Each year we hand pick a selection of our favourite Canadian artists and ask them to contibute a brand new track as an antidote to hearing the same old songs carted out year after year.
Eighteen artists rose to the challenge and presented songs taking on all that Christmas has to offer, from keeping out the chill, to spending time getting lost in your favourite records. Elsewhere there are meditations on the importance of the seasons, a celebration of the non-denominational Kwansukkah, a track constructed almost entirely from sleigh bells and a slow burning take on Silent Night.
The compilation also serves as an opportunity to all those who we have worked with on Oh! Canada over the year, who have given their time and effort to helping showcase fantastic new Canadian artists. Big thanks to the teams behind the Echo Project and POP Shots series for all their hard work over the year. This years compilation artwork was provided by photgrapher and event organiser Colin Medley.
Everyone involved has given their time and effort for free and for your listening pleasure so if you enjoy the tracks please let them know! At this time of year there are always many charities doing good work to help those in need. We hope that, in the spirit of giving, if you enjoyed this compilation you might consider donating to one of them that means something to you.
If you like what you hear and want to learn more about any of the featured artists, simply click on the names to go to their artist page, and follow the links to discover more great Canadian music. All that remains for us to do is wish you all the very best for the Holiday season and hope that you enjoy this edition of Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada.
Stream below, or download in full by clicking this link.
When it comes to Christmas music, Vancouver’s Adrian Teacher has form. This is a gentleman who, with his band Apollo Ghosts, once recorded a duet with ECCW Wrestler the Honky Tonk Kid. This year he released the Sorta Hafta EP as Adrian Teacher and The Subs. Recorded at Dub Narcotic Studios the record reaches contributions from Julie Doiron and Calvin Johnson amongst others. For those of you who think Canadian winters are all about being freezing in the snow, Adrian’s contribution is here to set you straight. “This 90s revival hit me like an upper-cut in 2015. It's an homage to Steven Malkmus faux-British accent, Nic Bragg's (Destroyer) soaring guitar solos, the subtle use of jingle bells mid song to amp that holiday feeling, Garageband arpeggiators...who hasn't gone to the movies alone on Christmas day and cried during a new Rocky movie?”
Blimp Rock are a venture-capital rock band employed by Blimp Rock Enterprises, a Toronto firm set on raising funds for the first ever music festival in a Blimp. Over Lake Ontario. Little wonder then that they chose a marketable item as the subject of their contribution. 2015 was a big year for the band, as they claimed credit for the Toronto Blue Jays #ComeTogether campaign, asking for $700,000 of royalties in the process. Peter from the band gave us the inspiration behind the track “Long johns might be the closest thing I have to a religion. I am so passionate about them it borders on cultish. When I'm groggy and trying to wake up in the morning I think about two things: 1) a blimp concert in the sky and 2) putting on long johns. I start wearing long johns in mid-September. I was born naked and remained that way (figuratively) until I discovered long johns.”
Montreal power-pop maestro, and possibly Canada’s biggest QPR fan, The Adam Brown toured the UK and Europe this year with Alden Penner and Michael Cera. We met up with him before a show in Brighton, and, as the man himself explains, things escalated from there: We had been discussing early 90s music from the east coast of Canada, and I had mentioned that I stumbled upon a chord that should be called “Halifax”. Ro encouraged me to write a song around it, then months later upped the ante by stating “It HAS to be a Christmas song!”. So here you have it, “Santa Gave Us a Chord Called Halifax”! So put on your tuques and corduroys, and strap yourselves in to a time machine headed to the Canadian Maritimes of 1992!
Montreal’s Nancy Pants have been hard at work recording a follow up to last years Total Nancy Pants, as well as planning a new collaborative project for the new year. But the story behind their contribution goes back to late 2014… “Once upon a Winter's Party Eve a long long one year ago we needed to write a holiday song for our friend Noah's non-denominational holiday show (happening that night) but there was a huge blizzard and we were completely snowed in our jam space with nothing but a bottle of whiskey and a dwindling supply of sugarplums. Luckily at the eleventh hour, the heat of the amps melted the snow around the door and Jeremy's hot hot drummer drummer's sweat melted a path through the icy landscape so that we were able to break free and zip over just in time to play the party. And, exactly one short year later the recording of that song was completed! It was a Merry Kwansukkah miracle!”
