Hot on the heels of She & Him, Ash frontman Tim Wheeler and his singer/songwriter girlfriend, Emmy the Great, further add to the rather niche genre of indie pop boy/girl duo yuletide records with their unique collaborative effort, This Is Christmas. Written during a particularly heavy snowstorm that saw them stranded in Sussex following six canceled flights, and completed in New York in the midst of Hurricane Irene, its 11 tracks may have been conceived in rather fraught conditions, but there's little evidence of it here. Inspired by the seasonal Wall of Sound productions of the '60s, the glam rock Christmas number ones of the '70s, and the synth-led festive guilty pleasures of the '80s, the pair's first full-length joint venture (which also includes Bloc Party's Matt Tong on drums) is a resolutely feel-good homage that unashamedly revels in sentimentality, good old-fashioned nostalgia, and the odd knowing wink.
When it comes to Christmas songs and albums it’s more a case of who hasn’t as opposed to who has; offerings have and will continue to pour down the chimney with varying degrees of success from artists and groups both young and old, from the generally respected likes of Low’s Christmas via Elvis and Sufjan through to the collective detritus that makes up The Best 40 Christmas Anthems Ever, a collection one imagines contributes directly to the infamously high suicide and murder rates around this time of year. Somewhat terrifyingly Editors’ frontman Tom Smith and the former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows also seem to be coming good with their threat of a Christmas album out later this month; if this fills you with anything like the level of panic that it does me, I will be hunkering down in a bomb shelter with some vodka and The Smiths back catalogue until the frost thaws if you’d like to join. That said, Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler’s offering has some refreshing and justifiable provenance, albeit whiffing slightly of artistic license; last December the Christmas gods conspired to leave them snowed in and missing flights.
Given the histories of its makers, there's no surprise that This Is Christmas features both spunky, Ramonic guitar pop and wistful acoustic balladry. The bigger shock is the third element in Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler's seasonal collaboration: the sound of throwaway 80s chart pop. Snowflakes is all tinny drum machines, cheap keyboard washes and the kind of synthesised basslines that, to listeners of a certain age, will summon images of Radio 1 DJs in tinsel crowns with their jacket sleeves pushed up introducing Top of the Pops.
A quirky festive collection revealing a wickedly singular wit. Mike Diver 2011 The weather outside might not be frightful just yet – at least, not through this window – but there’s no doubt that it’s on the turn, and soon enough that fire will come into its delightful own. And what better soundtrack to snuggle by is there than one of countless seasonal selections doing the rounds right now? Take your pick from traditional carols, wintry pop favourites dressed up in trendy threads, or perhaps something a little fresher: This Is Christmas is a predominantly self-penned set from Emmy the Great and her Ash-fronting fella Tim Wheeler.