Friday, 16 December 2011

My Christmas Playlist

  1. The Fall—Winter (Peel Session)

From the unbeatable Hex Enduction Hour, this song about a mad kid with a rabid dog and a cleaning lady for a mother makes for chilling and inscrutable listening. It also has a bassline so repetitive and drone-like, it sums up The Fall’s entire musical approach.

  1. The Birthday Party—Dead Joe

Imagine skirling down an icy road into oblivion in a burning Mini Metro, and you have this bludgeoning epic. Impossible not to resist that hacking chorus of “oh-oh-oh-ho-ho-ho DEAD JOE!” sung by Nick Cave at the height of his post-punk Old Testament madness.

  1. Galaxie 500—Listen, the Snow is Falling

This band succeeded in making a Yoko One song listenable, turning it into a haunting classic with deliriously wispy vocals from Naomi Yang and a heartstopping build-up into a sublime 90s indie fuzz. From the supremely superior shoegazer classic This is Our Music.

  1. The Lightning Seeds—Sugar Coated Iceberg

I can’t resist the Lightning Seeds: they made my childhood so wonderfully upbeat before the teenage gloom set in. Who can resist this shameless sugar-pop at Christmas, with a cameo appearance from a then-cool PJ & Duncan in the cheeky video?

  1. Mazzy Star—Flowers in December

I am a sucker for soaring violins and gentle female vocals, but who can blame me when the song is this affecting? Winter, after all, is about barren, icy lands, the slow passing of time, about how all things pass and what remains are those fleeting moments of pure happiness. Or presents and turkey.

  1. Lisa Germano—The Darkest Night of All

Germano is a little-known singer-songwriter based in LA whose 90s albums are the best-kept secret of American indie. Her music takes me to dark places with its often unbearable honesty and unflinching songs about social anxiety, alienation, rape and depression. Yields incredible emotional rewards for the listener willing to listen to her incredible music.

  1. The Smiths—Well I Wonder

I always think about the incredible blackness in our world at Christmas—a time when so many are strangers to the happiness we take for granted. As someone familiar with Grade-A loneliness, I strive to appreciate how lucky I am to have two loving families to turn to, though it’s not always easy for me to be so aware. This song is unbearably sad, but immensely powerful too.

  1. Magnetic Fields—Everything is One Big Christmas Tree

On a lighter note, this wonderfully silly “Orc-folk” song with its German refrain always make me titter, and making me titter isn’t always the easier task, as the last song description shows. I love Stephin Merritt’s acerbic lyrics and the masterpiece 69 Love Songs.

  1. Kristin Hersh—Winter

Kristin Hersh is my favourite female musician—or heck, my favourite musician, period. This song from Learn to Sing Like a Star is a dramatic sweep of cello grandeur and a divine chorus of healing proportions. And the bells add equal brilliance to the package. This live version isnt great, so find the studio cut if possible.

  1. Xiu Xiu—Chocolate Makes You Happy

This is more a song about bulimia and self-loathing than a celebration of Cadbury’s finest products, but what could be more Christmassy than stuffing your face with fowl to forget how much you hate yourself and how horrible your stepbrother is every time he “satirises” Mohammed?

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