FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: THE ADVENT CALENDAR RETURNS
Fifty3 Fridays breaks with tradition in the run up to Christmas. Most weeks I write about new music emanating from emerging, largely independent artistes; a creature of habit I guess which may also explain why I always add an ‘e’ to artist. Using, in this case, the good offices of Twitter and YouTube I post a song a day each day up to Christmas Eve. You will find them at @TonyHardy53. The songs are drawn from some of my favourites over the years; some you’ll know, some you won’t and mostly they are not that new. Hence the break with tradition.
We are now two-thirds the way through Advent and, while there isn’t the space to feature all 16 songs posted to date here, I’ve picked out a few that have particular resonance, not that the other choices are lacking, of course. I will publish a full Spotify playlist next Friday and meanwhile here are some tasty appetisers.
DAY 3 KATE WALSH - THE BAKER
“The Baker” is from the 2011 album, The Real Thing, by Brighton-based songstress Kate Walsh before she stepped away from the limelight for what has proved to be a lengthy hiatus. The album was hallmarked by its sincerity and purity with each song recorded in a single take. “The Baker” is often overlooked in Kate’s stellar repertoire but as an expression of love it is simplicity exalted.
DAY 4 SWEET BILLY PILGRIM - JUST ABOVE MIDTOWN
“Just Above Midtown” is probably the most immediately accessible song on Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s 2015 album, Motorcade Amnesiacs. The accompanying ‘Director’s Cut’ video has some enticing additional footage. Originally a quartet of English school friends and in recent years slimmed down to the core of singer-songwriter/guitarists Tim Elsenburg and Jana Carpenter, Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s new album, Somapolis, is out now and it is yet another gem.
DAY 6 LUCY DACUS - HOT & HEAVY
I had the pleasure of seeing the great Lucy Dacus in concert here back in April and this song, admittedly among a whole bunch of them, stayed with me and keeps coming back. “Hot & Heavy” from Lucy’s Home Video album is a visceral blend of sweet and sour self-reflections as she recognises changes in her own life and personality, sparked by familiar places and faces.
DAY 8 SARAH KLANG - FEVER DREAM
I discovered the delights of Swedish songstress Sarah Klang through randomly finding this song, “Fever Dream” which is off her May 2021 album, Virgo. It was great to catch her live subsequently on the short UK leg of a European tour in March. Lush, romantic and with an earthy sensuality, she dreams of a lost love amid feverish symptoms and frames from an 80’s cop movie set against a backdrop of wonderfully resonant guitar.
DAY 13 REVERE - THROWING STONES
November 2016 saw the final show by the majestic London collective, Revere, fittingly held at the Union Chapel. For those of us who had followed the band since its early days it was an especially moving occasion. The band’s music always had an epic, widescreen quality to it and Revere’s mastery of the slow build through to heroic waves of sound is very much in evidence on this song from the album Hey! Selim, “Throwing Stones”. Check out more on YouTube and Bandcamp.
DAY 14 LILY & MADELEINE - THE WOLF IS FREE
I have been a fan of the prodigious Indiana-raised sister act Lily & Madeleine, since first seeing them play at Bush Hall in 2014 when the combined ages totalled just 36, despite having already recorded two albums. “The Wolf Is Free” is from the second of those, Fumes, and I have always been drawn by its sonorous quality and subtle vocal harmonies. There is an interesting sitar-effect to boot.
While in the Christmas mood, if you are sitting shivering indoors, upset by the latest hike in interest rates or too late to order the Christmas turkey, think of the plus side - you could be outside, someone once was prepared to lend to you and you could still pick up a bird off the shelf come 22nd December. Now, in a more positive mindset, let’s be charitable and support journalist Kevin McGrath’s monumental fundraising project for the homeless charity, Crisis. Have Yourself a Merry Indie Christmas Vol 1 and 2, a mammoth digest of 108 Christmas songs spread over two volumes from a raft of indie bands, is available via Bandcamp.
If that’s too much to get your mind around, you can also buy a limited edition CD or digital download of 16 songs selected from the double album for just £7 or more if you can afford it. Kevin is closing in on a target of raising £5,000 so every sale counts. Among the 16 tracks, this one is as magnificent as they come. “A Pretty Good Christmas” by indie-pop duo Katy Greene and Rob Armiger aka The Disappointment Choir. Some song and some band name. Here’s a video but you will also find this on Bandcamp as Track 4 on the aforementioned a limited edition CD. Twitter followers will find it as today’s Advent Calendar choice too.