sat 20/07/2024

CD: Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler - This is Christmas | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler - This is Christmas

CD: Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler - This is Christmas

Hugely enjoyable original seasonal collection from an unexpected source

Emmy and Tim prepare for Christmas. In late August, by the look of it

This is an unexpectedly wonderful album. A five-star rating might seem a bit much but then judging music in the same way as sport or exams is a bit crap anyway. So let’s say 5/5 compared to other Christmas albums and, yes, this is at the very summit. Ever. Then again, it’ll be useless from 2 January until next December.

Making a Christmas album is like writing haikus or cooking soufflé - it follows a precise formula, absolutely requiring key elements that are incredibly hard to quantify correctly and, most especially, make even faintly original.

The backstory here is that smashingly affecting singer-songwriter Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler, frontman of Northern Irish punk-pop trio Ash, were snowed in last December and, originally calling themselves Sleigher, wrote a song, here present, called “Sleigh Me”, then decided to make an album.

It’s all brilliant, from the explosive Spector-esque guitar pop of “Marshmallow World” to the trash-lite silliness of “Zombie Christmas”, the string-laden last-song-at-the-prom “Christmas Moon” to the WHAM!-like “Snowflakes”, the Ramones pastiche “Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)” to the stupidly touching “(Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas”, about a lovelorn Santa’s missus. Then there’s the single “Home for the Holidays” which nails all the stupid, messed-up emotional explosions and nostalgic love affairs Christmas can possibly wreak, however much we sideline it. As for “Jesus the Reindeer”, it’s so contagiously goofy my capacity for description flakes in the face of it.

Thematically, This is Christmas is half about the sense of longing, love and human affection Christmas at its best can bring, whether we’re into it or not – a fact acknowledged directly in the poignant acoustic sign-off “See You Next Year” - balanced with perfectly estimated nonsense garage pop. Only time can tell which Christmas tunes have legs – as the saga of “Fairytale of New York” bears witness - but this deserves to join the club. An absolute gem.

Watch the video for "Home for the Holidays". Richard Curtis couldn't nail it better


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