FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: CHRISTMAS IS COMING
It wasn’t all that long ago that people used to sidle up to you and say “winter is coming” and, fully armed with the expectation that you too must be watching Games of Thrones, add a knowing wink. Yet, strike me down sergeant, it’s only August and now Christmas is coming. I have Dolly Parton’s press agent to thank for this unseasonal prompt. It transpires that Dolly is helping to lift our spirits with news of her upcoming album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, due out on 2 October. A mixture of festive standards, showbiz duets and some Dolly originals, the record was all recorded in a socially distanced fashion, and becomes her first holiday album in 30 years.
Following her unforgettable Glastonbury Legends spot in 2014 – surely it can’t be that long ago – our affection for Dolly should know no bounds. Does it quite excuse thoughts of reindeer and snow during a sweltering August heatwave? I’m not so sure. What it does do though is provide a seamless narrative link to the currently more seasonally driven Test Card Girl and what she describes as ‘a little summery work in progress written with producer of sunshine, Dave Fidler’. The overriding optimism of “My Summer Song” would dispel the cloud under anyone’s head yet under today’s cloudless sky sounds ripely fine too. Just wait for those harmonies to kick in.
This song demonstrates the lightness of touch Catherine Burgis aka Test Card Girl brings to all her work. Track back to Fifty3 Fridays on 3 July for more about this terrific emerging artiste. If justice took the hand of talent, then Test Card Girl’s forthcoming album, Seven Dolls, would rival Dolly’s for the Christmas No 1 album. [That’s quite enough dolls – Ed].
Photo of Another Sky by Parri Thomas
Another Sky is a band who have built up a steady head of steam over the past three years only to arrive somewhat explosively with the release last week of debut album, I Slept On The Floor. It is a bold, intense record that is destined to make Another Sky everyone’s favourite ‘new band’. It’s an engrossing listen and one that is best experienced from start to finish, rather than by cherry picking tracks. “Fell In Love with the City” is a great introduction to the band’s light and dark dynamics and the exceptional voice of Catrin Vincent. The song charts a kind of catharsis experienced by Vincent in embracing city life after an anxious youth in what she describes as a ‘white picket fence town’.
Another Sky’s striking vocalist shares something of the near-operatic range of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid but comparisons beyond that are not too clever, as Catrin Vincent clearly implants her own trademark which mixes hushed tones with moments of raging vitality, lit up by anthemic musical crescendos. The album’s title references Vincent’s troubled time when she grew up with a fear of beds, preferring to sleep on bathroom floors in case she got sick at night. Speaking about the album, Vincent revealed: “I Slept On The Floor documents the childhood rejection we carry with us into adulthood. This album is about only understanding a place once you've left it." It’s a record I seriously recommend you get to know.
Another artiste to have found her feet in the Big Smoke from rural roots is Shropshire-raised, Alex Jayne. Self-taught on guitar and with a rich, lush vocal style which marries alt-pop tones with a transatlantic and, at times, country drawl, she has shared her new single “Backseat”, having earlier this year featured in The Guardian’s 50 Great Tracks for March with her song, “90s Dream”. Anyone who has taken a late-night cab ride across town to home can relate to the quiet, confined space which contrasts the lights and commotion of the city outside. That’s unless, of course, you have a driver who wants to tell you why he voted to leave.
Thankfully there is nothing of that ilk to upset the reverie of Alex Jayne’s back seat experience as she contemplates the non-stop city bathed in flickering lights, imagining somebody close to her yet elsewhere in that moment, while amplifying her feelings for that someone. Sometimes you don’t need video to augment such moods; the real strength of “Backseat” is in the images Jayne conjures from her relaxed position and how well they are carried by the accompanying music.