect and snow-covered. However, lines like, “Drove all those miles just to leave them with a smile,” capture a particular sentiment that I just haven’t heard before… and I loved it.
Bottom Line: I’ve always known that Montreal is a hotbed for fantastic music, and MC Paquin has not let her city down. (However, her city let me down this summer when my car was stolen on the FIRST NIGHT OF VACATION. Booooo Montreal, BOOOOOO!)
Grande Vague Musique
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon MP3 | Vinyl (shipping from Canada)
How about some surf/power-pop from Québec for your hump day enjoyment? Los‘ released Big Surf on October 7th, their LP follow-up to the EP Small Surf, and snuck a Christmas song on the end! “Christmas in D” has me recalling the feel and sound of Mojave 3 at their most poppy, which isn’t necessarily very poppy, but more a mid-tempo, atmospheric, country-twinged dream pop scenario. I’m thinking this through as I write it, so bear with me. I’m really feeling a healthy dash of Pernice Brothers too, especially with the dark lyrics and the vocal layering. “All is well, you never can tell / If heaven is a place to sell / if loving is a wishing well / pulling you under” Los has some nice turns of phrase here, highlighted nicely with multiple listens (so listen!). Los has delivered a complex and interesting Christmas song, perfect for a place like Christmas Underground, and poison for a Christmas party. Hey… that would be a good tagline for this site!
Botton Line: A complex song stylistically, lyrically, and emotionally. Los has my vote! #twomoreweeksofhell
Memoryhouse has finally done it! They have compiled all the loose Christmas songs from over the years, packaged them together with a new, original tune (!), all for a low-low price that benefits rabbit shelters! I’ve previously many of the older Memoryhouse Christmas songs, so I’ll focus mainly on “Merry Christmas Babe.” The sweet electro-pop frames the scene of a snowy Christmas scene, wasting the day as it snows outside. However, nothing is as idyllic as it seems. There are some complicated feelings toward Christmas floating above these synthesizers.
You always hated christmas both, why do you have to be that way?
Made you wear your mittens and we skated all night on the lake.
There’s no other time of year we try so hard to be OK,
But since the roads are so bad, why don’t we stay in and waste the day?
Bottom Line: Memoryhouse have a great touch when it comes to Christmas songs, and this complicated, beautiful song only solidifies them as one of best out there.
Winnipeg’s ATLAAS have created a wonderful electro-pop Christmas song with their new song, and only second release, “Feelings.” Heather Thomas’ vocals weave through bouncing beats as she laments not being with her love at Christmas. Yes, classic lonely-at-Christmas fodder, but done with a funky backing track.
Bottom Line: ATLAAS makes longing for the one you love something you can move in your seat to. 4.6/5
Behind Sapphire are an experimental pop band from Vancouver, Canada, also known (to me) as the Sweden of North America. What is it about cold climates that breed such excellent, interesting pop music? From the Broken Social Scene of Toronto, to the many odd and wonderful bands of Montreal, Canadian cities are just rife with fantastic bands. I will include Behind Sapphire amongst them, and their circumstances are certainly impressive. Still unsigned, they have released 2 EPs, one full length, toured China (got detained in China too!), and have a production value that any signed band would love to have. “Diamonds” is the title track off their first EP, and I am billing this track as one of the more challenging songs on my 2013 mix, The Third Eye Santa. The vocals, the lyrics, and the movements that the song goes through are not for a mainstream pop radio audience. This is one of those tracks that I could see your family members skipping by, but could somehow become your secret, favorite song.
Bottom Line: For your more adventurous listener, perhaps those who enjoy the Parenthetical Girls Christmas tunes. 4.8/5
Le Grande Magistery
Buy: iTunes | 7Digital MP3
A Very Magistery Christmas is one of the stronger indie rock/pop compilations I’ve come across. Originally an iTunes exclusive, this album has made its way into Amazon, Rhapsody, and eMusic.
Leading off the record is Pas/Cal, who are known (at least by me) as having some of the BEST christmas tunes around, and their cover of “Last Christmas” lives up to their stellar reputation. This is one of the best versions you can find – and there are a LOT of covers out there. You can also grab this track on their 12″ split with Asobi Seksu. Their stab at “Jingle Bell Rock” isn’t quite as fantastic – but for a song that I don’t particularly like, they cover it well. It is quite unfortunate that when thinking about Pas/Cal, you must think of them in the past-tense… such a loss of lovers of indie pop christmas tunes.
The Stars also make two appearance on this compilation – and for this, be very thankful. First off, I’m a fan. Secondly, they hit a sweet spot that I enjoy – political Christmas songs. “Christmas Song” reflects on our perpetual wars in the Middle East, while reminding us that the Christmas season and Ramadan overlap. “A New Year (Live)” ends the record with a wonderfully stripped-down performance, dramatic as ever, and subtle with its hook. Two tracks worth a listen for sure.
Other standouts would be the electro-pop Baxendale tune, “Flash Gordon,” Mascott & Dave Derby‘s sad folk number “This Christmastime,” and Finian McKean‘s bluesy “Lost & Found.”
I’m not in love with the rest of the record, but nothing on it truly makes me cringe. You might be able to save a few bucks singling out the tracks you want, but overall, a worthwhile compilation that I am happy to own and support.
Bottom Line: Some stellar tunes in here make it rise above the pack. Loses a fraction of a point for not having an avenue to get a CD or FLAC. 4/5