After the year we’ve had, and the prospects for the year to come, I think we all need a little Christmas starting from now. Even Santa's lost a bit of his mojo!
With that in mind, I’ve updated the Pop In The Real World Christmas Crackers playlist. There’s a link to it above.
There’s nearly seven hours of Christmas music there. Some are old, some are new. It includes various carols and a number of songs that give pause for thought. There are a couple of darker songs but they are far outnumbered by songs that capture the Christmas party spirit. Hopefully, they’ll allow you to savour a relaxed run up to the day itself.
I’ve taken out a few songs that, perhaps, dampened the festive mood. I’ve added more that were new to me, requested by members or, almost unforgivably, forgotten about on previous lists. I’ve tidied up the playlist too, removing some that seem to be unavailable to stream now.
A number of songs appear more than once but by different artists. I think each version adds something the others don’t have. It does mean though that a song like ‘Last Christmas’ may get on your nerves if you listen to the playlist without shuffling it first!
This Year’s New Entries
There have been a surprising number of good Christmas songs that are new to me this year.
The best new album, by far, is Julia Stone’s ‘Everything Is Christmas’. Well, not everything, obviously. Easter for example isn’t Christmas. Julia has a pleasantly unusual voice that adds fresh dimensions to old songs. Her version of ‘Last Christmas’ is a duet. I could easily have included the whole album, but decided not to in the interests of balance.
We all know that the Housemartins struck gold, frankincense and myrrh one Christmas with their version of ‘Caravan of Love.’ They kept with the Christmas theme in their later incarnations too. The Beautiful South’s ‘Hold It Back’ is an unashamedly downbeat take on the festive season. “A dog’s life is for life, not just for Christmas” is a sample line so you can hear that it’s full of bittersweet humour too. Sadly it’s not on Spotify, just YouTube. Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott have also released a Christmas song - ‘Christmas (And Dad Wants Her Back). It’s a song where ‘Lonely This Christmas’ meets ‘A Fairytale Of New York’.
There are a few jazz entries too. Don’t worry, they haven’t taken over the list and they certainl;y won’t spoil your enjoyment of it. Hear them as the kind of jazz that forms the soundtrack to a 50s Christmas film, or is played in the lounge bar of the hotel where you congregate before heading off to the party. The Christian McBride Trio’s version of ‘Silent Night’ is as smooth as it comes and Aaron Diehl’s ‘Sleigh Ride’ wanders amiably across snow capped fields. ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is regularly featured in lists of the best Christmas album ever, often at No. 1 and ‘O Tannenbaum’ deserves its place in it. Joss Stone has a Christmas album out too - ‘Merry Christmas Love’ and that also has a bluesy, jazzy feel. Her version of ‘What Christmas Means To Me’ is much more akin to a lost Tamla Motown Christmas classic.
A couple of people have corrected me on one point since the list was last updated. Apparently the sound of the Christmas spirit is not that of Baileys nestling in a glass after Christmas dinner. Rather, it’s the sound on Michael Buble’s silken tomes oozing from the speakers. Fair dos. He’s not my cup of tea but by popular demand I’ve corrected his previous omission with his version of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
There seems to be something about the indie genre and Christmas that brings the two closely together. The excellent '24' compilation (pictured) proved to be a treasure trove of hidden Christmas gems, or baubles, a couple of of which are included in the indie selection below.
In no particular order, The Popguns ‘Twelve Days Of Christmas’ is a heartwarming tale of dating before Christmas and bonding over music. It quickly became a Pop In The Real World essential selection. Parenthesis’ ‘The Betsey Gets Me (Christmas Special) has the air of a song that wasn’t originally intended for Christmas but the added touches are very well done. It’s catchy and quirky enough to rival ‘Santa’s Lost His Mojo’ in your affections. On ‘Must Be Santa’ Kurt Vile sings with the air of a disreputable Uncle on his best behaviour and roped in for pre-Christmas babysitting. Marika Hackman’s ‘Driving Under Stars’ and Camera Obscura’s ‘The Blizzard’ both tell tales of travelling home for Christmas. They reminded me that Chris Rea’s classic ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ was another original classic inexplicably absent from the list until now.
‘Santa Stay Home’ is a good indie Christmas tribute from U.S. Girls and Rich Morel referencing lots of Christmas favourites. ‘Home Along Too’ also references a Christmas favourite - the film - in building a song about separation at the most wonderful time of the year. It’s from The Staves. The antidote to both these songs comes from Fickle Friends and ‘My Favourite Day’. There will be something here that’s recognisable to anyone with a growing teenage family.
The indie crowd aren’t afraid to tackle the classics either. Goldfrapp’s take on ‘Winter Wonderland’ is worth its weight in brandy butter, highly restrained by their standards and all the better for it. Best Coast fire up the Beach Boys’ ‘Little Saint Nick’ into the rock and role staple it’s always been underneath the harmonies. ‘Here We Come A-Caroling’ is a new one on me but if previous versions are as good as this one from Pomplamoose,I’ve been missing out.
Reflecting pressure from the Millennium generation, East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ is added to the list. I persist in hearing this as a classic boy band ballad, that’s only turned into a Christmas song by the bells at the end.
And finally, S Club 7’s ‘Perfect Christmas’ is as sweet as a date and marshmallow sandwich, topped with chocolate. It lacks all credibility but it just happens to be the song that captures all the sentimentality and adrenaline fuelled rushes of happiness that can be associated with a very good Christmas. I hope you all get a chance to agree.
Merry Christmas everyone.