Best Christmas album 2011: Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler’s This Is Christmas
Justin Bieber, She & Him, The Wurzels and Glee also reviewed
Now more than ever the discerning music fan has about as much reason to look forward to Christmas as a poor Primark employee looks forward to the stampede of burly, booze-breathed horrors thundering through them at opening time on Boxing Day en route to the super-discounted pants. Although, as a sprinkling of genuinely very good festive releases from the likes of Low, Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens have proven over the years, there are occasional crackers to be pulled from among the usual blizzard of over-sincere schmaltz, novelty nonsense and TV talent show turkeys, and this season’s no exception.
Beginning a round-up working on a rough scale from bah-humbug to yo-ho-ho, it’s the Glee cast’s latest dispatch of cash-in Christmas crap, Glee the Music: The Christmas Album Volume 2 (Epic) ●, and Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe (Mercury) ●, a set that will leave some young ladies puckered with joy and the rest of us harbouring a burning wish that we could have been the one to break the hopefully still raw news to the precocious wee cheeser that Santa’s not real. Should either of these yuletide hot logs turn up in your stocking this December 25th, lament not – where once such records were for life and not just for Christmas, now you can have them sold on Amazon by December 26th. Yo-ho-ho.
Seasonal standards sung in a jaunty West Country farmer accent? No, it’s not Mumford and Sons’ Christmas album, god for-fucking-bid, but The Wurzels’ The Wurzels Christmas Album (CIA), which gets a charitable ●●● because it’s that time for goodwill to all men etc (except Mumford and Sons), and because we’ll take an album suitable for kids’ parties above one sung by an overgrown child any day. That means you actress-singer lady Zooey Deschanel, and She & Him’s nauseatingly twee A Very She & Him Christmas (Domino) ●●, deluxe editions of which come with an exclusive pair of mittens and a winter cap. What’s that you can taste? Yes, it’s yesterday’s mince pies.
Tis the season to be jolly, however, and for that reason we’ll pick Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler’s This Is Christmas (Infectious) ●●●● as our festive favourite – even if they did maddeningly decide against putting this album out under the laughing-all-the-way moniker ‘Sleigher’, and even if they do look so pint-sized adorable in their knitwear and cosy hats on the cover sleeve it’s frankly a bit disgusting. The fun’s turned up to 11, on an album mostly of originals warmly embracing styles from Spector pop for rocking to in your socks, to twinkling electronica and cuddly fireside duets. Would any other indie power couple have imagined the comic book horror rock of ‘Zombie Christmas’ (‘I don’t wanna have my last noel, we’d better kick those zombies back to hell’), or mixed and matched Christmas legends to come up with the resplendently nonsensical ‘Jesus the Reindeer’? It all adds up to an album with the rare distinction of being one you might even dig out again next December.