Snappy Singles: Festive Finds For The Holidays

Snappy Snippets December 2020

December is here, and 2020 shall soon be relegated to just a memory.  No matter how crazy things still are out there in the world, the holidays are here now, and for many, it’s time to decorate trees, build snowmen, and of course, enjoy those timeless holiday songs that are no doubt airing all over the radio networks.  But fear not, we’ve got a selection here that those radio networks may have overlooked.  With this holiday themed edition of Snappy Singles, we invite you to pour yourself some refreshments, turn up the volume, and enjoy these recently released festive tunes.

Tami Neilson, “Pretty Paper”

Having lived only in the UK and US, I have yet to experience celebrating the holiday season during the summer months, as found in the southern hemisphere, for whom Jingle Bells and Sunscreen go hand in hand.  But our southern neighbors are equally excited about the holidays, especially Canadian artist (and New Zealand resident) Tami Neilson, who recently shared a cover of this Willie Nelson song.  Recorded last December with her brother Jay at Dine Alone Records in Toronto, the song is told from the perspective of a homeless man, which resonated strongly with Tami’s memories of the hard financial times her musical family endured during her childhood – sometimes homeless, and sleeping on couches or mattresses on people’s floors.  “This Christmas is going to be hard enough on those of us privileged to have a home, so many of us are struggling with loss of jobs and income, let alone those … [who] rely on the kindness of strangers to assist them through this holiday season,” Tami shares. “At a time when many of us celebrate the birth of a baby who was the personification of love, acceptance and compassion, this song embodies those reminders that we need to extend those same things to each other.” 

The Currie Brothers, “Rudolph/Deck The Halls”

Recording a brief eight-minute holiday EP at their own professional studio tucked away in Gravenhurst, ON, brothers Andrew and Rob Currie are definitely firmly rooted in the Great White North.  Give these rapid-fire instrumental covers a spin, however, and the Currie Brothers will quickly whisk you away towards much warmer climes, thanks to their surf-rock twang and holiday cheer.  And while there has been a resurgence in the surf-rock genre these last few years, adding in a selection of popular festive sounds will have everybody dancing along whilst decorating the holiday tree, or sipping on that egg-nog.  With guitar and bass duties handled by Rob, and drums, percussion and bells taken care of by Andrew, both are eager to take turns with the biggest surprise instrumental addition here – the Glockenspiel.  “Old country instrumentals have become somewhat of a lost art so we decided to blend that style with our love of Christmas music,” the siblings share.  “We recorded at our studio using all pre-1960s ribbon microphones to really capture that traditional vibe.  It was a lot of fun, so we might just do one every year.”

Cedarstrip Rocketship, “Silver Bells”

So, who says that traditional holiday music has to be, well, traditional?  We just saw The Currie Brothers prove that Rudolph can ‘cut a rug’ with a little surf-twang, and I’m betting that Toronto-based indie-folk-rock collective, Cedarstrip Rocketship, are willing to toss the rule-book aside also.  Releasing a re-imagined cover of the timeless hit, “Silver Bells,” the group opt for “cathartic, controlled chaos over picture postcard perfection,” recorded during several holiday gatherings last December.  “So many of the classic versions are beautiful, but they’re always neat and tidy and perfect, which is never what Christmas ends up being,” shares vocalist Dan Taylor. “It’s stressful, it’s hard to make time for everyone and money can be tight.”  Mastered by Ron Hawkins, “Silver Bells” is infused with non-traditional holiday instrumentation, adding mandolin and saxophone to the collective vocal harmonies that push this into The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl’s “Fairy Tale of New York” territory – an unorthodox holiday classic.  “The song definitely gets more boisterous as it evolves and I think the recording process makes that really genuine,” Dan adds. “It literally gets drunker as it goes along.”

Kandle, “Christmas Mourn”

We wrap up this festive edition of Snappy Singles with this holiday release from Montreal, QC singer-songwriter Kandle, who was inspired to create this original composition based on both her love for the older generation of Christmas songs, and with a focus on facing an isolated, socially-distanced holiday this year.  “Underneath the mistletoe, I long for you and kiss my phone / I can’t believe I’m all alone this year,” she recites, against a perfectly paced musical landscape of soft piano notes and some vintage Johnny & Santo inspired steel guitar. “You’re in the sun, I’m in the snow / I try to send a video, and wait at my bedroom window for you to appear / Don’t make me spend this Christmas in tears.”  Co-written with good friend Debra-Jean Creelman (Mother Mother), Kandle also invited her pals Kendel Carson and Louise Burns into the studio to add harmonies, co-mixing the track with her famous dad, Neil Osborne (54-40). “[We] wrote [this] over a couple of zoom dates in November and we tracked it with one mic in the living room with sleigh bells and a couple glasses of wine,” Kandle recalls. “The only thing that can help folks like us to deal with the loneliness of a Covid Christmas, is to attempt to write our very own Christmas Classic.”

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.