There’s only one well-known Christmas song by Simon and Garfunkel: their haunting 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night which is a portmanteau of the well-known carol with a simulated (but based on real events) news broadcast which gradually takes over from the angelic singing to remind us that NOT EVERYTHING IS PEACE AND GOODWILL, MKAY? And Paul Simon clearly decided while writing this 2010 Christmas single that the format wasn’t broke so he wasn’t fixing it, and came up with a jolly, bob-along, Cecilia-ish track that hovers around the edges of being political and is superimposed over a sample of a 1941 sermon by the Reverend J.M. Gates. The result is a slightly complex mishmash of meanings (from which I think you’re allowed to choose your favourite), but if you ignore all of that and just listen to the sound of it I promise it’ll make you want to dance. Which is more than can be said for Silent Night.
Technically this song dates from 1991, but since this version of it is from 2012 it’s allowed. There’s a version by Pentatonix, whom we heard from last week with That’s Christmas To Me, which has a better video, but this version by CeeLo Green is my pick because his voice is just soaringly beautiful, it’s a better and more interesting arrangement and because at 2:24 it goes full Live And Let Die, which is what you probably, and I definitely, need on a chilly December Monday.
Welcome to Crooners’ Sunday! This title track from Tracy Thorn’s 2012 album is most like a benign take on Fairytale of New York, but it has echoes of at least a dozen other Christmas classics, because Tracy Thorn is a brilliant songwriter as well as a beautiful singer. This one is best enjoyed with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine, which coincidentally is exactly what I’ll be having shortly.
Welcome to the Killers’ 2014 Christmas effort, with a video directed by Jimmy Kimmel and a story that lands somewhere between Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Ugly Duckling, which makes it both extremely Christmassy and very sad, but not if you can bear to hang in there until the end. If you can’t be bothered to follow the story just enjoy the animations and the Christmas jumpers, both of which are top notch.
Sorry today’s is so late, I was cleaning my now former flat and it took ALL DAY. But it’s worth the wait because this song is both perfect and awful in exactly the same way as Love, Actually or Songs That Make Will Feel Sick, which would make it perfect for Christmastime even if it weren’t a Christmas song, which it is. I assume Pentatonix all live in a house together and spend all their time working up acapella five-piece harmonies, but I’m too tired to Google them and find out. I mean, you would if you could, right?
I really like this ballady, wifty-wafty number, which is by Katharine McPhee, who turns out to be another of those US talent show winners who can actually sing. This is the only self-penned number from her 2010 album Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You and it sounds like it might be going to be insipid, but it’s got more depth than you think it’s going to have, whilst also sounding exactly like the music that would be used in the montage scene of a made-for-TV Christmas movie. But as you know, I love those movies. I’m also feeling seasonally sentimental because my Polish team have just given me a goodbye present of a gift box containing three types of honey and a bottle of vodka.
I had to swap today’s song with tomorrow’s, once I realised that my original line-up had two sad songs next to each other. There’s nothing wrong with a sad Christmas song, of course, but they’re better in small doses, and I’m moving house today so I need a song that will cheer me up and keep the energy levels high. So here with their second (and final) entry in this year’s advent calendar are Los Campesinos!, a band whose name even cheers me up.
(But yes, be warned, more Sad Christmas tomorrow.)
This song didn’t exist the year we had a Sad Christmas advent calendar theme, but if it had, it would have been high up the list because it’s GREAT, with a painful and funny video that has a particularly spectacular moment at 1:35. I always get LCD Soundsystem mixed up with Black Box Recorder, for reasons I can’t pinpoint, so instead of talking about them and getting it wrong, I will allow frontman
Luke Haines James Murphy to introduce the song himself, via Twitter:
so, there’s been this depressing christmas song i’d been singing to myself for the past 8 years, and every year i wouldn’t remember that i wanted to make it until december, which is just too late to actually record and release a christmas song… but this year, al doyle had a short break between hot chip tours where he could be in nyc, and pat and nancy were home, and tyler agreed to fly out from berlin for a few days, so we all recorded this together, reserved a pressing plant slot, and our friend bob weston was available to master it quickly—so that means, less than 2 weeks after we recorded it, there is actually a christmas 7″, which feels like something that could only have happened a very, very long time ago.
anyway, for the holidays we give you the previous, very long run-on sentence, and this song: “christmas will break your heart”, which is another one of those songs which had about 75 lines of lyrics, though we’ve knocked down to 8 to keep the suicide rate in check.
We’re going as far back as we’re allowed for today’s song, to December 2008 when this cover of a little-known Connie Francis track made it to a heady number 22 in the UK charts after being used as the soundtrack to a Co-op commercial. I’m generally anti the trend of accompanying Christmas ads with drippy, insipid versions of well-known songs (John Lewis is the worst, but not sole, culprit) but this is the opposite; a ballsy cover given bite by Gabriella Cilmi’s voice, which is firmly in Winehouse/Joplin territory and jazzes the number up immeasurably. It’s the sort of song you should dance to, and I suggest you do.
I know I’m supposed to hate Coldplay, I just can’t remember why. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing them live was at Glastonbury 2005 (the best of the post-fence Glastonburys), when @och_shona and I got stuck in the mud their fans had churned up as we tried to take a short cut across the front of the Pyramid stage on our way back from watching the Proclaimers in whatever that falling-apart tent on the outskirts of everything used to be. So there’s that, I guess. But I can think of more Coldplay songs I like than ones I don’t (although if I’m honest I can only think of five Coldplay songs), and I like THIS song, and traditionally we’ve always saved Sunday for middle-of-the-road crooners, and they are that, and the video is like the opening sequence of Moulin Rouge! transported to London, and it GOES INTO WALTZ TIME HALFWAY THROUGH and all in all, it’s a yes from me, Simon.