Alan Cross weekly music picks: Christmas songs are already here

William Shatner performs at the Hollywood Christmas Parade on Dec. 1, 2013 in Hollywood, Calif. Earl Gibson III/WireImage

As soon as Halloween passes, we’ll be thrust into the holiday season. That means more than a few new Christmas albums, including one or two that don’t make a lot of sense.

1. William Shatner, Shatner Claus

Yes, Captain Kirk decided that his next musical project needed to be an album of Christmas favourites. And yes, Shatner was raised Jewish. But he loves the holiday season so much that he rounded up some of his good friends (Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Todd Rundgren, country star Brad Paisley, Iggy Pop and Henry “Black Flag” Rollins) to record 14 seasonal classics. An interesting exercise in ecumenical music and collaboration, to be sure. But I don’t think Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You will see its yuletide supremacy threatened.

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2. The Struts, Young & Dangerous

England’s The Struts have been flirting with the big time for a number of years now, always seemingly on the verge of doing something that will make them a global household name. Not that they’ve exactly struggled: their debut record, Everybody Wants, attracted some good reviews and positive vibes from a growing fan base, as did the subsequent run of EPs and singles. Perhaps they’ll nail it with their second album. We could certainly use a new band capable of big arena rock anthems.

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3. Ty Segall, Fudge Sandwich

Ty Segall has released not one, not two, not three, not four but five albums this year. The first was Freedom’s Goblin, a typically quirky Segall album that featured titles like When Mommy Kills You and Despoilers of a Cadaver. In September, there was a cassette entitled Orange Rainbows, which he handed out personally to fans in New York. In between were two collaborative albums with a couple of groups and another weird tape created with his wife. Now comes Fudge Sandwich, which features nothing but covers. Segall may not be the most accessible artist out there, but he’s certainly interesting.

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4. Shad, A Short Story About the War

For his first album in five years, Canadian hip-hop star Shad, himself a Polaris Music Prize nominee, joined forces with other artists, including Polaris winners Kaytranada and Lido Pimienta, to create an album that reads like the lineup for a news/talk TV channel. Migration. Immigration. The environment. The current political climate. The state of the world. Other guests include Tim (200lman) Hill of A Tribe Called Radio as well as members of Yukon Blonde. When you listen, pay attention to the character of The Fool, who tries to make sense of what’s going on with our planet.

5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, IC-01 Hanoi

Looking for something experimental? New Zealand’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra is, to my knowledge, the only first-world band to record in Hanoi, Vietnam — not exactly the first place that comes to mind when looking for a studio, especially during monsoon season, which is when this record was made. There are no lyrics to be found on this record, just seven instrumentals featuring traditional Vietnamese instruments, like the sáo trúc and đàn môi, played by local musicians.

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London Calling: TVAM, Narcissus

Joey Oxley, the man behind TVAM, is from Manchester and describes his dystopian vintage-synth opus as “post-internet, motivational slime-punk.” To translate, that means music that conjures memories and feelings that might have been buried long ago. The album from whence this single comes, Psychic Data, is definitely worth a stream, especially if you have a hankering for the industrial sort of sounds that came out of indie Britain, circa 1985-87.

Undiscovered Gem: POESY, Strange Little Girl

POESY (yes, that’s spelled right and the ALL CAPS is appreciated) is a Toronto singer-songwriter you might have seen on The Launch. Normally, I don’t pay any attention to TV talent shows, but occasionally someone interesting does come to our attention. I point you to Adam Lambert, who is still subbing in for the stubbornly dead Freddie Mercury in Queen after coming to our attention through American Idol. Meanwhile, the replacement for Scott Weiland and Chester Bennington in Stone Temple Pilots is Jeff Gutt, a two-season veteran of The X Factor. POESY’s debut single, produced by Gavin Brown (Billy Talent, Three Days Grace), has her signed to Taylor Swift’s Big Machine label, a source of almost unlimited promotional power. Look for this to be an international hit. If it isn’t, something’s wrong with the planet.

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Throwback Thursday: Peter Murphy, Cuts You Up

After Peter Murphy left Bauhaus (the other three members eventually scored big as Love and Rockets), he embarked on a series of solo albums. The best and most successful of the bunch was Deep, released at the tail end of 1989. Not only was “Cuts You Up” a major alt-rock radio hit, it also crossed over onto the Billboard Top 100. Yes, it only reached No. 53, but c’mon: the Godfather of Goth on the pop charts? How cool is that? Still love that violin line, too.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107, and a commentator for Global News.

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