Some folks start cranking their wintertime playlist the second they starting taking down their Halloween decorations. Others may wait until they begin their advent calendar before pulling up yuletide carols from Mariah, Bowie, and Der Bingle. Released just this morning, you can now add Vancouver singer-songwriter Jody Glenham’s new, holiday-adjacent Melt EP to the canon.
Melt is Jody’s three-song companion piece to this year’s striking Mood Rock, but its roots stretch back close to a decade ago when she first released “Christmas List” as an echo chamber-exploding seasonal sway. This year, she and longtime collaborator Louise Burns revamped the song with a more synth-forward feel. Elsewhere, the digital bells of “Snow in NYC” support the singer’s wistful, winter wanderlust, while “Melt” is a duet with Blue J’s Justice McLellan about the anticipatory build up towards a New Year’s kiss.
Gut Feeling spoke with Jody about bringing the warming glow of ‘80s analogue synths to her Melt, and how the EP’s shared themes unintentionally hit especially hard this distanced holiday season.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
How quickly did this project come together, compared to Mood Rock?
Jody Glenham: So, Louise Burns did some production on Mood Rock, closer to the tail end of the project. It was the best time I’d ever had with a producer in the studio. This was before we knew COVID was going to happen, but when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my 2020, I knew I had these Christmas songs in demo form. I had actually released versions of “Christmas List” and “Snow in NYC” beforehand, but one of them didn’t even have a chorus. Louise ended up co-writing on both of them. She pushed me, saying ‘these songs could be better’.
These songs have also been around for 10 years. Everything is getting dusted off and put out there, and we’re moving on!
What time of year had you recorded these? It’s fascinating to think that Christmas music might sometimes be recorded in the wrong season.
J: When you see behind the curtain and all that movie magic, you realize that all the Hallmark movies are made in, you know, April [laughs]. We were actually supposed to start the project in April; we were looking at booking studio dates but then shutdowns started happening. It wasn’t until June when I reached back out and said ‘hey, should we try this?’ We worked on the writing in July—there was a lot of pre-production and working from home. Then we did two studio days at the end of October, and the rest was just done in people’s living rooms.
Was there anything you did to get into the Christmas spirit in the studio?
J: I wore my Christmas socks.
You’d previously released “Christmas List” on a holiday compilation in 2011. How did the song change the most between then and now?
J: We came up with some really cool chord changes that weren’t in the first version, so there were some arrangement changes. We wrote more verses and got rid of some ambiguous lyrics. We developed the story more.
What do you like about this latest version?
J: I love how explosive the ‘fa-la-la-la’ part is. And I love the snare sound so much. That’s the pièce de résistance, when that snare cracks. Every time I hear it I clench a fist.
We went a bit more ‘80s than what I’d done [with the original “Christmas List”]. The synth sounds like “This is the Day” by The The. It sits in that area in my brain.
“Snow in NYC” also has these synth bell tones that speak to a certain kind of ‘80s Christmas music, like Boney M...
J: Definitely. There ended up being a lot of synths on Mood Rock, too—more so than I had thought there would be, because I was making a guitar rock record. But I’m a keyboard player first, so that synth stuff comes very naturally. Louise is a proficient and prolific synth player, as well. She has a Juno and I have a Roland D-50, that’s why it ends up sounding like that.
You’re contrasting Vancouver’s rain with East Coast snow on “Snow in NYC,” but knowing that you grew up in Winnipeg, are you longing, at all, for a Prairie winter?
J: My dad turned 70 yesterday—[my parents are] in Winnipeg, and I FaceTimed with them. They don’t own cell phones, so my brother’s partner did a drive-by through the back lane. My parents were in their parkade carport with masks on, they spoke through the car window and did a little wave. Winnipeg has snow, a light frost right now. It made me homesick. I was supposed to go home and visit them at some point this year, and that obviously changed.
Looking at what the three songs on Melt are about, they’re all about people dealing with distance of some sort. That was unintentional, but I see that theme throughout the three. People can hopefully relate to that. A lot of people are having a different kind of holiday this year, if they celebrate at all. We’re all learning to use new technology to our advantage, but it only goes so far.
As a listener, what kinds of holiday songs are you drawn to the most?
J: I love the super fun ones, like Wham’s “Last Christmas,” or Mariah Carey songs. When it comes to the classics, I like haunting ones, like “Carol of the Bells”—the really moody, minor key songs.
A few years ago Bill Murray put out that A Very Murray Christmas. I know some people were underwhelmed by it, but as I was watching it, I was like, ‘this is a Christmas classic!’ I’ve watched it every year since. It’s in the repertoire now.
Ludic “Jingle Bells”
After bouncing through 2020 with a series of jubilant funk-pop bops, Vancouver Trio Ludic are now easing into the winter holiday season with a supremely sweet instrumental run-through of “Jingle Bells”.
Ludic’s take dresses the traditional tune quite nicely. The sleighing song settles into a soulful, simmering groove; the band adds subtle complexity to a simple arrangement—the way it drops into that embellished F chord in the verse, in particular, is whipped cream-and-cocoa smooth. The full-bodied vibrato of guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe’s lead work glides nicely above a vibraphone and the steady, brotherly bump of bassist Max and drummer Rhett Cunningham. A lil holiday treat to kick off your December right.
The Dears “Christmas Love” (Bandcamp)
Buttery, oaken, soul-glowing—however you want to put it— there are few voices as precious to these ears (or dear, if you will) than that of the Dears’ Murray Lightburn. 2020 was a landmark year for that rich baritone, with the husband-and-wife duo of Lightburn and Natalia Yanchuk having dropped the seismic, romantic anthems of their Lovers Rock back in May. “Christmas Love” was an unfinished track from those writing sessions before being reworked into a holiday jam.
This, too, puts a quick twist on “Jingle Bells” before the otherwise original endeavour blankets listeners in layers of acoustic guitar, church bells, and oscillated organ work. Lightburn and Yanchuk’s duet is low-key but lovely, waxing crystalline over various wintertime scenes, from relaxing by the fire to hearing “the rumble of snowplows” outside.
“Christmas Love” is the A-side to a new 7-inch that also features a cover of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the flip.