LWM’s Festive Round Up
As each year passes, more and more Christmas songs get released and I have (for some reason) decided that these all need reviewing for your amusement. So, put on your Christmas pants, pour yourself a mulled beverage and let’s do this… (mulled vodka is not OK though…not OK).
Kathryn Williams & Carol Ann Duffy – Midnight Chorus (One Little Independent Records)
‘Midnight Chorus’ is the title track from a whole album of festive fun and it has a frosty, sparkling charm which goes alongside a child-like quality that is impossible to resist. The soft vocals and gentle acoustic strum keep things light and the lyrics keep things jolly so it is an understated but still strong start to the festive season.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/KathrynWilliamsMusic
Ingrid Michaelson feat. Zooey Deschanel – Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
This double act of Ingrid Michaelson and Zooey Deschanel piles on the twee, the pop melodies and the sprinkled festive cheer to create something utterly adorable and capable of warming even the coldest of hearts. Fans of Sia’s Christmas songs will lap this up and anyone who grew up playing with Sylvanian Families will love the video as well – ice skating mice, need I say more?
More information: https://www.facebook.com/ingridmichaelson
The Kingdom Choir – Together Again
So, this is an EP from the Kingdom Choir featuring some glorious gospel versions of ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain, ‘Oh Come, All Ye Faithful’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. These classics are all given an infusion of joy, energy and a little modernisation without ever losing their heart, soul or message. The title track, ‘Together Again’, welcomes Jake Isaac along on lead vocals and is a more sombre number but the piano, strings and vocals combination is nothing short of stirring – especially when you listen in the context of a two year global pandemic.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/TheKingdomChoir
Paul Gilbert – I Saw Three Ships (Mascot Label Group)
I’m not sure if anyone was looking for a blues guitar version of the classic Christmas song ‘I Saw Three Ships’ but I’ve found this one and it’s absolutely stunning. Paul Gilbert is a stunning blues slide guitarist and, weirdly, the lilt of this old tune lends itself brilliantly to the blues structure so this is one of those marriages that shouldn’t work on paper but in reality it really, really works.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/paulgilbertmusic
Gina Naomi Baez – Tinsel and Tears
I’m a big fan of Christmas so I like happy Christmas songs but I totally get that it’s not that much of party for some so there is a place in the world for ‘Tinsel and Tears’ by Gina Naomi Baez. Sparkling and sprinkled with Christmas sounds (there are bells and the word “twinkling” is used in the lyrics) this has the right sound but the vocals and strings are full of sadness and loss. There’s a version of ‘Silent Night’ to bring you back round to the festive side of things which again shows off Baez’s superb voice but still with a tinge of sadness to it.
More information: https://www.instagram.com/ginanaomibaez/
Jess Kemp – Leave A Chair Out
You can’t beat a nice piano melody at Christmas but there’s a sadness in this one as Jess Kemp’s ‘Leave A Chair Out’ tackles that raw emotion of spending that first Christmas Day without someone special to you. As the song grows and swells there’s a touch of Ellie Goulding about it but Kemp has poured her heart and soul in to this one from personal experience, so the emotion is all hers.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/jesskempartist
Trey Maxx – Christmas Love
I’m not really sure what to do with this one – most Christmas songs deal with family, the love of your fellow man and Santa. ‘Christmas Love’ by Trey Maxx takes things down a “bump and grind” avenue that doesn’t feature much in the real world but I guess this is the modern version of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. “You’re my new favourite shorty” isn’t what I’d expect to hear coming from Santa but then his catchphrase is “Ho Ho Ho” so I guess anything is possible.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/Trey-Maxx-153335923492745
Mark Mathews – Let It Snow
I initially though Mark Mathews was being bold to take on such a classic song but it turns out ‘Let It Snow’ is a different song by the same name. Jaunty pianos, sleigh bells and soft vocals give this an instantly Christmassy vibe which develops into a really lovely indie-pop song with heart and a festive soul. Mathews is bold but he walks the walk as well as talking the talk so it is a move that pays off.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/markmathewsmusic
Classless Act – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (Better Noise Music)
LA rockers Classless Act give this holiday classic a real jolt of rock’n’roll energy and it really works. ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ is turned into something between the Darkness and Status Quo with a little Motley Crue snarl on the side and it is a joy. “Caroling out in the snow” never sounded so rock’n’roll.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/classlessact