Although this track was not recorded for Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada we wanted to draw your attention to it anyway. This Montreal two-piece covered Jacques Dutronc to release as a PWYC single in aid of L’itinéraire, Montreal’s answer to The Big Issue. You can support the cause, and also hear more from the band at their bandcamp. When it comes to hopes for next year, the band have a couple of simple wishes: "Duet with Iggy Pop and Mavis Staples. That will be all."
Another hard touring Canadian, when not joining forces with The Burning Hell, Nick Ferrio was hard at work honing his album, Amongst The Coyotes and Birdsongs, released through Headless Owl and Shuffling Feet Records. The album features collaborations with Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station), Steve Lambke (Constantines/Baby Eagle), Ian Kehoe (Marine Dreams), Julie Doiron and Evening Hymns, and finds Ferrio fusing swooning melodies, gentle twang and sweet, old school country harmonies. This song is about the gift of a mother's love and a reminder for the holiday season that we should be grateful to be able to give and receive love. It's dedicated to my mother, Soraya Campbell."
2015 has seen Tony Dekker and his Great Lake Swimmers (pictured, above) touring the world in support of latest album A Forest Of Arms. While in Sackville, New Brunswick they swung into a studio with Julie Doiron and recorded this beautiful track. It seems Dekker is quite the connoisseur of seasonal music, if his Holiday Playlist on the GLS Spotify account isanything to go by. It is well worth checking out, particularly for the seasonal classics from The Band, John Fahey, and the particularly jaunty ‘Father Christmas’ by Lord Invader. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore.
2015 saw the release of Cabalcor: An Extracted History, an expansive project chronicling a fictional Tar Sands Boom Town. The project included journals, studies and police reports, images, a book, an album and even a temporary museum. The band includes Steven Lyons (Fond of Tigers), author Rick Maddocks, Paul Rigby (Neko Case/Kathryn Calder) and Jon Wood (Flophouse Jr) amongst others.
With three European tours (including two duo tours), it has been a busy year for The Burning Hell. As well as recording a new album, they have just released a duo record as Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Kom. That record is called “Don’t Believe The Hyperreal”, and the lead single ‘Fuck The Government, I Love You’, somewhat improbably for a song with that title, has been receiving airplay in Germany. Their contribution to the compilation is a little less swear however, and features a nice namecheck for Great Lake Swimmers, who featured on last years compilation…covering a Burning Hell song. "The song was inspired by the Canadian national election of 2015. I wrote it just after the results came in, and I was thinking hard about how despite the fact that I was disappointed that the NDP did so poorly, the end result just might not be so terrible (which remains to be seen, really). The rest of the song is more or less a metaphor for that—buckling down and being satisfied with what you have. Because no matter what happens, we'll always have Great Lake Swimmers records, and we can always make a loud public spectacle of ourselves fighting with racist boyfriends at the Christmas dinner table and end up happily singing "We Are The Champions" while passing out on a snowbank in the middle of the night."
Alberta’s Matthew Swann is pretty sure where it stands when it comes to singers. All his favourite singers, if his debut album is to believed, are Willie Nelson. Having played with Hot Little Rocket and Extra Happy Ghost!!!, Swann set out this year on his own project as Astral Swans, releasing his album, the aforementioned “All of My Favourite Singers are Willie Nelson” on Dan Mangan’s Madic Records label, spending much of the fall months on a House Show tour of the country. As for the track, here’s what Matthew has to say about it: “I was listening to a lot of Sibylle Baier, and feeling old, and deathy, and tiny, and less significant than a speck of nano-dust.”
2015 saw the release of Julia Kent’s fifth studio album, Asperities, a darkly beautiful work combining found sound, crackling electronics and Kent’s haunting cello work. It also saw her provide the soundtrack for Oasis, which took home the award for Best Short Film at the Seville European Film Festival. Julia’s contribution slowly emerges and changes, like the first rays of sun hitting the frost on a winters morning. A true thing of beauty. “The inspiration for the track was actually driving in winter in Canada…in the west…where you see endless fields covered with snow and tiny trembling lights of houses in the distance…it always makes me think about the fragility of the balance between nature and human domesticity.”
