Christmas is coming, the goose isn't able to fit into the pants he used to, and the festive singles have started to "drop", as young people say. This week's selection of top tunes is topped and tailed by such seasonal fare, but hell, it's Christmas every day where we are, and wouldn't complain if all eight songs gave off Santa vibes.
Last week it wasn't Christmas, but that didn't stop guitar guru Sophie Lloyd giving herself a giant present by trouncing the other selections in a trouncing so convincing it may be the most convincing trounce ever in the entire history of trounces.
Sophie's Nathan James-featuring winning entry is below, but it would be disrespectful to proceed with this week's battle without first mentioning last week's vanquished: Marisa And The Moths' Pedestal (opens in new tab) finished a distant second, while Steve Hill's Don't Let The Truth Get In The Way (Of A Good Story) (opens in new tab) was even further back, if that's even possible.
The fresh meat is below. Let battle commence!
The Sheepdogs - I’m Ready For Christmas
December has begun, which means we can officially expect advent calendars in shops (not just lurking on the top shelves, the way they tend to anytime from Easter), the sound of sleigh bells every time we turn on the telly, tinsel everywhere and, yes, Christmas singles. And we’re kicking off with a good ‘un for you – part vintage yuletide cheese-fest, part Quo-meets-Creedence boogie, and decked out in the ‘Dogs’ honeyed harmonising of vocals and guitars. As impossible to dislike as a bagful of puppies in Santa hats.
Starcrazy - Hysterical
New faces at TOTW, these young Aussies marry 70s glam swagger with denim-clad riffage and harmonised blasts of pop sunshine. Not to mention that all-crucial, sometimes-elusive ingredient in such well-trodden sonic territory – a proper song with a chorus that sparkles. Enough to make you feel seventeen again. Or nineteen. Or forty-four. Or whatever age you happened to find yourself at your most carefree. Happy Monday y’all.
Those Damn Crows - This Time I’m Ready
Spine-tingling from the get-go, and taken from the Welsh rockers’ next album Inhale/Exhale (out in February), This Time I’m Ready is the real deal: a really gorgeous rock ballad that will resonate with anyone who’s grieved, drawing from experience of the Crows themselves. Frontman Shane Greenhall says: “Trauma will change you; grief will give you a perspective like nothing else, relentlessly force-feeding you the conflicting reminder of just how brutal, yet beautiful, life can be."
Little Triggers - Personality Crisis
They were a five-piece, then a foursome, then a duo… now Little Triggers is a flexible vehicle for main-main Tom Hamilton’s creative exploits, of which this is the latest. What’ll happen next is anyone’s guess, but Personality Crisis is more of the jutting, chattering caffeine-bomb frenzy Little Triggers do rather well. It’s like hearing the Hives and Jet shaken up in a bottle of Pepsi in a New York loft circa 2002 – with Dr Feelgood and MC5 lurking in the background. Now don’t say that doesn’t sound like fun.
Gaz Coombes - Long Live The Strange
There’s a darkly psychedelic whiff of the Beatles’ A Day In The Life to this new single from the Supergrass frontman – built from a piano base into a bewitching piece of intelligent alt/pop rock. Combined with the moody angles of latter-day ‘Grass album Road To Rouen, it steadily envelopes the listener like a pair of velvet-gloved hands that might be about to seduce or strangle you (a creepy subtext aided by all the manikins surrounding Gaz in the video). Strange and scintillating.
Emily Breeze - The Bell
Bristol-based indie/noir-pop songstress Emily Breeze has released a “love letter to the pub”. An upbeat, lo-fi cocktail of garage vibes and funny midlife observations – dark without being depressing – it makes us think of Patti Smith fronting The Strokes. Find more on her upcoming album, Rapture, described as “a collection of coming-of (middle) age stories which celebrate flamboyant failure, excess and acceptance”. Sounds grand to us.
Black Star Riders - Riding Out the Storm
A week after announcing new guitarist Sam Wood, Black Star Riders are back in the news again, this time for releasing another single from their upcoming album Wrong Side Of Paradise. Riding Out The Storm is a poignant tale of life and loss that frontman Ricky Warwick says "conveys reflections of mortality and consequences of choice." It's not an in-your-face, full-vagabond rocker like some in BSR's quality catalogue, but it's no less powerful for that, and the video – shot in downtown Los Angeles – is suitably cinematic.
When Rivers Meet - Christmas Is Here
Putting a blues rock twist on the deluge of Christmas singles due to reach our ears in the coming days and weeks, When Rivers Meet mix their delta-spiked classic rock with some festive cheer. And, pleasingly, they sound like they’re having fun doing it. This is a classy Christmas tune with a bright-eyed, warm-n’-fuzzy chorus alongside its cooler, bluesier components – not the ironic, eyebrow-raised, oh-isn’t-Christmas-totally-lame affair that others might have made it. And thank god for that.