The Aquadolls – Christmas Wrapping (Enci Records)
Trepidation doesn’t even cover it when it comes to versions of my favourite Christmas song but, luckily, the Aquadolls do ‘Christmas Wrapping’ justice. The SoCal trio give the Waitresses classic a blast of skanked up guitars and some bouncing ska energy along with the standard blast of horns. Bravo Aquadolls, bravo indeed.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/theaquadolls
Modesty Blaise – I’ll Be Home For Xmas
This is a classic Christmas style single with an over staffed band, bells, horns and backing singers all on hand to present ‘I’ll Be Home For Xmas’. Modesty Blaise have pitched this somewhere between Slade, Mud and Jonah Lewie and it’s delightful even though there is a saxophone AND guitar solo included in this track.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/themodestyblaise
The Subway Choir – No Kiss Under The Mistletoe (Lights & Lines Records)
Lonely Americana from Cardiff is the order of the day from the Subway Choir on their sombre festive song, ‘No Kiss Under The Mistletoe). Gorgeous country tinged vocal harmonies, heartbroken lyrics, twanging guitars and harmonica tell the story of being homeless and alone at Christmas to balance out the opulence of the rest of the season.
The Give A Gift Collective – This Christmas Eve
So charity singles are par for the course at Christmas and I am entirely in support of that so I am pleased that I can get behind the Give A Gift Collective’s ‘This Christmas Eve’. This is a tear jerker for anyone who has lost a loved one this year which will an awful lot of us considering the pandemic so this ensemble piece (including children’s choir) will give folk a chance to pause, remember and repair their heart a little with warmth and love.
Mel 2D – A Very Tory Xmas
This feels very much like the kind of Christmas song I can really get behind as Mel 2D (aka Barnsley’s Mel Elliot) sings “I want the Tories out for Christmas”. ‘A Very Tory Christmas’ is a jaunty, Helen Love meets Sophie Ellis-Bexter pop song full of satirical lyrics and entirely blatant attacks on the current bunch of Tory cretins currently playing at being in charge. All together now, “Jacob Rees-Mogg was made in a laboratory”.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/officialmelelliott
Drug Couple – Our December (Papercupmusic)
Drug Couple are a married couple who live in Vermont, grow pot and make fuzzy slacker-rock. I’m already sold but let’s give ‘Our December’ a listen for the sake of argument, shall we? Pleasingly, it’s a growling, dirty, fuzzed-up romp with zero Christmas spirit but there’s something about the ramshackle nature of the song that reminds of the mad dash to get home for Christmas in time for one last drink at the pub before Santa comes.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/drugcouplemusic/
El Ten Eleven – New Year’s Eve
Not technically a Christmas song but it’s in the right ball park and I’m a big fan of SoCal duo El Ten Eleven and their instrumental odysseys. ‘New Year’s Eve’ pulses and grooves with all the swagger of someone walking into a new year ready to own it. The only problem with that energy is that based on 2020 and 2021, I’m not sure I’d want to own any year about now.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/elteneleven
Fickle Friends – My Favourite Day
Not content with bringing out my favourite single of 2021, Fickle Friends have also created a heart-string tuggingly great Christmas song. ‘My Favourite Day’ is a big ol’ slice of reminiscence with the killer chorus line “My favourite day, I love the way it stays the same”, just aching for something to anchor on to in these turbulent times. The perfect song for anyone heading back to their childhood for Christmas who is actually looking forward to it from a nostalgia point of view.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/FickleFriends
Feline and Strange – Nolidays
Opera meets cabaret from German based act Feline and Strange on their anti-Christmas composition ‘Nolidays’. This is a wonky, smeared lipstick, dishevelled outfit of a song as imagined by someone stumbling home from the last office party to the prospect of spending Christmas Day alone and Boxing Day with family that you don’t want to see the rest of the year. Pleasingly bleak.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/felineandstrange
Andy and the Odd Socks – Merry Christmas Everyone/We’re All Together (At Christmas Time)
Another charity single in aid of Children in Need with a double A-side from Andy and the Odd Socks. The first half is a cover of the Shakin’ Stevens classic ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ which sounds exactly like you’d expect a CBeebies fuelled version of the song to sound – i.e. perky, fast and well produced. ‘We’re All Together (At Christmas Time)’ is even more focused on the children’s ears which isn’t necessarily my bag but Christmas is for the kids so who am I to argue, eh?
