Have yourself an indie little Christmas

My end-of-year post has spurred me to think about Christmas songs. That, and the fact that a couple of people seem to have found this blog by googling “rude Christmas songs” (they chanced upon this post, I think). I’m getting into the habit of whacking all the Christmas songs I like into a big folder and just bunging it on my MP3 player and hitting  shuffle. But to sort things out a bit, I’ve tried putting a couple of dozen into a notional compilation – the running order is fairly arbitrary – below.

Actually finding good Christmas songs is a bit tricky: there are many compilations each year, both mainstream and indie. But they tend to be horribly hit and miss, plus there’s only really a window of two weeks or so each year when I’m interested in investigating them. A good Christmas song generally has to be, in my view: a good song; about Christmas (OR an actual carol), not just containing a reference to snow ; Christmassy-sounding, with jingle bells, choral arrangements or similar. But there are exceptions to all of those below.

1.MJ Hibbett and the Validators – The Advent Calendar of Fact
2.Johnny Domino – 3 Ships
3.Belle and Sebastian – O Come O Come Emmanuel
4.Lauren Laverne – In The Bleak Midwinter
5.Departure Lounge – Christmas Downer
6.Grandaddy – Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland
7.Shawn Lee – I’ll Be Fucking You This Christmas
8.Ten Benson – Black Snow
9.Broken Dog – Joy To The World
10.Hefner – Lonely This Christmas
11.Elastica – Gloria
12.Keyop – I’ll Be Dead by Christmas
13.The Lollies – You Can Make An Angel Sigh
14.The Ronettes – Frosty the Snowman
15.Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
16.Diana Ross and the Supremes – Little Bright Star
17.The Meditation Singers – Blue Christmas
18.Half Man Half Biscuit – It’s Cliched to by Cynical at Christmas
19.Mitch Benn and the Distractions – Broke the Bank This Christmas
20.Low – Blue Christmas
21.Frank Sinatra – Adeste Fideles
22.Nixon – Anorak Christmas
23.John Prine – Christmas In Prison
24.The Pocket Gods – Wnking for Christmas
25.Misty’s Big Adventure – Where Do Jam Jars Go At Christmas Time?

The opening two tracks I know from the rather excellent compilation A Christmas Gift From Artists Against Success (more properly titled Kung Fu Santa With A Christmas Punch-Bag), which was generously sent out for free by Hibbett and Co to people “on the list” in, I think, 2005. Cheers Mark! There is other good stuff on there too, including Frankie Machine’s I’m Going To Kill Myself for Christmas, about the perils of having a birthday close to Christmas and suffering combined presents.

Tracks 3 to 6 are from the XFM It’s A Cool, Cool Christmas compilation from 2000. I seem to be the only person who likes Lauren Laverne’s contribution to that – her last outing on record to date bar backing vocals on that Divine Comedy single.

The next couple of songs also originate from 2000: Shawn Lee’s rudery featured on the We Love Yule compilation EP, released on two seven-inch singles – a lovely package, but it suffered from having only two Christmas songs – the other one being an instrumental – and two that just mentioned snow. The Ten Benson one was also a 7-inch single, doesn’t sound remotely Christmassy, but is an enjoyable bit of cock rock.

The Broken Dog and Hefner songs were both recorded for John Peel’s Christmas show in 1999; I dug out the tape from the time yesterday and stuck them on MP3. I really must find tapes of other Christmas shows from subsequent years – they were always lovely, and I remember Camera Obscura doing a version of Little Donkey in 2000 or 2001.

The Elastica track has cropped up on various compilations, but the Keyop and Lollies ones are more obscure: they originate from the Here Comes Santa Paws EP put out by Purr Records in 2001 – a CD-R mail-order release, no less!

Next up are a few standard Phil Spector choices. The Meditation Singers one is a soul number, and not the same song as the more famous Blue Christmas, which Low provide the rendition of. The Diana Ross track is probably the only decent cut on the A Christmas Present From Motown volume II compilation.

What’s left? The Mitch Benn track was his Christmas song for the Now Show last year. The John Prine song is a love song more than a Christmas song, but it’s still lovely (as is the Emmy The Great cover version, if you can track it down). The Pocket Gods song isn’t brilliant, but with its refrain of “all I want for Christmas is a wank” I felt I couldn’t leave it out, not least for fear of disappointing googlers in search of rude Christmas songs. The Frank Sinatra number is from his Christmas album, and gives that very American version of Christmas, but still sounds great. The Half Man Half Biscuit song is from their 2000 album Trouble Over Bridgwater and speaks for itself. The Nixon song is heavy on ’80s synth sounds, which unaccountably makes it sound incredily Christmassy to me. And finally the Misty’s Big Adventure song is lyrically nonsense – what do jam jars have to do with Christmas?? – but musically it’s Christmassy as fuck.

Christmas songs aside, there are a few songs and records that I always associate with it. I obtained Arcade Fire’s debut album on import just before I moved to London, which was at Christmas 2004; so when going up to my parents’ each year, I always listen to it as the train pulls out of Euston. The 2006 albums from Amy Winehouse and the Gothic Archies  both work as Christmas records in my mind, while the shimmering single Echo’s Answer by Broadcast was described by John Peel as having the feel of a Christmas song, and it’s in my folder of Christmas songs for that reason.

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One comment

  1. Good man yourself, some great choises there. Here is yet another compilation to get your teeth into, this time from some really good indie bands. http://www.indiecater.com has all the details and has a player where you can listen to each of the 17 tracks. Love to know what you think of it. cheers and merry christmas!

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