If you like your Christmas treats in aural form, then Santa outdid himself this year.
While the annual TOTP festive special was busy attempting to convince us that Fleur East’s blatant ‘Uptown Funk’ rip-off ‘Sax’ was the pinnacle of 2015’s musical ability, the internet was quietly rumbling with the news of some far more exciting offerings.
Taking a fairly traditional festive route (lots of sleigh bells; lyrics about “peace and love”; upbeat, chirpy tempo) it already sounds like a cult classic single. When they’re on the kind of sentimental form that gave us ‘Time Of Your Life’, Green Day can be soppy old sods, and their foray into seasonal festivity is exactly the right balance between give-your-mum-a-hug warm-heartedness and turn-the-amps-to-11 guitar solos.
Then, on Christmas Day we got a double whammy of delights.
LCD Soundsystem came back from the dead with ‘Christmas Can Break Your Heart’ – the seminal New York troupe’s first new track since their split in 2011.
Aside from what the track hints at (is that a reunion we smell in the distance?), ‘Christmas Can Break Your Heart’ is everything you could ask for in an LCD track. Minimal and simple, it begins sparse and melancholy before exploding into a huge, heart-tugging, gut-wrenching finale a la ‘New York, I Love You’. If this marks the return of James Murphy and his band of genre-melding dancefloor dons, then they’ve given us the greatest Christmas present of them all.
Later in the day, meanwhile, Radiohead dropped ‘Spectre’: their unused Bond theme tune.
Sure, it’s not exactly a Christmas song, but dear lord was it an exciting Christmas gift. If bombastic, sweeping Bond strings and fragile, Radiohead tenderness seem like unlikely bedfellows, then ‘Spectre’ proves otherwise. Thom Yorke’s croon is all cracked, falsetto emotion, cutting through plaintive pianos in the piercing, spine-tingling way that only ol’ Yorkey boy can; the bitter, sardonic delivery of “oh Spectre, how he laughed” and the ominous, slicing strings that amp up around it, meanwhile, are faultless. “Can’t believe they asked Radiohead and Sam fucking Smith got the green light,” commented NME reader Kyle McGurk on Facebook. Man’s got a point.
And now to Boxing Day and a final festive missive from BFFs Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips, entitled ‘My Sad Christmas Song’.
Of course, this is Miley and even her moping Christmas is still delivered with a little tongue in cheek humour. “My sad Christmas song” is rhymed with “lighting up a bong”, while the pop provocateur also extolls the virtues of Santa as “kinda cute”. Still, behind the Miley-isms, there’s something genuinely quite touching about the plaintive ballad: rather than schmaltzy festive fakery, Miley knows that being away from the one you love at Christmas sucks and she’s not going to sugar coat it. And we’ll raise a glass to that.
All in all, it’s been a sterling year for surprise musical presents, but which of them was the shining star on the top of the festive tree? Cast your votes below and let us know…