With a song to play on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, some are covers while others are original compositions. But each has their own take on the holiday period, whether happy or sad or both.
Whatever your plans for the holiday period, please remember, a synth is for life and not just for Christmas… may it bring you lots of cheer 🙂
CHEW LIPS When You Wake Up (2010)
CHEW LIPS may be on hiatus but in 2010, on the back of their only album ‘Unicorn’ and its subsequent tour, they were on a productive high. ‘When You Wake Up’ was a bonus tune recorded and given away as a Christmas gift to fans at the end of that very successful year. Delivered with lead singer Tigs’ usual feisty panache, listening back only highlights how much CHEW LIPS are missed.
Originally released as a free download
ERASURE Gaudete (2013)
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke’s version of this traditional Ecclesiastical Latin carol continued an ERASURE tradition that had begun in 1988 with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ for the CD edition of the ‘Crackers International’ EP in 1988. With a precise electronic backbeat, ‘Gaudete’ was taken from its 16th Century origins and thrown into the new millennium whilst still retaining its original essence and a cheeky ‘Ice Machine’ sequence.
Available on the album ‘Snow Globe’ via Mute Artists
HURTS All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day (2010)
With their TAKE THAT dressed as ULTRAVOX template having achieved great success in Europe, courtesy of their debut album ‘Happiness’, Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson parradoxically turned their attentions to memories of “the worst Christmas of our lives”. In true Bros Go To Bavaria style, despite the mournful start, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day’ steadily transformed itself into a hopeful anthem with a big chorus and lashings of tubular bells.
Available as a download single via Major Label / RCA
HYPERBUBBLE A Synthesizer for Christmas (2013)
Whether it was a Casio, Yamaha or Roland, everyone wanted ‘A Synthesizer For Christmas’. Texan couple HYPERBUBBLE took that enduring memory and turned it into a delightful synthpop ditty that could resonate with electronic geeks from eight to eighty the world over. Short but sweet, it was another joyous “cartoon automaton symphony” from Jess and Jeff.
Available as a download single via Socket Sounds
LOLA DUTRONIC Another Christmas Without Snow (2010)
In the UK where a wet Christmas is always more likely, LOLA DUTRONIC’s ‘Another Christmas Without Snow’ resonated with its melancholic yet pretty demeanour. The project of Canadian producer Richard Citroen and using a flexible roster of wispy female vocalists, the tones of Lola Dee came over all dreamy like SAINT ETIENNE and conveyed the mixed emotions of the season impeccably.
Available as a download single via Lola Dutronic
MARSHEAUX We Met Bernard Sumner At A Christmas Party Last Night (2015)
‘We Met Bernard Sumner At A Christmas Party Last Night’ is a wonderfully whispery synthpop number that is classic MARSHEAUX. The lyrics are constructed from the song and album titles of NEW ORDER to provide an imaginary narrative on Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou surreally bumping into the Manchester combo’s lead singer at a Yule Tide function.
Available on the album ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past (Remake)’ (V/A) via Les Disques du Crépuscule
NORTHERN KIND Tears & Tinsel (2008)
With the vocal sound of Susanne Sulley from THE HUMAN LEAGUE after singing lessons at an audition for DEPECHE MODE, NORTHERN KIND’s ‘Tears & Tinsel’ looked at the darker side of the holiday season, with reflections on the more sensitive topic of homelessness. Originally driven by a distinctive Korg rhythm box, the track was later reworked for long form consumption to prove the point that the issue was indeed “not dependent on the seasons”.
Alternate version available on the album ‘Wired:’ via Northern Kind
HANNAH PEEL Find Peace (2014)
‘Find Peace’ is a Christmas song longing for the cold but merry winters of yesteryear under the modern day spectre of global warming, armed conflict and political tension. It is certainly a suitably poignant message for the festive season. With hints of GAZELLE TWIN, the off-kilter analogue buzzing and almost random sequences make for a striking listen as a frantic percussive death rattle and an emotive synth drone take hold to provide an appropriate backdrop for HANNAH PEEL’s eerie but beautiful voice.
Available as a download and 7 inch single via Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club
PET SHOP BOYS It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (2009)
Originally recorded in 1997 for an exclusive fan club single but remixed in 2009 for an official release, ‘It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas’ was a suitably camp offering that couldn’t have been anyone else. Famous for keeping THE POGUES ‘Farytale Of New York’ off the 1987 UK Christmas No1 spot with their cover of ‘Always On My Mind’, while this didn’t hit those commercial heights, it provided a very PET SHOP BOYS take on the madness of the festive season.
Available on the EP ‘Christmas’ via EMI Records
SPARKS Christmas Without A Prayer (2015)
Back in 1974 for their ‘Kimono My House’ album, the Mael brothers recorded a song called ‘Thank God It’s Not Christmas’, a typically perverse SPARKS romp that had nothing to do as such with the holiday season. Currently enjoying their highest profile since their pop heyday, thanks to their FFS collaboration with FRANZ FERDINAND, Russell and Ron ended the year with ‘Christmas Without A Prayer’, a fitting offering which also amusingly outlined that albums by WINGS were actually unwanted gifts.
Available as a download single via Lil’ Beethoven Records
VICE VERSA Little Drum Machine Boy (2015)
“A twisted cover of a cover of a cover”, this synth laden reinterpretation of the tune (based on a traditional Czech carol) made famous by a bizarre but highly enjoyable version by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, saw former ABC stalwarts Mark White and Stephen Singleton reconvene as VICE VERSA to wax lyrical about 303s, 808s, 909s and a “shiny new Roland toy”. It was a fabulous combination of sleigh bells, squelching arpeggios and of course, drum machines…
Available as a free download via https://soundcloud.com/vice-versa-electrogenesis/little-drum-machine-boy
VILE ELECTRODES The Ghosts Of Christmas (2013)
If ‘Twin Peaks’ met ‘Leader Of The Pack’ under the mistletoe, it would sound like this. Possibly the best Christmas tune of the last five or ten years, Anais Neon’s harrowing tale of a departed loved one is strangely enticing, with the beautifully haunting echoes of JULEE CRUISE’s ‘The Nightingale’ lingering over the frozen lake.
Available on the EP ‘The Ghosts of Christmas’ via Vile Electrodes
Text by Chi Ming Lai
20th December 2015