For the last ten years Oh! Canada has sought out the very best new music Canada has to offer. In December we seek out some of our favourites of the year to help create an alternative to hearing the same 6 songs on repeat every year. We are delighted to present Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada 10!
Many of these tracks were exclusively recorded for this compilation, while we have also handpicked some other favourites that we felt were too good not to include. From shorter days, shimmering winters, snowball fights and travel disruptions to seasonal affective disorder, Black Friday and watching cars go by on snowblocked roads, the compilation covers a vast array of seasonal subject matter in an almost equal number of different ways: buoyant horn-driven pop, post-punk drones and pulsing electo beats sit alongside childrens' choirs, close harmony singing, synth pop and much more besides.
A huge thanks goes out to all of the artists who have given up their time and talents to make Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada possible this year, and every year. An extra hat tip to Jon Neher (for the second year running) and Seb Dehesdin for helping everything to run smoothly behind the scenes as well.
All of these songs have been given free for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy them and have a fantastic festive season. At this time of year especially there are hundreds of good causes all seeking your help-we hope that, in keeping with the spirit of giving, if you enjoy this compilation you might consider giving a donation to one of them.
It would be safe to say 2018 has been a big year for Matthew Cardinal. When this track was recorded back in January it wasn’t certain what 2018 had in store. As the track sees its release he has just returned from another cross Canada tour with his band nêhiyawak, who alongside the likes of Jeremy Dutcher, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and A Tribe Called Red have been a key part of what is being described as the "Indigenous Renaissance". They recently played a prestigious CBC q session and in November they released their debut EP for Arts and Crafts, starlight to critical acclaim. 2019 promises more touring, and the release of the bands full album, as well as more of Cardinal’s own minimalist and electronic compositions under his own name.
Discover Matthew Cardinal on Bandcamp
This year saw the release of My All To You from Montreal based but Quaqtaq, Nunavik born Beatrice Deer. Following up 2015 album Fox, Deer recruited members of Land of Talk, Stars and The Luyas amongst others to craft a deeply layered indie-folk record that brings together Inuktitut, English and French language, intense personal tales and traditional stories from her Inuit and Mohawk heritage. It’s a record that rewards repeated listens, and one of the unsung gems of 2018. When we found out that Deer had released an Inuktitut Christmas record back in 2010 we couldn’t wait to have a listen, and sure enough we found this gem of a track. While we don’t often have covers on Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada, we couldn’t resist this take on a Christmas classic.
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Winnipeg’s Alexa Dirks is no stranger to Christmas music. With her previous group, the Juno Winning Chic Gamine she even released a whole EP of Christmas tunes, one track of which featured on Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada 6. Now operating as Begonia, Dirks has come in to her own, fusing R&B, soul and Motown infused pop with her powerhouse vocal talents. Latest single ‘The Light’ was produced by Marcus Paquin (The National/Stars) and Matt Shellenberg and Matt Peters (Royal Canoe), and with a full album written and recorded, 2019 promises to be a big year for Begonia.
“It Won’t Be Christmas (‘Till Your Here)” is the product of recording and writing sessions with Jason Crouse and Wes Marksell of The Darcys. Recorded in a heatless cabin on Pender Island, BC the chill in the air inspired a Christmas tune. as Dirks explains “We basically used every holiday related word we could think of: mistletoe, snow, fire, gifts, reindeer, stockings...CHRISTMAS FIVE MILLION TIMES!…I think this song reflects both our experience at the retreat, and the spirit of the holidays!”
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We couldn’t possibly celebrate our 10th Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada without including a track from a Canadian artist who will also be celebrating their 10th festive release. Every year, Kristian Noel Pedersen records a whole album of Christmas songs in various different styles, all in the month of December. Equal parts Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Mountain Goats and John K Samson, there is a delicate beauty to the records. Over the years the records of seen him perform on TV, and open for Fucked Up, as well as appearing on Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada VI back in 2014. We couldn’t resist including “December 1st, 2017” on this years edition, as its bouncing bass-line and insistent horns section has been rattling around in our heads since its release last year. Once you’ve finished listening to Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada be sure to head over to his bandcamp to check out this years album.
