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Arts and Culture

Cockroaches, Puke, and Goddamn Lies

Yes, it's a column about Christmas music.

By Thom Wong 10 Dec 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong writes regularly about music for The Tyee. He can also be found ruminating about the state of menswear at The Sunday Best.

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This adorable little tyke is best served par-boiled in lemon.

It's a sad commentary on our species that we need to co-opt a once-pagan holiday to remember the true spirit of giving. But if you wanted a religious lecture you'd have turned on Fox News, so let's just accept Christmas for what it is -- a crass, commercial holiday with the occasional good deed.

Good deeds such as A Very Vancouver Christmas, a charity album of original Christmas songs that benefits the BC SPCA. I love the traditional carols, but by the 400th time I've heard "Silent Night" in a mall I'm ready to shoot the nearest elf. And while Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" is amazing, it's not exactly festive.

A Very Vancouver Christmas, Vol. 4 has an excellent balance of mid-tempo jazz numbers, finger-plucked bluegrass, slow torch songs, and children's choirs. But it best captures a feeling not often explored in Christmas songs -- the quiet longing the season evokes amid the cheer and friends. Or, as producer Jenn Ashton said via email, "I love that we're so original. How many Christmas songs do you know that incorporate the words 'cockroach,' 'puke,' and 'goddamn lie'?"

Lyrics aside, Tess Dunn's "Christmas Day" could be about a lost love. "I feel sorry for the branch's arms," Hilary Grist sings in "Branch's Arms (A Winter Song)", reminiscent of the saddest moments in A Charlie Brown Christmas. And Laurell's "Wrapped Up In You" is waiting for a guest spot on Gossip Girl, probably when Blake Lively is crying outside in the snow.

Of course, a song doesn't have to be full of unrequited feelings to be good. "Christmas Dog" takes the simple premise of its title and turns it into a jazzy ode to when what you wanted for Christmas didn't take AA batteries or play MP3s. 

All in all, A Very Vancouver Christmas, Vol. 4 is 13 good songs that is in itself the spirit of the season -- a gift to animals in need. Over 40 local artists have contributed to the project since its inception, raising thousands of dollars. You can buy it at CD Baby or at your local BC SPCA. You can also see some of the artists perform live at a benefit concert on Dec. 20, at St. James Hall.  [Tyee]

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