More information: https://www.facebook.com/andyandtheoddsocks
Louis Dunford – Stay Another Day
I’m a recent convert to the music of Louis Dunford and this cover of East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ is beautifully understated and that makes the song even more tender and heartfelt than it originally was. Piano and voice combine perfectly to bring that moment of quiet reflection to the festive season and the fact that the video shows him playing the piano in a pub wearing all white (right down to the fluffy hooded coat) is just the chef’s kiss at the end of an amazing meal.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/louisdunfordmusic
Nature of Wires x Machina X – 2000 Miles
One of my favourite Christmas songs, ‘2000 Miles’ by the Pretenders, is given the sparse electronic treatment by Nature of Wires with vocals from Machina X. There are still sleigh bells and atmospheric, frosty vocals but then there’s the Gary Numan vibe which makes this sound like the kind of Christmas song they would listen to in the future where all the Christmas trees have died out and Santa has been purchased by Amazon.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/natureofwires
Ewan MacFarlane – This Year
This is the first single that really directly tackle the stresses and strains of 2021 with an opening line of “It’s fair to say it’s been a hell of a year”. MacFarlane’s gravelly voice and the sparse instrumentation gives this a soulful and touching vibe referencing “bounce back loans” and coming outside to see your friends and family again. A snapshot of time for sure.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/ewanmacfarlanemusic
Tomer Haim Shaked & Iris Mazor – Bells of Winter
Israeli duo Tomer Haim Shaked & Iris Mazor bring a folk vibe to the Christmas party on their offering ‘Bells of Winter’ which mixes the nativity story with a painted picture of a frosty winter’s day. There’s a gorgeous guitar solo, some wonderful vocal harmonies and the kind of vibe that makes you feel like you’ve just stumbled into some backstreet bar to find an entire audience enraptured by the humble performers on the cramped stage. Perfect.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/iris.mzr/
Dancing On Tables – Merry Christmas Everybody (Enci Records)
Who wouldn’t want a laconic Scottish indie take on the Slade classic ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’? Dancing On Tables have sucked all the fakeness and 70s sheen off this and turned it in to the kind of song that would work brilliantly in an Irvine Welsh Christmas film about spending the festive season back home in the bleakness of your youth. The guitars are moody, the drums shuffling and the rest of the band are nursing hangovers in the best way possible. I love this.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/dancingontablesmusic
Ross Harris – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
This is a super chilled and lo-fi take on the classic Christmas song ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ and it is the perfect slow jam to break out the mistletoe to. Soft keys, rolling bass and smooth vocals all blend perfectly with each other like a well-balanced cocktail that is far too drinkable and will leave you with only a pleasantly fuzzy head the morning after.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/RossHarrisMusic
The Highway Women – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Three stunning voices, a simple piano melody and a sense of festive calm are all front and centre on this take on the classic ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ by the US trio the Highway Women. It’s a simple formula and it doesn’t stray too far from the original in tone but when those three voices intertwine….wow. Subtle power and pin point tone.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/highwaywomen/