The Best Canadian Christmas Songs of 2021
Published Dec 17, 2021It's coming on Christmas, they're rapid-testing at LCBO, they're giving out boosters and singing songs of driving alone past your street.
Look, we all wish we had a river to skate away from 2021 on, but we've nearly made it. So here's our little gift to you – because frankly, you deserve it: it's the very special Holid-Eh! version of The Eh! List. We've turned up with bells on to give you the Canadian festivus best-of-us for celebrating the season.
Let's start with the obvious: a lot of people don't like Christmas music. And who could blame anyone who works in retail for hating having to hear the same five jolly jingles played on repeat from November through to the big day?
It's notoriously difficult to pull off an interesting cover of a Christmas classic – let alone write an original one. But for the lovers of sonic twinkly lights and hot cocoa out there, we've compiled the latest and greatest songs by Canadian artists that embody the holiday spirit.
It feels like these fresh Canadian Christmas tracks are hammering home the message of the people we love being the reason for the season. Unintentionally, four of these picks were recorded collaboratively by siblings or cousins — a wholesome reminder to value not only our kin, but everyone else around us.
Our top 10 new Canadian holiday songs of 2021 are below. Scroll past that to hear them and many more in our playlist, The Holid-Eh! List, presented by Mary Brown's Chicken & Taters — all Canadian and proud of it!
10. Elliot Maginot
"The Ballad of Mrs. Claus"
Finally, some love for the big man's better half! (This can't be confirmed or denied since they really haven't put a great deal of consecrated effort into mythologizing her, but it feels reasonable to assume.) Like most of the greatest holiday tunes, Maginot's comes heavy in melancholy, by way of aching lyrics and a swaying folk instrumental that leans baroque with clarinet and pan flute.
"Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy"
Taking on Tchaikovsky? It's a risky move, but it pays off for PIQSIQ. The sisters have held the piece close in their hearts since they attended their first performance of The Nutcracker in Ottawa as children, elevating it even further beyond the original by adding throat singing segments and new melodies to the composition's iconic five-part harmonies.
These bros really stay making Christmas music, don't they? Sheepdogs siblings Ewan and Shamus Currie have made this year Yet Another BROS Christmas, but they don't shy away from the sadness of the season. As aforementioned, melancholy is key here: "Sad Christmas" may be a song about loneliness, but there's still groove in spades. That organ interlude? Cheers, we'll drink (alone) to that, bro(s).
7. Eli Rose & Lili-Ann de Francesco
This is actually a festive tune that we'd like to hear more people bring into the Christmas cover canon. Not to be confused with Sarah McLaughlan's "Wintersong," it's originally by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson — and this stirring rendition of the piano ballad is helmed by two Montreal-based rising stars with impeccable vocal control.
6. Allison Russell
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
Perhaps the most over-done Christmas cover of all time (except for maybe "Last Christmas") still finds seasonal magic the hands of Allison Russell. The artist grew up watching the 1994 film Meet Me in St. Louis with her grandmother at Christmastime, in which Judy Garland sings a rendition of this very classic. This year, Russell recorded the song in French and English, her marvellous instrument sailing atop a delicate string arrangement. She's also carrying on the tradition by watching Meet Me in St. Louis with her daughter.
5. maya & ben
This Vancouver-based duo of cousins can't help but remind us of holiday family gatherings. Jazz-tinged and lounge-y, "home again" sweetly captures the comfort of Saturn returns to the people and places that have permeated our lives. This snappy melody highlights the moments of laughter between gossiping and raiding the dessert table. Remember that one year where the tree fell over?
Keeping the bar singalong going, the band released this 2020 Amazon Music exclusive at large this year as a B-Side to the earnest pandemic-inspired "The Last Christmas (We Ever Spend Apart)." From the credit cards in the hat at the beginning of the night to the near-tears at the end, "Pub Crawl" captures the high-highs and low-lows — "Heavenly Father / Can I call you daddy?" — of seasonal communion.
It should be noted that, in the house of Exclaim!, "River" by Joni Mitchell is indeed a traditional holiday standard. Sisters Alanna and Brianne pop-ify the classic, smoothing over the ice with breathy harmonies and gleaming synth tones. Sleigh bells and 808s echo through the snow-covered hills with the pristine clarity of a snow globe scene.
2. Moscow Apartment
"Just Like Christmas"
The Toronto duo's cover of the begrudgingly festive 1999 Low track comes across less grumpy and more forlorn. But again, it's a blend of melancholy that also imbues little seasonal delights and glimmers of hope, like seeing the first snowfall; that's what it feels like when the electric guitar kicks in around the 1:54 mark and the sparse arrangement explodes with more impact than any Christmas cracker.
1. Beatrice Deer
Nestled at the tail-end of the Inuk-Mohawk artist's new album SHIFTING, this "Inuindie" pop gem foregoes all of the traditional holiday sounds in favour of enveloping us in slow-burning fireside warmth. "CHRISTMAS" fans open, layer by layer — a gentle flush that builds into a thrumming rhythm. Deer is singing, yes, but the Inuktitut language is doing so in equal measure here.