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2018 saw the release of Youth., Kalle Mattson’s exploration of his time growing up in the border town of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and the weird hinterland between adolescence and becoming an adult, of friendships without bonds, and bonds with no friendships. Joining forces with Colin Monroe (Drake/ Sky Ferreira) the record combines Mattson’s delicate acoustic and arrangements, and transforms them with synths and electronics create its own unique sonic footprint.
In response to the Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada songwriting challenge, Mattson has crafted what he believes to be the first Christmas song about divorce. “My parents got divorced something like the day after I was born (a little insight into how I am the way I am), so my only memories of Christmas and the holidays are divorced ones…Spending half the day at one house then driving to the next. Two dinners, double the families, and yes twice the gifts. I did some research and I couldn’t believe there weren’t any divorced Christmas songs (or any that I could find), so hopefully I’ve filled the gap for all us children of divorce.” As for the title, he did add that he did receive plenty of love as a child but “the title just made me laugh is all.”
Discover Kalle Mattson on Bandcamp
Kathryn Calder (The New Pornographers) and Mark Andrew Hamilton (Woodpigeon) are no strangers to the Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada series, so we were delighted when they came forward with a special version of "Shorter Days" from this years Frontperson debut album Frontrunner.
While the album version of "Shorter Days" feels very big and atmospheric, with soothing synth lines and percussion, this Winter version takes everything back to the bare minimum: two voices and a lightly picked acoustic guitar. Stripped of the atmospherics and production, the song has an added sense of intimacy, and shines a light on the thing that makes Frontperson such a fascinating proposition: the interplay between Calder and Hamilton’s vocals.
2018 has been a memorable one for both Megan Nash and Bears in Hazenmore. Nash spendit much of the year on the road in Canada and Europe in support of 2017’s Seeker, a record she recorded with Bears as her backing band, a collaboration that took her roots rooted songwriting to a different sonic space entirely. While Nash hit the road mostly solo, Bears in Hazenmore released Atlas, touring the record from coast to coast. By the end of the year the two were together again, both nominated for Alternative Artist of the Year at the Saskatchewan Music Awards, and also in the studio to record this track, which Nash assures us is on a “cold northern experience” theme. The session went so well, Nash informs us there could well be further joint releases in the pipeline in 2019.
October saw the release of Sad & Easy, the debut solo record of Wake Owl’s Colyn Cameron. Having spent close to ten years travelling with the band, and restlessly moving from place to place, Cameron has put down roots in Los Angeles. With a place to call home, and with his wanderlust sated, Cameron gave himself the time and space for his songs to work themselves out. The record was self produced and recorded direct to 1/2” tape in his studio apartment, and draws together light psychedelia and early seventies pop melancholy.
“The myth I’m referring to is the myth of both someones escapisms and also the general holiday season. I don’t personally invest to much in the regularities of this time of year, but its fun to think about how things could be if I did, and what kind of feelings this could create. I suppose sometimes there is even more distance and loneliness this time of year. Its a 70s am radio ballad, forgotten & at the end of a playlist someone might be using to evoke the feelings of Christmas Eve.”
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Late King Daisy is the new project from Artur Dyjecinski. In the years since his last release The Valley of Yesiree, Dyjecinski has been focused on creating his new project, stockpiling songs and developing his craft for an album to be released in 2019. In a sense, over the time, the songs have come to take on an identity of their own, Dyjecinski explains. “I feel it deserves it’s own identity moving forward. The name feels like me rather than a character that I inhabit, yet allows for an important separation and development."
As for “December 25th”, Dyjecinski feels the song speaks for itself. While family gatherings can be full of egos and people to avoid, the essential ingredients of fire and a rocking chair aren’t always easy to come by. Wherever he finds himself, you can be sure he will be seeking out a quiet corner somewhere, watching as time passes.
