LET IT ROCK! LET IT ROCK! LET IT ROLL!
A SPILL MAGAZINE BREAKDOWN OF SOME OF THE TOP 2021 CHRISTMAS RELEASES – THE SINGLES + EPS
“The Last Christmas (We Ever Spend Apart)”
Universal Music Canada
November 4, 2021
Big thanks to Hamilton’s favourite sons for this helping of holiday power pop. Reflecting on last year’s holiday pandemic isolation, front man Max Kerman states, “We couldn’t shake the feeling of how we miss the mundane and sometimes arduous activities that happen when you go home for the holidays. So many of us couldn’t see our folks or extended family because of lockdown, and we wanted to write a song about never taking those little moments for granted.”
Starting off simply with voice and guitar, this song builds until it is a fully polished gem. Replete with layered keys and vocals, a cool modulated instrumental bridge, and hooks a-plenty, this song deserves an honoured spot in your holiday playlist. Listen. Dig. Repeat.
“My Christmas Tree”
November 25, 2021
This is deeply personal. Mizzoni experienced the tragic loss of his granddaughter, and this is for her and for all of those who will not be joining us, in person, this Christmas. It is sad, and yet there is a warmth and comfort to it. This is not his first Christmas single, but it is his best. His vocals and arrangement are flawless. We can only thank Mr. Mizzoni for sharing his love, loss, and hopes with the world.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
November 2, 2021
It is a joy to hear a new version of an old Christmas song that retains the integrity of the original, but still adds something new. Terra Lightfoot’s cover of this Hugh Martin/Ralph Blaine standard from the 1940s is one such song. With a simple acoustic and electric guitar and voice presentation, Lightfoot’s approach is subtle and beautiful. The acoustic guitar figure keeps the song rolling, and the artist’s vocal performance is intimate and soaring in all the right places. Definitely a keeper, this year and for years to come.
“A Memory Of Snow”
November 24, 2021
Swedish folk meets Americana, and it adds up to a rather melancholic, but wonderful sound. Sofia Talvik has a wonderful voice, and the melody is as moving as the lyrics. It is beautiful, and I only wish that there was an accompanying album.
Ann-Margret & Sonny Landreth
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
November 16, 2021
Kudos to veteran artists Ann-Margret & Sonny Landreth, for taking on this Christmas rock ‘n’ roll classic. The full production here owes a lot to the original, and while it does not really add anything new, the performances are spirited and the vibe is fun. Landreth’s blues guitar stylings are a standout, and Ann-Margret brings a lot of style to her vocal, belying her mature age. While it will not be replacing the Brenda Lee version any time soon, this cover is a living testament to the strength of the song, and the artists’ ability to rock.
Dion Feat. Joe Bonamassa
“You Know It’s Christmas”
Keeping The Blues Alive Records
December 5, 2021
This is an instant classic. Dion still has that wonderful voice, and combined with Bonamassa’s searing guitar this track actually embodies the Christmas spirit and is, at the same time, very original.
November 4, 2021
The warmth of the season is personified in this beautifully artful collection by PEI singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan. Despite its brevity, there are solid performances here by the artist, who produced, engineered, and played most of the instruments on the EP. Says MacLellan, “I’ve always wanted to make a record to celebrate the holiday season and I hope to make a series of these small, bite-sized collections.”
In MacLellan’s take on the traditional English carol “In The Bleak Midwinter”, the sound of ambient conversational chatter is cut by simple chime chords and synth swells, and is pulled together by the warmth of the artist’s rich voice. The original song “Calling You Home (for the Holidays)” has ‘future classic’ written all over it, with its hummable chorus, descending McCartney-esque progression, and a vocal performance that one could listen to for days.
With luck, Catherine MacLellan will continue to gift us with holiday EPs for Christmases to come. This may be a bite-sized collection, but it sounds like home.
October 8, 2021
This is actually quite funny, “Rapture” with a rap about Christmas, featuring Fab Five Freddy (Fred Brathwaite). It was originally released as a free flexidisc for the British magazine Flexipop in 1982). It was recorded in 1981, and recently rediscovered by the band. They have remixed it for the EP, which includes three versions of it. It is charming, funny and oddly nostalgic. It is never going to be a Christmas favourite, but it is fun and should be welcomed at any Christmas party.
Songs For Christmas
Sony Music Canada
October 22, 2021
Sony has taken some earlier releases by the AB modern country artist Tennille Townes, coupled them with a classic Christmas cover and a new original song, and packaged them in this holiday EP. The result is good, but certainly not great. The production is clean and the instrumental performances are strong, but there is really not much that sets this release apart from the glut of holiday fare.
Townes has a unique voice, which lives in the throaty realm so popular among many young female artists. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not. It would be interesting to hear her give a simple, unaffected vocal performance, as she has awesome tonal quality.
The moments that work best on this release are in Townes’ original songs, “One in a Million” and “Christmas Cards”. Perhaps it is because she has a greater artistic stake in her own songs, but they certainly come across as being more honest and genuine. This may be key to future releases from this artist, to follow her own musical vision, rather than going a safer route. While it does little to further the Christmas music universe, you might dig Songs for Christmas if you are a fan of this artist and genre.
Eagles Of Death Metal
EODM Presents: A Boots Electric Christmas
November 19, 2021
It is hard to know if Eagles Of Dearth Metal are sincere or really pulling one over on us all, as these releases do not deviate from the original “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, with just additional piano accompaniment and a small choir. “O Holy Night” is downright beautiful and offered in two versions, one acapella. I never thought I would live to hear them do “The Little Drummer Boy” with just a piano. It is quite stirring and quite lovely.