FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
So, the decorations came down on Wednesday and it’s all over for another year. Time will tell whether we all caught Omicron and whether Boots will ever get another delivery of lateral flow tests. Or quite how much all this disposable pandemic-related stuff is adding to global warming. Despite all this paper and card we seem to be recycling, we are currently struggling to purchase a box of facial tissues. What could be next I wonder? Panic foraging?
Back to the script [There’s a script? – Ed], I have the fab support of Midlands maestros, The Happy Somethings, to thank for The 12 Days of Christmas. After the trio’s generous daily endorsement on Twitter for my Fifty3Fridays 2021 Advent Calendar of great songs, I was inspired to keep the idea of a track-a-day going for another twelve. The result is a pot pourri of aural delights, with little if anything to do with Christmas, which I do hope you will enjoy.
Alex Hall ft. Denney
“I Swear That It Was Love”
I had previewed “I Swear That It Was Love” earlier in December as it crowned a brilliant year of individual musical output by Alex Hall and Denney by bringing them together to craft a natural vocal chemistry in a gorgeously bittersweet yet ultimately tender duet. This is my Christmas #1 on a nearby planet.
One of my two favourite songs of 2018 was “Seventeen” by Sarah Beth Tomberlin, taken from her sparkling debut album, At Weddings; itself something of a masterpiece from one then aged just 23. “Seventeen” perfectly expresses those feelings of finding your way in the world that we can all relate to from our own youth.
Sweet Billy Pilgrim
“Asking for a Friend”
From the hugely absorbing album, Wapentak, Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s “Asking for a Friend” was my other stand-out song from 2018. It’s a rare thing for two voices to blend quite this instinctively and harmoniously, while the small embellishments within the song’s stripped-back construction are divinely placed.
Devonian, Cosmo Jarvis, has been on my radar since I first saw him live over 10 years ago. These days he is increasingly known as a filmmaker and actor - check out The Naughty Room and Calm With Horses especially. I’ve always loved his third studio album, Think Bigger, while his earlier 2011 single “Gay Pirates” is an absolutely classic take on homophobia.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Canada’s Barenaked Ladies and dusted off the band’s fulsome 2003 album, Everything to Everyone recently. “Another Postcard” from this album follows the style of the band’s biggest hit, “One Week”, with its rap-style verses. One for anyone who has ever received a series of postcards with chimps on them. You mean you haven’t?
Arc Iris, the Providence, Rhode Island trio of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams, keyboard meister Zachary Tenorio-Miller and percussionist Ray Belli have always been true innovators. Finding a song that typifies the band’s marvellously eclectic output is tough but “Kaleidoscope” from Arc Iris’ second album, Moon Saloon, makes a fair fist of it.
“I Won't Follow”
“I Won’t Follow” is the dynamic opening track from Secret Someones empowering eponymous 2015 debut LP. The short-lived supergroup of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriters Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler and Lelia Broussard along with drummer Zach Jones sadly went on ‘indefinite hiatus’ the following year and are back doing their solo things now.
After a 2014 debut, Dublin/London-based singer Louise Cunnane aka Blooms followed up with two singles, “Love” and this one, “Fall”, which simply glides over you in its ambient splendour of warm swirling synth, light-touch guitar, precise percussion and soft dreamy vocals. Blooms has kept a low profile in her career to date but will surely blossom in the coming year.
Lily & Madeleine
The beautifully weighted “Westfield” has the added bonus of its own compelling teen mini-movie. The song is from Keep It Together, the third album from Lily & Madeleine, the prolific Jurkiewicz sisters from Indianapolis. At the time of release, the siblings had a combined age of just 40, yet maintain the poise and polish you might associate with industry veterans. They went on to release an equally fine fourth album in 2019, Canterbury Girls.
Dum Dum Girls
“Lost Boys And Girls Club”
US goth rockers Dum Dum Girls started life as the bedroom recording project of front woman and songwriter Dee Dee Penny in 2008. “Lost Boys & Girls Club” is from the third studio album, Too True, from the now sadly defunct four-piece with songs inspired by 19th century French poetry and 80’s synth music. Penny is in fine voice here with her lost boys and girls in a curious H&M meets S&M post-Garden of Eden set.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love asked me for a favourite guitar solo. There’s only one Gord Tough and here he is alongside Canada’s incomparable Kathleen Edwards on a live version of the epic “Goodnight California” from the singer-songwriter’s third album, Asking for Flowers. I’ve always considered Kathleen to be an exceptional talent and Gord’s lead guitar makes for a perfect partnership.
“Fear of Flying”
There must be something about third albums. “Fear of Flying” is from the 2014 offering by erstwhile seven-piece Gabby Young & Other Animals, a label-defying band which juggled a bewildering range of musical genres, fronted by the inimitably stylish, operatic-toned Miss Young. There are songs to get the party started and others to provide reflective beauty, scarcely seen to better effect than in the stunning “Fear Of Flying”; ‘a joy to get you through hard times in your life’.
PLAYLISTS R US
You’ll find all the above songs on a handy The 12 Days of Christmas Spotify playlist.
Plus you can access a new Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist every month! It features all the songs in order from the previous month’s Fifty3 Fridays, assuming they are listed on Spotify. December’s Playlist includes 31 songs. For various reasons “First Christmas” by JF Robitaille & Laila Arad can’t find its way onto Spotify so I have added the duo’s “Heathrow” as a more than able substitute.
2021 ADVENT CALENDAR
If that isn’t enough, a song and video a day from my Fifty3Fridays 2021 Advent Calendar of great songs ran on Twitter from 1st December through to Christmas Eve.
Hope you enjoy these playlists and will share them! It’s back to new music next week.