By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
So how’s it going? Have you checked your 2018 holiday gift list once, and then twice? Do you have room on your list for some melodic Christmas song gems to give to yourself, your friends and your family? Of course you do!
We’ll be here all week–our Holly Jolly Christmas Party is in full swing, spreading the holiday cheer by suggesting some wonderful, melodic pop Christmas songs and albums that you can give as gifts to your friends and family (and maybe even to yourself!).
And we’ll be giving away a couple of melodic pop presents each day this week. Today’s pair of giveaways: Dana Countryman’s new Cabaret of Love, and the Corner Laughers’ 2015 classic, Matilda Effect. Enter below…
We begin today’s listing with…
Les Bicyclettes de Belsize
The 12 Days of Christmas (2018)
A late-year surprise and not only a charming, top-flight holiday-themed album but one of the best melodic pop albums of the year, Charlie Darling’s collection of original from-the-heart Christmas songs will warm you like a heaping cup of peppermint candy cane-flavored good cheer.
Bittersweet holiday tales told in pretty swaths of lovingly rendered melody, and sung with an everyman’s sweetness, color this delightful song cycle; sincere, understated orchestration, a literary approach to lyrical conceits, and a pinch of sleigh bells catch the ear time and again in lovely slow- and mid-tempo-ballads.
Darling’s vocals, sort of a contemporary cross between the tones of the Big Dish’s Steven Lindsay and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, are key to making songs like gentle ballads “Every Christmas,” about missing a love gone away, and “Stars on the Christmas Tree,” about the true meaning of the holiday, grab hold of your heart. “Holly and Ivy,” a quick-footed waltz, is a dream of a tune about settling into the feelings of the season with friends, and the charming, upbeat “Under the Mistletoe” poses the musical question, “What secrets do you keep?”
Two songs deviate ever so slightly from the mood and pace of the bulk of this magnificent album. “Bad Christmas Cover Version,” an uptempo rocker of sorts, is about exactly what you might think: bands covering the lesser of Christmas classics (“You might’ve sung a song by ol’ Greg Lake”). And “Andy Partridge (From XTC)” is a spirited pop sprint substituting the names of pop and rock bands through the ages for the various creatures evidenced in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Three Dog Night, the Dave Clark Five, Gang of Four, Nine Inch Nails and Joe Strummer (strumming), among them). It’s all in good fun and thoroughly clever and creative and perfect for this very time of year.
Working on his own, in true do-it-yourself style as the band named after the 1968 film Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, Charlie Darling is no stranger to the music scene, having spent time as a member of the four-piece pop-trash band Taxi, which was signed to a major label. Les Bicyclettes’ previous releases can be found at Bandcamp. Charlie’s next non-seasonal album is being produced by Ronnie Borland from the Orchids.
Les Bicyclettes de Belsize’s The 12 Days of Christmas is a rather pleasant surprise in these waning days of December. I’m thrilled to be able to recommend it to you without any hesitation. One of the best albums of the year, Christmas-oriented or not? Yes, indeed.
Where to Get It: Bandcamp
The Twigs | “Flying Kites on Christmas” (2018)
This typically engaging song from Laura and Linda Good, a ballad bursting with luscious harmony, an intriguing piano figure, and a gorgeous melody, is all about being together and happy under sunny skies at Christmas. The flying kites of the title act as a metaphor for problems that can ascend to the skies, away from good holiday feelings. A tremendous achievement, your holiday soundtrack is not complete without it. Melodic and wonderful.
Seth Timbs | Belly Full of Christmas | (2018)
A double-sided holiday single straight out of Nashville, this belly full of good cheer comes in two flavors: ballad and uptempo celebration. “This is Your Christmas Song” is a pretty tune in which a mother sings to her child about comfort and joy that will last through the years (“And life will be sweet and long/Until we’re old and grey/From now on/So says your Christmas song”). “Belly Full of Christmas” is a good old-fashioned uptempo celebration that urges the listener to get just what the title suggests. It couldn’t be catchier. Seth Timbs always delivers; may 2019 be his year.
Where to Get It: Bandcamp
Dana Countryman | “Gonna Be Home for Christmas” (2018)
Continuing with his ongoing tradition of offering a joyous Christmas song every year, the King of Retro-Pop delivers this sweet paean to being together at the holidays. Dana’s wife Tricia sings, Jon Goforth plays sax, and you benefit from the artist’s ongoing commitment to communicate to listeners the joy of pop music. (“Gonna Be Home for Christmas” is a bonus track on Dana’s latest album, Cabaret of Love, which is highly recommended.)
Terry Draper | A Very Terry Christmas (2016)
Resplendent on the cover in front of his Christmas tree and wearing his Santa hat and sunglasses, Klaatu’s Terry Draper pours a heaping helping of Christmas cheer in the form of five warm holiday classic sides, including two versions of the Beatles’ “Christmas Time is Here Again” (one by the jolly musical mirth makers, the Swamp Manor Jug Band), and two versions of the lovely ballad “A Song for Christmas,” one sung by Maureen Leeson. Full of joy and goodness, and a must play during the holidays.
Win a Pair of Presents!
Enter below to win a pair of melodic presents for the holiday season from Pure Pop Radio (Dana Countryman’s new Cabaret of Love and the Corner Laughers’ 2015 CD, Matilda Effect). Be sure to fill in all fields (type “Dana on the Corner” in the Comment field), and send the completed form to us by tomorrow–Tuesday, December 18, at noon ET. US residents only. Good luck!
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995 and ended this past August. Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today. Happy holidays!