Thee Ahs are purveyors of regret-edged self proclaimed “black bubblegum pop”. Chugging bar chords, and sweet harmonies were the order of the day on this years album “Names”, via VancouvAH’s Kingfisher Bluez label. Having relocated from Vancouver to Amsterdam, and with the band now separated by an ocean, Lead AH DavinAH set out to make a sad song about the loneliness of the holidays, taking inspiration from “Poems written to you in a language you don't understand”
Cole Woods is no stranger to Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada. Back in 2011 he teamed up with Shotgun Jimmie for Lazy Boy, a track for which they just released this video. The relationship with Jimmie evidently continued, as this year his new band Human Music toured Canada with him, and Adrian Teacher. The Human Music album ‘Sup’ contained one of our favourite tracks of the year in the shape of ‘Cool Party’. Cole also released an album with his other band Cannon Brothers this autumn. Winter has seen Human Music head into the studio to work on new material, and “Play synthesizers”.
This year saw the release of Massive Love, Gunning’s third solo album and first release in 5 years. Harnessing a 9 piece band including Keiran Adams (Diana) , who shared production duties, Joseph Shabason (Diana/Destroyer), Alana Stuart (Bonjay), Thom Gill, Robin Dann and Felicity Williams amongst others. Together they used all the technology at their disposal to craft a sit of shimmering, jazzy R&B. ‘A Single Snowflake’ finds Gunning looking for hope in the “impossible intricacy and beauty of a snowflake. As for 2016, Gunning “would like to live less selfishly in 2016. Baby steps - maybe doing some volunteering again. I would really like to teach my kids that expanding the comfortable scope of your caring can have a genuinely positive impact on the world. I read a Terry Fox quote recently (Canadian legend): "It took cancer to realize that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others". It really resonated because I believe that it's a void that many of us are subconsciously trying to fill, often with trite or destructive substitutes.”
Christmas is a very important time of year for Victoria’s Astrocolour. To prove it they teamed up with local producer Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan/AC Newman/Black Mountain) for their debut release, a reconstructed Christmas record, with ambient, jazzy takes on Christmas classics. While the album is mostly instrumental, in the spirit of the season they invited some friends along to contribute vocals. “We attempted to reinvent the genre with a more loungey and atmospheric approach. Sometimes creativity blossoms under constraint – we found it to be a very enjoyable artistic process, working within the confines of the holiday genre while simultaneously trying to break the cliches wide open.”
The seasons are on on-going fascination for Colin Cowan (also of Dada Plan). So much so infact that he has dedicated each of his last three records to a season: 2013’s Fall Paths, 2014’s Eye Of Winter and this years Spring Myths. Colin’s trip contribution flips his album series on its head, imagining what it would be like without any seasons at all. As he explains: “I often do when I am meant to appreciate just one. You know what they say: The tree is always more radiantly colourful..The snow bank is always brighter..The air is always sweeter ... The grass is always greener..,"
It has been a busy year for Joshua Van Tassel, what with touring duties with Great Lake Swimmers, sound design and composition for the theatre and producing his own Understaff EP, a tribute to the giant squid!. The EP was the first to be produced at Van Tassel’s own Dream Date studios. For 24-7 Elf, Van Tassel took on the most seasonal of all instruments, the sleigh bell, crafting a heavily treated, reverb heavy journey through the winter wilderness.
Brad Davis appears on Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada for the second year running. Last year he contributed a track as part of Fresh Snow. As well as that, Davis, put together an extended, ambient take on Silent Night, which Oh! Canada has reworked, distorted and drawn out yet further, building layer upon layer for our Super Heavenly Pieces mix. As for Davis this year Fresh Snow have been hard at work putting out the Won EP via Hand Drawn Dracula, which featured appearances from Diana’s Carmen Elle and Fucked Up’s Damien Abrahams amongst others., a release that paves the way for a new full length in 2016.