FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: THE ADVENT CALENDAR REVEALED
It is time to dust off the festive ‘I Love Kingston’ image once again as we approach Christmas Day. Today's Fifty3 Fridays is all about the calendar. Last week we highlighted three of the songs included in this year’s Fifty3 Fridays Advent Calendar 2023 and this week a few more are in the spotlight. You can follow the calendar each day – well until Sunday - on Twitter via @TonyHardy53 as I reveal a special song a day leading up to Christmas. The songs are all drawn from a well of personal favourites; a few are seasonal though most are not.
That’s enough about Christmas for now. Well, apart from a tart observation that a trip to the dentist to drain an abscess is mostly preferable to hearing to the first 50 seconds of Mariah Carey overdoing the melisma on “All I Want For Christmas Is You” which greeted Kingston Sainsbury's shoppers at circa 09:45 today. It wasn’t all bad though as Elton John’s festive travesty “Step Into Christmas” was left off the playlist and I’d left the store before I had to hear that key change again in Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone”. Christmas, bah humbug. On with the Calendar.
DAY 3 HANNAH ROSE PLATT – THE GENTLEMAN
Though I am by nature list-averse I have consistently lauded Deathbed Confessions by Hannah Rose Platt as one of the finest albums of 2023. This charming ditty with an animated video to boot offers a subtle contrast to many of the darker tales on the album as Hannah unfolds the story of a mysterious benevolent spirit called The Gentleman, one who was so kind and loved in life that in death he continues to help people in apparently mundane, everyday ways. So, the next time when it seems that absolutely everything has magically fallen into place, perhaps you had a visit from 'The Gentleman'.
DAY 7 DIZZY – BEATRICE
Our next selection dials back 3 years when the Canadian four-piece Dizzy released its exceptional second album, The Sun and Her Scorch. Lead vocalist and lyricist Katie Munshaw has a particularly candid style which is evident on this beautifully judged break-up song, “Beatrice”; a street by the way, not a person. In the video the band are playing live instruments while Katie puts in an emotive, captivating performance. Dizzy has returned with an equally strong eponymous third album this summer and a future Advent Calendar slot is somewhat nailed on.
DAY 10 LITTLE MAJORETTE - LES CHASSEURS ET LES CUEILLEURS
Forward to 2021 where we find Little Majorette, the musical pseudonym of English singer songwriter Zoe Durrant. Her moniker reflects her dream of wanting to become a majorette when she was little, dressing up in a blue costume and dancing around the room. As a child she also used to collect toy cars produced by the cult French brand, Majorette. “Les Chasseurs et Les Cueilleurs” is from Zoe’s EP, Waves, created with producer Peter Ågren from Swedish band, The Amplifetes. Inspiration for the song came from the 1960s cult film, The Collector, featuring Terence Stamp. The song title translates to 'hunters and gatherers' as Zoe offers her personal take on infatuation. It is rare that a song can be simultaneously as hyper catchy as this while remaining elusive and intriguing.
DAY 17 TINY RUINS - ME AT THE MUSEUM, YOU IN THE WINTERGARDENS
Tiny Ruins is the moniker of New Zealander Hollie Fullbrook who I had the pleasure of seeing live as part of a splendid Bella Union showcase at the Union Chapel in August 2014. How time doth pass. Hearing it live, there was an evident subtlety and simplicity to Hollie’s beguiling music. “Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens” particularly stood out for its fine melody, the delicacy of Hollie’s finger-picked guitar and her softly longing vocal. Her song style is rooted in the traditions of folk music but not bound by any obvious limitations of the genre while her songs are always neatly observational and quirky.
DAY 19 FAMILY OF THE YEAR - HERO
“Hero” is from LA’s Family of the Year’s 2012 album, Loma Vista but if you are one of the 23 million plus YouTube viewers who have watched it you may know it more from the film, Boyhood. The song fits the movie’s spirit like a glove and it was no surprise that it won a Golden Globe. Yet if you know the album, you will recognise it as one which is seamlessly brilliant; its strength lying in communal storytelling wedded to killer tunes. With just three more albums since its 2009 debut, Family of the Year’s output may not be prolific but it is as golden as it comes. Loma Vista is definitely one for your digital stocking if you get nothing else this Christmas.
DAY 24 THE DISAPPPOINTMENT CHOIR - A PRETTY GOOD CHRISTMAS
OK, it’s not Christmas Eve but for the sense of completeness we ought to announce Day 24 song now. Traditionally – OK I know this is only year 3 of the Calendar – the final song is a Christmas one and this time I look no further than the glorious “A Pretty Good Christmas” by indie-pop duo Katy Greene and Rob Armiger aka The Disappointment Choir. I have journalist Kevin McGrath, whose fundraising project for the homeless charity, Crisis, I have supported here, to thank for introducing me to the song. You can find it on Kevin’s compilation Have Yourself a Merry Indie Christmas Vol 1 and 2, an epic digest of 108 Christmas songs spread over two volumes from a raft of indie bands, still available via Bandcamp. You can also pick up Volume III of this mammoth collection with 35 new tracks for £5 or more at Bandcamp.
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST – ADVENT CALENDAR 2023
Here is the full Spotify Playlist of Advent Calendar 2023 songs. If you are Driving Home for Christmas, it will take you an hour and a half of the way. Congratulations to Andrew Ridgeley now that Wham’s “Last Christmas” has finally reached No 1, 39 years after it was released when it was kept off top spot by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Though Sam Ryder with “You’re Christmas to Me” ran Wham! close, the Christmas Chart is yet again dominated by old songs. The challenge is on for some more originality to be injected into the seasonal process. Then again, I don’t know why I am droning on about Christmas songs as there are only three of them in our Advent Calendar Playlist. Enough.
Have yourselves a Pretty Good Christmas, everyone x
10 ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS SONGS
Finally! Just in case you get really bored on Boxing Day, my aged list of 10 Alternative Christmas Songs is still available online. You can revisit gems such as The Vandals’ “My First Christmas (As a Woman)” or “I Want an Alien for Christmas” by Fountains of Wayne by clicking on the link here. Reprising this old list is of course little other than an excuse to give “Snow” by Kate Walsh its annual seasonal airing. The Christmas No 1 in my alternative universe.