PLAYLIST: Christmas 2020

Whether you’re a Christmas music fanatic or a misanthropic seasonal Scrooge, there’s no doubt your approach to Christmas is going to be different in 2020. We can’t wait to get off the Government’s ever-changing carousel of chaos, with its flimsy guidelines and confusing restrictions, but while we’re on it, at least we have a decent festive soundtrack to play us out of this insane fairground ride called 2020.

To the bands, artists and labels we’ve worked alongside – you’re all diamonds and we look forward to working with you again in 2021. Let’s raise a glass to those who managed to release something in 2020, and another for those who had to sit this one out. We love you all, Merry Christmas from the GIHE team. xxx

Take some time to read through our Christmas track choices and make sure you hit play on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post. We’ve also included a few festive gems that are only available on bandcamp/YouTube, so make sure you listen to them too!

Poly Styrene – ‘Black Christmas’
This buoyant sounding festive tune from the one and only Poly Styrene comes with a much needed dose of lyrical realism. Featuring vocals from Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, ‘Black Christmas’ is an anthem for those who feel uncomfortable celebrating at this time of year, a sentiment that feels more poignant than ever in 2020. (Kate Crudgington)

The Crystal Furs – ‘Drinking Alone At Christmas’
A festive offering from Oregon queer indie-pop band The Crystal Furs, ‘Drinking Alone On Christmas’ sparkles with uplifting shimmering synths, honey-sweet vocals and scuzzy hooks, providing the perfect juxtaposition of twinkling festive cheer with refreshingly honest lyricism. Reflecting on the all-too relatable scenario of “drinking alone on Christmas”, it’s a must for all those ‘Christmas parties’ we’ll be having alone in front of our laptops this season. The band describe the track as a “non-traditional holiday pop tune of drinking, catgirls, and holiday ennui”. (Mari Lane)

Basic Bitches – ‘I Hope Your Holidays Are Fine’
A relatable and cautiously optimistic tune from Brooklyn-based riot grrrls Basic Bitches. The band say this song is about “the general sense of dread and disappointment that accompanies the holiday season once you reach adulthood, when the most you can hope for are big leftovers and small hangovers.” (KC)

The Go! Team – ‘Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming!)’
Taken from Memphis Industries’ Christmas compilation album Lost Christmas, The Go! Team’s ‘Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming)’ flows with the collective’s trademark jangling energy. Fizzing with a twinkling optimism and vibrant, catchy musicality, it’s an instant festive earworm. Of the track, the band explain: “It started life as a loose anti Brexit metaphor – an appeal against small mindedness – to ‘look outside your window’. But the last year has totally changed the meaning. I guess it’s about trying to stay positive when it’s the hardest it’s ever been.” Other artists featuried on Lost Christmas include Rozi Plain, Field Music and The Cornshed Sisters. Buy Lost Christmas here. In aid of Crisis’ Home for All Campaign, £2 from every LP purchase goes to help their work. (ML)

No Doubt – ‘Oi! To The World’
I couldn’t really have a Christmas playlist without this festive punk-pop belter from Gwen and co. (ML)

Dream Nails – ‘Lonely Star’
The gift that keeps on giving, feminist punks Dream Nails and their joyful Christmas single ‘Lonely Star’. The track is dedicated to those who may be feeling isolated or alone at this time of year – especially their LGBTQ fans – and all the money raised from track sales will be donated to The Outside Project, the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Homeless Shelter. You can buy their track bandcamp now. (KC)

Problem Patterns – ‘Christmas Number One’
The new festive banger from Belfast feminist punks Problem Patterns who we’ve championed many times on GIHE this year. Mari and I are big fans of these grrrls and we’re looking forward to hearing more from them in 2021. (KC)

Charley Stone – ‘Merry Christmas Actually’
A familiar face on the London music scene, featuring in many bands including Salad, Charley Stone has now shared her own Christmas offering. Inspired by “the worst scene from the worst film ever”, ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ flows with jangling hooks and a twinkling sense of romanticism, oozing Stone’s sugar-sweet vocals and a delicate, swirling indie-pop charm. ‘Merry Christmas Actually’ was recorded with Donald Ross Skinner. (ML)

