Advent song for December 16: Wise Men

After Wednesday’s mother-daughter combination, today we have an even bigger family affair with Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s final studio album, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour from 2005, which features Kate’s children Rufus and Martha Wainwright as well as less well-known family members like the third sister, Jane, Anna’s husband Dane Lanken and their children, plus a bonus smattering of famous pals (Beth Orton, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne). Rufus also co-produces (although I am never quite sure what that means, and sometimes I think it definitely means “features in the credits for financial and publicity purposes”, though I expect that is not the case here).

Anyway this track is the only one written and performed solely by Kate and Anna themselves, and it’s lovely, as is this accompanying video which, I think, has nothing officially to do with the song.

 

 

 

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Advent song for December 14: Il est ne, le divin enfant

I love this. It is a bit weird but super awesome, although maybe mostly (maybe only) if you are already a Siouxsie fan. Which I am, so that’s OK. This was a double A-side with Melt in 1982 and didn’t appear anywhere else until a 2004 compilation, so it is a relative rarity. Look at how earnest they are! Look at little Robert Smith! And listen to the horns! Let’s all be Christmas punks!

Advent song for December 13: Christmas In The Air

I get Carole King mixed up with Carly Simon. Is that just me? I expect it is; they’re not really anything alike. Except in that they have both recorded Christmas albums in their post-height-of-fame years, but so has nearly everyone. A Christmas Carole (I know!) was released in 2011 and produced by King’s daughter Louise Goffin, who also co-wrote this chirpy and gently feminist number, which is the sort of song you should definitely dance to as long as you’re not at the office, which I am.

Advent song for December 12: Here We Come A Wassailing

Well, isn’t this lovely? I suddenly ran out of songs yesterday, having gone off a couple of my original selections, so I appealed to the social medias and got a bunch of suggestions back, mostly featuring singer-songwriters I don’t know or don’t know much about, including Kate Rusby, of whom I had never heard but who came separately recommended by THREE different people. She turns out to be one of the best-known contemporary British folk singers there is, so I obviously haven’t been paying attention. And she further turns out to have recorded a whole bunch of Christmas songs, almost all covers rather than her own stuff (though she does write her own stuff), but this is the first track from her first Christmas album (of four) and it’s a lovely version of a well-known song, and I especially like that you can absolutely hear her Yorkshire accent on the chorus.

 

Advent song for December 11: Jólakötturinn

It’s time for some holiday horror. “Jólakötturinn” is, as you know, Icelandic for “Christmas Cat”. According to Wikipedia:

The Yule Cat is a monster from Icelandic folklore, a huge and vicious cat said to lurk about the snowy countryside during Christmastime and eat people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve.

Ho ho ho! And here is Bjork singing about the Yule Cat in 1987 when she was barely out of her teens, although, it says here, the lyrics were written by the Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum and the song is by Ingibjörg Þorbergs who, if you Google her, is clearly also a woman, and so we can celebrate them both today. Gleðileg jól!

Advent song for December 10: December

It’s Sunday, which means it’s time for some jazz-infused country music! I really love Norah Jones’s voice and I also love her music, which is completely out of its time, but in a good way. When the children of successful musicians become musicians themselves they are sometimes bland imitations of their parents, but Norah has inherited a talent and done something completely different with it, which is much more impressive.

Today’s song is also for David, whose birthday it is. Wish him a happy one, if you see him.

Advent song for December 9: My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)

This song made it in, then made it out again on the basis that I don’t really know any songs by Regina Spektor, then made it back in again when I (a) listened to this song (it’s amazing!), (b) listened to some songs by Regina Spektor (she’s amazing!) and (c) had it recommended by Mark, who is both a musician AND Sweeney’s friend so of course he gets to make a pick. (Two, actually, so keep paying attention.)

Regina Spektor, like Sia, is the sort of singer I should like to be. This number is a golden oldie, recorded in 1960 by Peggy Lee and I’m sure by various other artists at various other times. But this version is gorgeous, even though it has helicopter and gunshot sound effects for reasons which I cannot discern. But listen to the backing vocals! Gorgeous. Best served with a glass of mulled wine/ginger and lemon tea (I am still a bit ill) and some friends around a piano.

Advent song for December 7: Cherry Tree Carol

It’s time for some calming country music. There are lots of versions of the Cherry Tree Carol, and plenty sung by women, and quite a few sung by women who are also songwriters, but I picked Emmylou Harris’s version because – well, because it’s the best, with apologies to Joan Baez and Judy Collins. It’s cold and windy and we need cheering, and this is a cheery version. Draw up a chair, it’s time to light the fire.

 

Advent song for December 6: Snowman

I love Sia. She is almost exactly my age (well, actually she’s much older, but we would have been in the same year at school), she is a fabulous songwriter and performer, and she does exactly as she pleases with utter disregard for other people’s opinions. I would like to be like Sia. This year she has released a Christmas album, so for the first time in Glad All Over advent history here is a song that has only been out for a matter of weeks. The album never hits the heights of Chandelier (if I hadn’t been out drinking svařák and eating halušky at the Prague Christmas market I’d have made some kind of a ceiling-related joke here), but it is likeable and listenable, the way songs are when a brilliant songwriter dashes them off in an hour, and this is my favourite of them all. Veselé Vánoce!

Advent song for December 5: The Land Of Christmas (Mary)

What I like about this song is that it’s so completely and essentially Carly Simon that it’s impossible to tell what era it dates from. Go on, have a guess. No, go on. It’s from 2002! Did you get it right? I somehow thought it was from the eighties, although I guess the production values are maybe not quite right for that. This is from her album Christmas Is Almost Here, making it the perfect advent song. I am writing in a hurry because I have to be on a plane to Prague in just over two hours, so tomorrow’s song will come from the land of Good King Wenceslas. Na zdraví!