Years of working retail in shopping centres has pretty much soured me on Christmas music, so the standard carols and 80s pop singles from high-powered collectives singing to raise awareness of famine have, quite frankly, repulsed me like images of Ann Coulter with nothing but a Santa hat on. Maybe it’s post-traumatic stress.
Yet Meaghan Smith’s It Snowed, the first Christmas record I’ve subjected myself to in a very long time without copious amounts of scotch in my system, manages to rock and roll its way through a series of Christmas standards and some pretty damn sparkly originals.
Smith is from London, Ontario. She is perhaps best known for contributing a cover of the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” to the soundtrack of (500) Days of Summer. Smith debuted with The Cricket’s Orchestra in 2010. At the 2011 Juno Awards, she won Best New Artist.
It Snowed, inspired by Smith’s love of the holidays, is a cute album but there’s a layer of wryness to it that makes it really special. She is an unquestionably honest singer, one that splices retro style with stylish modern flavour. In her hands, even the stalest carols become vivacious pieces of funky-fresh awesomeness.
“Breakable” opens the album with cheery ukulele, but it isn’t long before Smith builds to a horn-filled romp through a melody guaranteed to stick in your stocking. It’s not a Christmas song or even necessarily a holiday song, but the tune does pack some bells into its tale of the fragility of relationships.
Smith’s rendition of “Silver Bells” pops with its simple construction and the use of sound effects to draw in some of that Christmas chaos. And “Little Drummer Boy” is another holiday standard that gets the analog treatment, complete with drum machine working overtime and Smith’s stunning harmonizing.
For those who like a little spice in their Christmas material, Smith’s rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” gets a boost from Buck 65. The Canadian MC holds a mischievous musical conversation with Smith, dropping lines about how his girlfriend is waiting for him. The Christmas spirit takes a potentially devious turn when Buck 65 starts to wonder what’s in his drink.
“Zat U Santa Claus?” further exemplifies Smith’s retro cool and humour. She fits well in the jazzy arrangement and keeps pace with the blast of horns.
With some truly abysmal musical offerings bound to tiptoe out each Christmas, like Justin Bieber’s excremental castoffs found Under the Mistletoe, Smith’s It Snowed is the eggnog antidote we’ve all been waiting for.