FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: MORE ADVENT CALENDAR
Time to dust off the seasonal ‘I Love Kingston’ image once more as we drift on towards Christmas Day. Last week we highlighted a selection of the songs included in this year’s Fifty3 Fridays Advent Calendar. You can follow this each day on Twitter via @TonyHardy53 as I reveal a song a day leading up to Christmas. The songs are chosen from some of my favourites over the years; some you’ll know, some you won’t and mostly they are not that new.
We have posted 23 songs to date and again I have picked out a few more below from the full list by way of illustration. You don’t have to wait till tomorrow for song #24 either as it is revealed at the end and completes the full Spotify playlist.
DAY 2 RICHARD HAWLEY - TONIGHT THE STREETS ARE OURS
“Tonight The Streets Are Ours” was the first single from Sheffield-based singer-songwriter Richard Hawley’s 2007 album, Lady's Bridge. Outwardly slick and glossy, tailormade for the singer’s velvety croon and with a title that proclaims defiance, the song’s dynamics mask a sadness and almost resignation about the loss of opportunities in life. The accompanying video tells a fascinating story in itself, combining humour with pathos in equal measure.
DAY 11 PAUL SIMON - HEARTS AND BONES
Of all the great songs Paul Simon has penned during a stellar career, I keep returning to this one, “Hearts and Bones”, as one of the very best. It is shamefully a lesser-known song of his too and in a similar way to his earlier road-trip classic, “America” is centred around a journey taken this time, during his on-off affair with Carrie Fisher – the pair being the “One and one-half wanderings jews in the opening line. You rarely find words and music working in such accord as in this song: truly “the arc of a love affair”.
DAY 18 THE MYNABIRDS - GOLDEN AGE
I came across The Mynabirds in 2010 via the band’s epigrammatically titled album What We Lose In the Fire We Gain in The Flood. The band is the vehicle for ex-Georgie James singer/songwriter, Oregon native Laura Burhenn, who trades in white gospel-tinged soul with shades of pop, blues and country mixed in. “Golden Age” is from Laura’s fourth album under The Mynabirds aegis, Be Here Now. As a political polemic, the song is razor-sharp in its observations while musically it is anthemic and inspiring.
DAY 19 DENISON WITMER – CATALINA LOVE
The soft, airy piano ballad, “Catalina Love”, was one of many pearls on the exceptional 2020 album, American Foursquare, by Pennsylvanian, Denison Witmer. Written in the wake of the sad passing of a friend’s four-month-old baby who shared his first name, it is a beautifully evocative and sensitive eulogy. Songs about the death of someone close hold a certain resonance for both writer and listener. Whether celebratory or simply mournful, in the hands of a skilful songwriter, a personal truth can be received as universal.
DAY 21 KEVIN MORBY - BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS
A veteran of seven solo albums over the past nine years, as a songwriter Kansas-based Kevin Morby is as prolific as he is inventive. “Beautiful Strangers” was written in memory of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings in 2016 and to support the Everytown for Gun Safety lobby. It is a prime example of how music can assert itself as part of a healing process, touching the common bonds that bind us. The line “If I die too young or if the gunmen come, I’m full of love” offers solace in the face of fear and a simple, stoic resistance to violence.
DAY 22 SECRET SOMEONES – HEADFIRST
Secret Someones, the sadly short-lived supergroup of Brooklyn-based singer/songwriters Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, and Lelia Broussard with the addition of drummer Zach Jones, came about organically through tour sharing as solo acts and joining in on each other’s sets. “Headfirst” is from the band’s 2015 self-titled debut album and offers three minutes of the brightest and boldest pop. With searing guitar, thumping beats, a huge chorus and a weirdly fitting bridge, what’s not to love.
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST – ADVENT CALENDAR 2022
Here is a link to the full playlist of Advent Calendar songs. The twenty-fourth is already there. Traditionally – [What do you mean traditionally? It’s only the second year you’ve done it - Ed] – the final song is a Christmas one and what better than “Last Christmas” by Wham! with its glorious tune and marvellously cheesy video. That reminds me to watch Love Actually again tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everyone.
10 ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS SONGS
Finally, I was asked if my aged list of 10 Alternative Christmas Songs is still available online. It is and should you want to revisit gems such as The Vandals’ “My First Christmas (As a Woman)” or “I Want an Alien for Christmas” by Fountains of Wayne you can indulge here. Actually, this is really an excuse to give “Snow” by Kate Walsh its annual seasonal airing. The Christmas No 1 in a far-off galaxy, far kinder and more thoughtful than our own world.