20 songs getting the NME Office into the festive spirit this week, featuring Peace, Kate Nash and The Killers
If there’s one thing Peace have made clear in the last two years, it’s that they love to fool around. But while the video for the band’s take on Wham!’s festive classic has LOLs aplenty (frontman Harry Koisser making notes about how they need “more maids-a-milking” is one of the highlights), their version of the song itself is the perfect example of what Peace do best: fun pop with loads of heart.
Rhian Daly, Assistant Reviews Editor
Poly Styrene is a genuine punk legend who ripped up music’s rulebook with her band X-Ray Spex. A couple of years before she died from cancer in 2011, she recorded this duet with Goldblade’s John Robb about the melancholic side of the season – but rather than being morose, it’s a righteous and life-affirming call to arms. Proceeds will go to support her hospice as well as other charities. It’s a Christmas single with credibility.
Kevin EG Perry, writer
Both solo and with his former band, Ohio’s space-rock power trio Emeralds, Mark McGuire specialises in ultra-limited releases. None more so than ‘The Sounds Of Xmas’, an album written for pals and relatives in 2006 and now uploaded to Mark’s Bandcamp. This track weaves together cloudy drones, porcelain-pretty acoustic guitar and samples of a McGuire family home video. Spoiler: the young ’uns were stoked with their gifts.
Noel Gardner, writer
Though that title may be faintly creepy (what are you going to place in our outstretched palms, Shy Nature?!), you’ve nothing to fear from these London lads. A shimmer of cymbal, a tinkle of glockenspiel and a cosily snuggling bassline add festive cheer to their already sugarplum-sweet combo of Smith Westerns/Drums-style doe-eyed indie and the plaintive, youthful vocal delivery of early Maccabees. Don’t forget to make a wish.
Emily Mackay, writer
Kate Nash adds a blunt entry to the canon of anti-Christmas songs with a pop-punk tale of Yuletide betrayal. She gets drunk at the office party, pops in to see her boyfriend, then: “It’s Christmas once again, but you’re fucking one of my friends”. Oh dear. It’s not all doom, though: ‘I Hate You This Christmas’ comes from Kate’s optimistically titled ‘Have Faith With Kate Nash This Christmas’ EP.
Phil Hebblethwaite, writer
This pairing of two of Dublin’s newest treasures – September Girls and The #1s – breeds charmingly grouchy results. “I lie awake at night thinking you should be here”, coo the girls. “Can’t be with you this Christmas/You cause me nothing but pain”, moan the boys. It’s like a festive version of Grease, with added xylophone.
Lisa Wright, writer
Diplo’s Mad Decent Christmas mix is so surreal you’ll think someone slipped something into your eggnog. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ are all transformed into wubbing trap bangers, but it’s ‘Frosty Bounce’ that truly wows: one minute and 44 seconds of military beats and Father Christmas “ho-ho-ho”-ing. Santa never sounded so sleazy.
Al Horner, writer
It takes a warped sort of festive pop saboteur to write the theme tune to the sequel to children’s Christmas classic The Snowman and open it with a melody that’s a tribute to the theme from The Exorcist. Thankfully Andy Burrows soon polishes up his falsetto and piles on the seasonal bells and references to choirs and flying over churches for his bombastic indie theme to The Snowman And The Snowdog. The power of Keane compels him.
Mark Beaumont, writer
People who can’t handle a goblet of Baileys and an entire Christmas cake to themselves wrongly think that it’s horrid being single on December 25. This is Pins’ own tear-stained, wall-of-noise tale about being without the one you love. As singer Faith Holgate sighs “Won’t you come home and kiss me quickly… it’s Christmas”, you’ll be last-minute hunting for a hot babe to put in her Christmas stocking.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor
Manchester band Shinies capture the ennui of the Christmas aftermath as they gaze at their new shoes on this bruised and battered tune. Lurching into life like your dad after one too many sherries, frontman Adam Davison gets amorous and sings, “Meet me by the mistletoe, this time of year there’s definitely something in the air”, before urging someone to “decorate me like a Christmas tree”. It’s not quite “Merry Christmas everyone!” but it works.
