Tracks of the Week: Chrimbo Special

Tracks of the Week: Chrimbo Special

It’s only bloody Christmas. Eat, drink and be flippin’ merry or else. It’s not fun for everyone, but if you know someone is struggling or are on their own, let them know you care, go and see them, have them over if you can. These are some slightly less well known Christmas songs, they’re not all fun and games, in fact the majority probably aren’t, but there’s hope in all of them. And that’s all we can have right now. Let’s hope next year is better, the same we said last year, and the year before that.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Porridge Radio – The Last Time I Saw You (O Christmas)

Why we love it: I bloody love a melancholic Christmas song. As much as we all enjoy Slade and The Pogues with Kirsty and good old Elton stepping into Christmas, we do have time for a Jona Lewie or a Wham (even though these aren’t necessarily considered maudlin they aren’t exactly Wizzard are they?!?)

Dana Margolin has a way with expressing that slight feeling of exasperation that it’s come round again so quickly, and maybe you just aren’t ready for it, in any which way. You do like Christmas but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about it. Or it’s just plain hell on earth for you. There’s plenty to take away from it.

Dana said about it when released in 2020 “It’s a song about having a miserable time every Christmas and the same cycles of heartbreak and depression endlessly repeating themselves. We had a lot of fun with it – enjoy.” (Jim Auton)

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Smith & Burrows – This Ain’t New Jersey

Why we love it: because this is a masterpiece of story telling and classic songwriting. Tom Smith (he of Editors) and Andy Burrows (he of Razorlight, I Am Arrows) suddenly appeared back in the early 2010’s with a record of covers and original compositions that included the single ‘When The Thames Froze’ along with their versions of The Longpigs ‘On and On’, Black ‘Wonderful Life‘ and Yazoo Only You’. 

This Smith penned original tells the tale of a couple getting pissed in a pub, on Christmas Eve, snow has trapped them in, the barman is getting worried, and they argue as only drunk couples do about something as stupid as whether ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ sounds iffy. 

Funny Looking Angels has become a Christmas staple in our house, a modern classic. (Jim Auton)

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Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis 

Why we love it: As the ‘70s progressed, Tom Waits moved further and further away from just being another West Coast singer-songwriter (albeit a pretty remarkable one) and Blue Valentine, the 1978 album album from which this song is taken marks a more significant departure. Here the music has become much more raw, far bluesier, and his voice is metamorphosing into that rougher, whiskey-stained growl with which we now invariably associate him. But he still hadn’t lost that incredible ability of his to dredge up an industrial-strength weepie from somewhere near the bottom of his heart. These tearjerkers are invariably populated by some sad-luck loser who lives but one step away from the gutter and ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’ is but one magnificent example of such a song. (Simon Godley)

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CMAT and Junior Brother – Uncomfortable Christmas

Why we love it: CMAT and Junior  Brother are the real deal. Raw, authentic talent emanates from every pore. They don’t need special effects, they just have the music in their souls, illuminated by their epic live shows. This dazzling Irish duo are putting alt folk and country fused pop on the map in their own right. This one-off  Christmas duet is a cracker. CMAT’s second album, ‘Crazymad, for Me,’ released in 2023 went to number one in Ireland and 25 in the UK. She won the RTE choice Prize in 2022 with her debut album, released a single with John Grant this year, and is one of the most hotly tipped artists of 2024; a global pop star who should be the next Adele. Kerry artist Junior Brother was chosen as The Irish Times’ Best Irish Act of 2019 as well as being nominated for an RTE Choice music prize. He has been making waves with his awesome visceral brand of alt folk- ancient and yet forward facing he released his sophomore The Great Famine album in 2022. Like CMAT he’s been gathering a, large and loyal following of rabid fans (including me). Both CMAT and Junior Brother toured extensively in 2023, year putting on immense, deeply rooted, witty, talented, cathartic and earth shattering live shows. 

‘Uncomfortable Christmas’  is the perfect slanted reflection of the Christmas season for some. I love this humorous, melancholic kitchen sink drama, with all the honesty and musical prowess of Dolly Parton. It reflects the claustrophobia of 2020 when it was released, but can, likewise, reflect the world- weary vibes of a pair that are getting on each other’s nerves. From the petty, “I didn’t wanna sit next to you”  to the deep ‘Everybody laughs but it leaves us in the wreckage,” their  voices perfectly compliment each other, rich and heartfelt, they embody every emotion. With  witty lines like, “Did this turkey die for my sins?”  the  track  is pitch perfect, both musically and lyrically.  Listen to ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’ here and make sure you listen to CMAT and Junior brother’s solo albums too. You won’t regret it. Nollaig shona duit!  (Carmel Walsh)

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The Band – Christmas Must Be Tonight

Why we love it: Released in 1977, Islands is the seventh and final studio album from the original line-up of The Band. It is a hotchpotch of studio outtakes plus a couple of tired old standards, hastily cobbled together as one final contractual obligation to Capitol Records. The record does no justice whatsoever to a group whose first two albums in particular can rightly be regarded as bone fide classics and who had such a profound influence upon subsequent generations of North American roots musicians. But in amongst much of that disposable dross (by The Band’s lofty standards) there are a couple of really nice Robbie Robertson tunes. There is the delightful ‘Livin’ in a Dream’ which closes out the album and the seasonal ‘Christmas Must Be Tonight’, a lovely ode to Robertson’s son, Sebastian and beautifully sung by Rick Danko. (Simon Godley)

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Bince Meef featuring Rod Stewart – Please Don’t Get Me Anything For Christmas 

Why we love it: because it’s the pseudonym of Radio Disc Jockey and all round loveable bloke, Shaun Keaveny with the help of a few scoundrels like Rod Stewart.

A playful spin on ‘All I Want Christmas Is You’ but whatever you’ve got me baaaabbbyyy, as well. A good Christmas song, a good old fashioned Chrimbo song perfected in the 70’s, has to include all the regular tropes, sleigh bells are essential, a slice of seasonal sentimentality, and a tongue firmly wedged in cheek. Shaun is no stranger to any of these in the best possible way.

A stonking sing – a – long chorus that you can bellow at your loved one in the lead up to the big day, right up until they throw what they got you in the bin. (Jim Auton) 

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Peaness – Kiss Me Sweet Pea / Sad Sea

Why we love it: Peaness recently announced a haitus, but before they leave us for a while they delivered a brilliant festive single released on their own label Totally Snick Records. With kick ass guitars, harmonies and skittering percussion lead single ‘Kiss Me Sweet Pea‘ is an unapologetic pop single embracing many of the Christmas cliches – including sleigh bells, a key change, and a nod to the classic Noddy Holder scream. 

This hooky romantic Christmas ode is another charming earworm with a scurrying singalong chours laced with wit and good hearted bittersweet qualities, from the three piece.

While B side and second single ‘Sad Season‘ is more plaintive and sombre style with its stripped-back jazz standard sound draped with pianos and front person Jess Branney sighing lovelorn vocal alongside gentle piano and a string arrangement. It summs up the wistful side of Christmas, it’s wonderful. (Bill Cummings)

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