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A slightly scandalous Mrs. Claus from the Barr Brothers and other essential tracks

The Barr Brothers perform in Toronto, March, 2012. Please credit Bruce Emberley

Bruce Emberley

Indie

Dear Mrs. Claus

The Barr Brothers, from Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada – Volume 4; streaming at thelineofbestfit.com

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The Beatles used to deliver Christmas 45s every year, a trend that has lately been picked up by indie bands. From Montreal's Barr Brothers, we have the slightly scandalous Dear Mrs. Claus, a twinkling soul-blues proposal in the sultry, extramarital vein of the old Billy Paul hit Me and Mrs. Jones. It's one of 21 tracks (some recorded especially for the compilation) pulled together by British music website The Line of Best Fit for its annual seasonal mixtape. (Dear Mrs. Claus was actually released late in 2011 – too late for last year's compilation.) Candy canes and sugar plums are promised, and the elves are to be sent away. The suggestion is seductive: Because the chimney-sliding Kris Kringle is undoubtedly receiving more than milk and cookies on his own midnight sleigh ride, the night for Mrs. Claus needn't be an especially silent or holy one. Bells are to be jingled, so to say.

Pop

Metaphorical Blanket

Rufus Wainwright, from the Any Day Now soundtrack (Lakeshore Records); streaming at lakeshore-records.com

His blanket is metaphorical, but the Montrealer's elegant piano music is classic and warm. It's part of a soundtrack that includes three songs performed by the film's star Alan Cumming and a trio of seventies favourites (Don't Leave Me This Way, Come to Me and Miracles).

Rock

Monday Morning (live)

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Fleetwood Mac, from the forthcoming reissue of Rumours; streaming at rollingstone.com

Fleetwood Mac has been non-committal in the past when it comes to a recording a new studio album. But with the news of the rerelease of its classic album Rumours (complete with live recordings from the band's 1977 tour), it appears nothing fresh is coming to accompany a 2013 reunion jaunt. A bouncing, harmonic classic speaks for a band – "First you love me, then you say it's wrong" – that has trouble making up its mind.

Pop

Old Shanghai

Stephin Merritt; streaming at pastemagazine.com

For WNYC's Soundcheck radio show, the Magnetic Fields singer-songwriter offers his version of a new song written by Beck. On a wistful composition about an old port city, Merritt juxtaposes a toy piano (mounted on a tambourine) with glumly delivered vocals. It's one of the songs on Beck's sheet-music-only collection, Song Reader. A radio clip includes Beck's (very positive) reaction to Merritt's interpretation.

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Video

Pop

Pop Danthology 2012: Mashup of 50+ Pop Songs

Daniel Kim; streaming at youtube.com

For anyone who missed the pop happenings of 2012, a fluid, throbbing mash-up covers the year in whirlwind fashion. What is learned in the video's eight minutes is that in the past 12 months is that Madonna still fits into her cheerleader outfit, that the band "fun." is proud of being young, that Justin Bieber has the audacity to rhyme "swag on you" with "eatin' fondue," and that whatever doesn't kill Kelly Clarkson only makes her stronger. The last word goes to Carly Rae Jepsen, who was all carefree and "call me, maybe" because her life is always a Good Time.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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