David Renshaw, News Reporter
Brandon and the boys team up with crafters of lazy Californian canyon rock, Dawes, and the ghost of Warren Zevon for a depressing spin on a festive anthem. Lyrically it’s all about lost loves, dead-end acting careers and whiling away the afternoons with nothing but booze for company. The twinkling Spanish guitars and lilting harmonies salvage something uplifting from the emotional wreckage.
Leonie Cooper, writer
The Aussie psych dreamers deliver an immaculate slice of syrupy festive pop with their first Christmas track. There are saccharine lyrics (“Let’s bring a cheer to all our friends and neighbours, both far away and near”), jingle bells and even an ‘Away In A Manger’-style choral interlude that coos, “The whole wide world should all give thanks to all their gods”. We’d only tolerate such nauseating optimism at this time of year.
Jenny Stevens, Deputy News Editor
When Sharon Jones was a child she questioned the existence of Santa because of the lack of chimneys in the New York projects. Her mum’s reply? “As soon as you’re asleep a chimney will appear and in the morning you’ll see what he brings.” Nice try, mum. For a Crimbo tune, the theme’s a bit of a downer, but it’s got that
Dap-Kings funk juice and the return of Jones’ fudgy voice after her recovery from cancer.
Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor, NME.COM
The Mancunian funk enthusiasts tone it down for this rendition of Mud’s mid-’70s smoochfest. Pan pipes and soft keys abound, giving it an air of Hurts if Theo Hutchcraft was being drip-fed some very good sedatives. Which is, of course, exactly what you want from a festive favourite re-imagined by a bunch of bored twenty-somethings with a keen eye for dicking about on a £20 budget.
Matt Wilkinson, New Music Editor
Pleasingly, Swim Deep eschew the usual Christmas-single clichés on ‘Brussels’, an understated piano ballad with nary a Santa reference or children’s choir in sight. In fact, its only concession to the season appears to be sharing a name with everyone’s favourite festive veg. Austin Williams even goes so far as to admit that “the summer’s in my brain”. Perhaps he should consider Christmas in Australia.
Barry Nicolson, writer
Every year from 2001 until 2012, Yo La Tengo played a goofy Hanukkah show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, where they first played in 1984. The venue closed its doors this July, but YLT carry on the tradition with ‘Toymageddon’, an apocalyptic vision with Ira, Georgia and James describing how toys decided enough was enough, declared war on Christmas and “roasted our nuts on the fire”.
Laura Snapes, Features Editor
London’s answer to Tame Impala sprinkle psychedelic fairy dust on a little-known 1967 Christmas corker by US singer-songwriter Margo Guryan. Reinvented as echo-chamber pop of the Jesus And Mary Chain variety with phased vocals and – mercy! – not a single sleigh bell, the track is available as a free download. But be warned: Younghusband is for life, not just for Christmas.
Dan Stubbs, News Editor
This does have sleigh bells, but ‘Finishing Your Dinner’ is actually about love rather than Christmas. “I want nothing more than to hear about the last year of your life/But I have been on a train for four hours and if I don’t eat I might die” sings Ellis Jones over sad guitars. Then members of Lone Omi, The Jelas and Two White Crane chip in with brass and drums, and it ends with a racket that sounds like A Hawk And A Hacksaw.
Tom Howard, Reviews Editor
After 30 years of ‘Last Christmas’ covers, the world probably doesn’t need another – especially with this being 2013’s second indie attempt at it. But this is the season of goodwill and no band deserves some of that as much as Summer Camp. It’s impossible to fault the duo’s version, with Elizabeth Sankey’s voice full of the necessary heartbreak to evoke the song’s yearning over her husband Jeremy Warmsley’s twinkling guitars.
Andy Welch, writer
This festive seven-inch from the Californian punk-funkers has the same bouncy synths and sexy whispers of “Merry Christmas” as Macca’s ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ and Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’. “I’ve been around the world/Seen all kinds of girls/And I’ve seen nothing better than you in that sweater”, sings Nic Offer in a slinky four-to-the-floor paean to fleeting love and decorative jumpers. With cowbells thrown in, naturally.
Matthew Horton, writer