Discover more from Late King Daisy on Soundcloud
Respectfulchild is the project of Gan of Saskatoon on Treaty 6 Territory. We first saw them perform in Saskatchewan back in 2016, then again at M for Montreal last year. Each time their mixture of violin, loops, vocalisations and breath silenced the room in to moments of quiet meditation. In 2018 they bought their captivating performance to the UK, performing at Union Chapel Focus Wales and Great Escape, mesmerising crowds in the process. Towards the end of the year they toured as part of Rae Spoon’s band, as well as teaming up with A Tribe Called Red and Jeremy Dutcher as part of the HalluciNation band.
“This piece is trying to reflect the listlessness of seasonal depression, when lighter days feel so far away and we feel trapped inside our heads, our homes, and in the unending greyness. But the ending is a reminder that spring will always come again, that the fog we feel stuck in will melt away. There's a lot of pressure this time of year to be cheerfully celebrating with friends and family and I wanted to honour another side of the season that is so isolating and often gets tucked away and shamed.”
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Two Oh! Canada and Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada veterans Jon Neher (Clover Grey, Nick Faye and The Deputies) and Michael Scott Dawson (Library Voices/ Youth Trend Report) have teamed up for this years compilation for the debut release of their new duo project of experimental and electroacoustic minimalism.
"The Young Winter" is the icily atmospheric first track to be taken from the forthcoming album Nothing Is On Fire, which will be released January 18th on Neher’s new label Fenwood Rail.
Artist, manager, producer and one-man music machine Jesse Northey had his hands in two of Alberta’s finest releases this year, in the shape of Major Love’s self titled debut and his own record as Jesse and The Dandelions Give Up The Gold, a fusion of power-pop and heavy-lidded neo-psychedelia, full of multi-layered vocals, phase pedals and synth squelches.
This winter, Northey decamped to Toronto for a month or two to play some shows and meet people in the Toronto scene and basically see what happens. Being away from the comforts of his own studio and usual tools didn’t stop his enthusiasm for writing us a seasonal song. No drum kit? No problem! Northey cut up a bunch of keyboard loops, layered them up and produced a burbling lo-fi gem about being away from home during the festive season.
Discover Jesse and The Dandelions on Bandcamp
Another Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada veteran we are delighted to have back to celebrate our first 10 years, KASHKA (aka Kat Burns) is another artist who has had a busy 2018. Kicking off with a European tour to promote latest album Relax, she then travelled to California to volunteer with Girls Rock Camp SB, moved away from Toronto to the country, ran numerous kids workshops with her bandmate, and even found time to release a new EP Relax: Union Sound Sessions. 2019 seems destined to follow a similar trajectory, with house concerts and workshops in Canada and Europe, as well as crafting a new album.
It’s clear that such perpetual motion has fed into “It’s Winter Now”, which features Burns’ trademark twinkling synths and soothing vocal, giving a sense of cautious optimism, that, despite “constant rearranging” of our lives, somehow we all get through to spring.
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Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Hillsburn hit the UK for a series of shows this spring in support of The Wilder Beyond, their second album, recorded in singer and songwriter Paul Aarntzen’s apartment. While the bands trademark three part harmony vocals, and folk-driven arrangements remained from their debut, the band added more electronics, more volume, synths and crunching guitars to take things in another direction entirely. It was a record full of strident, confident, positive indie-rock writ large, with Rosanna Burrill’s powerhouse vocals on the driving “Young Desire” a particular standout.
For their contribution, the band revisit a track from their debut album In The Battle Years. Rather than adding more to “Like The Winter”, they chose to re-record the track, stripping things back to focus just the vocal harmonies and gently picked guitar.
