Arthur Warrell (sort of) — 1939

Part of what makes the Christmas season so special and distinct is its incredibly rich iconography: Christmas trees, holly, and wreathes all come to mind at the mention of the holiday. But what else do these things all have in common? They all started as something that had nothing to do with Christianity, and the more you dig into the history behind the contemporary celebration of Christmas, the more bizarre connections you find. Like caroling! It’s difficult to even picture people going door to door singing something that isn’t Christmas music, and top…

John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band — 1971

Pop stars and Christmas songs are like peanut butter and chocolate: they were always meant to be together, and eventually someone realized there was money to be made. When you have pop artists like Michael Buble, Carrie Underwood, or Mariah Carey signing contracts for Christmas songs, typically you get a middle-of-the-road, innocuous single or album that will get unlimited mall radio play and make cash year after year. But what happens when you get someone with some edge writing a Christmas song? …

Ernst Anschütz — 1824

Part of what makes Christmas music so interesting is its lack of any unified style. The only real rule for writing an enduring Christmas carol is it has to be memorable, but somewhere along the line a few hundred years ago composers started noticing they didn’t even need to start with a song about Christmas to make a new carol. A carol, assuming new lyrics were implemented well and an audience responded positively to it, could be based on melodies from other songs as long as they contained a solid hook. No one seemed to…

Joseph Mohr, Franz Xaver Gruber — 1818

For a season that’s defined by its joyful atmosphere, Christmas music can cover a lot of ground tonally. If you’re hosting a holiday party and you want to get people moving, there’s a handful of playful tracks to fit the mood, but similarly if you wanted something reassuring and comforting, you can easily find a lengthy playlist or two to pair with a blanket and a peppermint mocha. …

Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane — 1944

One of the most famous and melancholy Christmas classics, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been performed and recorded year after year after year after year since its creation in 1944, and why not? It’s not just super cozy; it’s also one of the few classic Christmas tunes for the lonely holiday experience. If you’re making a scene for a movie where some sweater-clad wretch sadly looks out a window at gently-falling snow, longingly thinking of their absent partner/family/love interest/mid-west polka king, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is the soundtrack.

Frank Loesser — 1944

This thumbnail is already off to a bad start

I think we all knew this one was coming. I’ve been dreading writing about this song. First off, this is not at all a new observation, considering every year inevitably dozens of people write articles about how awful the lyrics are and pointing out the predatory implications of the song, and dozens more write in defense of a classic seasonal song. It’s a tired argument. We get it, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” raises more eyebrows than it does holiday spirits. The song is so suspect, it’s practically…

Traditional — 1833 (kinda)

In the realm of old school English folk tunes, “I Saw Three Ships” is a textbook case. Quick stanzas, simple chord progression, and lyrics so repetitive you’ll be begging to walk the plank or die in a scurvy-charged mutiny. The thing is this one starts to get a little more interesting the more you think about it. Putting aside the fact that hymns and religious music aren’t to be taken literally, the imagery in this song is confusing, to say the least. Let’s look at the second and third verses, for example:

And what was…

William Chatterton Dix (kinda) — 1865

Part of the reason people both love and hate Christmas music is because of how ridiculously catchy it can be. From classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” to newer tunes like “Last Christmas,” a their survival depends on them staying in your head because they’re so brutally seasonal. They need to reawaken in your memory after months of absence, unless you’re a weirdo who listens to holiday music all year around, living in equal social stature to Zach Snyder fanboys and people who put ketchup on their steak.

Within a few minutes of arriving at a Daniel Romano show, one will start noticing something you don’t see too often. Middle aged couples in embroidered western tops sip Molson Stock Ales beside 20-somethings in leather jackets and tuques. You catch dudes in Crass t-shirts navigating their way to the merch table surrounded by women in vintage dresses.

Since he started making music, Daniel Romano has excelled in a multitude of genres with a level of authenticity and proficiency that has earned him followers diverse in scenes. Classic country and punk are his most recurring influences, but when looking through…

Polaris 2018 winner Jeremy Dutcher

While waiting for the show to start at the Polaris Gala, I struck up a conversation with the only other underdressed person in the boujee Carlu on Yonge Street. He was a designer, one of the chosen ten illustrators to produce a poster for one of the ten shortlist records. We both felt a bit out of place, which is typically a strong glue to bring people with untucked shirts together.

We got onto the topic of the Polaris Music Prize’s place in the grand musical landscape, and we agreed that Polaris isn’t like other awards. It differs from industry…

Peter Sanfilippo

Toronto-based journalist and creative writer with an interest in music, art, people, and small business. Twitter and Instagram @PeteSanf

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