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Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet are not ones to rest on their laurels. The Juno award winning husband and wife duo had successful solo careers before forming Whitehorse back in 2010 and since then have gone on to be shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, play Massey Hall and even took home a Juno for Adult Alternative Album of the Year in 2016. Always looking for the next project, they’ve released a covers EP, a French Language EP and this year unleashed their first full Christmas record “A Whitehorse Winter Classic”. Originally the band had intended to write just one track, but when they started they found they just couldn’t stop. In an interview about the record with Pop Matters Doucet explained “there are things about the season that, despite one's objection to profligate consumerism or the fantasy of religion, are worth celebrating. Family, children (and the wonder and awe of children's fantasy), surviving the Canadian winter, managing loneliness, romance, eating and drinking ... there's lots to unpack in these themes.” The fact that they included a track called Ho Ho Ho is just the icing on the cake for us.
Fully getting in to the spirit, the band are also doing an interactive advent calendar on their website, so be sure to take a visit and open some of those doors.
This year we fell hard for long distance “wonk pop” unit Future States. Their single “Heaven”, on Golden Brown, found the band locking in to a laid-back groove and an insistent beat that ended up being stuck in our head for most of the summer. We wanted to give them the chance to do the same for the winter, and they more than obliged with “That Time”, which fuses the same woozy-world view, mixing vocal samples, bubbling synths and layered electronic textures to capture the spirit of the season.
Over the course of 2018 the band became even more spread across Canada, with members in Kitchener, Whitehorse, Montreal and Ottawa. Brodie Conley of the band explained “A lot of the demo-ing and writing has been long distance, as a result - so plenty of trading files and ideas.” With a new record currently in pre-production and festivals and touring looming, we look forward to discovering what 2019 has in store for Future States.
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Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s Smaller Hearts released their debut self-released and self-titled album in May this year. The duo, made up of Ron Bates and Kristina Parlee take the best elements of fuzzy electronic pop and put it through a blender: ambient hums, squelches and reverbed vocals one minute, pulsing beats, and big pop hooks the next. With musical touchstones including The Postal Service, Quasi, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Add N to (X) the pair conspired to make an infectiously enjoyable and varied record, and it was little surprise to see them nominated for Electronic Artist of The Year at the Music Nova Scotia Awards. The album contains two songs about summer, so they felt like an obvious choice to cover a different season. The icily cool synth-pop of "Christmas At Home" is the result.
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In October, Graham Van Pelt released Time Travel, his debut album under his own name after years of recording as Miracle Fortress and as a member of Think About Life. The record found Van Pelt travelling further into the world of Electronic and Dance music, taking inspiration from the likes of Arthur Russell and Sandro Perri as well as House music legends Larry Heard, Vincent Floyd and Maurizio.
The house influence can be heard on “Snowball Fight With My 2 Best Friends”, Van Pelt building the track over the pulsing beat, chopped vocals and even sampled jingle bells.
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Having released their debut self-titled EP at the end of 2017, Montreal’s Bleu Nuit spent most of 2018 preparing their debut full length album. The twitchy “Le Même Discours”, released in October, was the first release from the forthcoming record, and showcases the band’s tightly wound take on brooding, scratchy post-punk. Bass rumbles, guitars helter-skelter out of control, appearing out of nowhere and Yan Skene’s vocals hover over the top. The album, which was produced by Julien Mineau of Malajube, will be released in the spring on Michel Records in Canada and Requiem Pour Un Twister in Europe.
Nicholas Gaudreault explains that their atmospheric track is “mostly about contemplating cars slowly running through snow while being stuck inside and trying to find hope in the small glimpses of sun.”
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Toronto’s Joshua Van Tassel released two records in 2018. June saw the release of States 06-10, a series of minimalist electro-acoustic compositions that pull together ambient works, field recordings and live performance, described by Van Tassel as “Music made to hold the space.” In October he released Crossworlds, a collaboration with Jordan Crute and illustrator Geordan Moore. Van Tassel’s rich orchestration provides the soundtrack to a novella about an Old Woman “left to defend her small island from a force not of this world”. It’s a joyous, textured, ebullient thrill-ride of a record, perfectly constructed to match the book, with its 39 minutes echoing the novellas 39 pages.
Discover Joshua Van Tassel on Bandcamp