Eurythmics – ‘Winter Wonderland’
Eurythmics’ vocalist Annie Lennox was born on Christmas Day, but she is the musical gift that keeps on giving whatever time of year it is. It’s also the tenth anniversary of her solo Christmas album A Christmas Cornucopia, which is a delightful soundtrack to wrap your presents to. (KC)

The Big Moon – ‘Carol Of The Bells’
London four-piece The Big Moon deliver a splendid version of this classic made famous by the ultimate Christmas film, Home Alone. It makes me wish I had a microwave mac & cheese dinner in front of me, just like Macaulay Culkin does before he smashes Marv’s face in with an iron. (KC)

Rachael Dadd, Rozi Plain, This Is The Kit – ‘We Build Our Houses Well’
Another one taken from Memphis Industries’ Christmas compilation album Lost Christmas, ‘We Build Our Houses Well’ features Rachael Dadd alongside both Rozi Plain and This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables. Flowing with luscious folk-strewn melodies and sweeping glistening harmonies, it’s a beautifully uplifting slice of winter sparkle. Of the song, Dadd explains: “After the isolation of lockdown, it felt natural to write a Christmas song that was basically like a big sonic party, inviting all my friends and collaborators over my whole life to join together. Feeling blessed to have made so many good friends through music and to have most of them all in one place here on this song, representing connection at a time where so many of us feel isolated.” Buy Lost Christmas here. In aid of Crisis’ Home for All Campaign, £2 from every LP purchase goes to help their work. (ML)

Alanis Morissette – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
I was supposed to see Alanis Morissette live for the first time this year, but alas, I’ll make do with her cute cover of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s single instead. (KC)

PINS – ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’
A festive cover by Manchester trio PINS and a perfect musical accompaniment to drink your festive tipple to. (KC)

Grace Petrie – ‘Fairytale Of New York’
Grace and her band’s take on the Pogues’ classic, this rendition of ‘Fairytale Of New York’ flows with folk-laden strings, soaring harmonies and an up-tempo sense of festive cheer, culminating in the perfect re-writing of that lyric – replacing it with “You scumbag, you maggot, WE LOVE DIANE ABBOTT”. It’s simply impossible not to sing along at the top of your lungs and feel a little bit of hope for what 2021 might bring. (ML)

Girl Ray – ‘I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift This Christmas’
A classic from my faves Girl Ray from back in 2017, ‘I Wish I Were Giving You A Gift This Christmas’ is the perfect smattering of joy we all need right now. With just the right balance of Christmassy sparkle and the band’s trademark shimmering, sunny charm, it’s a song about longing and loneliness at this time of year. Complete with a children’s choir, sleigh bells and even a whinny of a kidnapped reindeer (!), the track is a delightful slice of twinkling garage-pop to get you in the mood for this time of year, when some of us may be struggling to do that right now. (ML)

Gold Baby –Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter’
A Bing Crosby classic reimagined by indie darlings Gold Baby. All proceeds from this single will be donated to the campaign to end loneliness, so head over the Gold Baby’s bandcamp now and give what you can. (KC)

CMAT, Junior Brother – ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’
Irish pop sensation CMAT is the queen of relatable pop tunes and this Christmas tune is no exception. A beautiful duet with Junior Brother, ‘Uncomfortable Christmas’ is the perfect dose of festive melancholy. (KC)

Self Esteem – ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Work Email’
A soulful festive anthem from experimental pop artist (and Slow Club member) Rebecca Taylor, aka Self Esteem, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Work Email’ is an alternative Christmas bop for any of us who may not look forward to Christmas as much as most. Dedicated to those who may cope with these times of “celebration” by immersing themselves in work as a distraction, Taylor says of the track: “I wanted to write a song for fellow people who cope with life by working and creating and moving forwards – the enforced stillness of Christmas can be so triggering… ” (ML)

Piney Gir / Roxys – ‘White Winter Hymnal’
Piney Gir’s cover of the Fleet Foxes classic contains all the soothing festive sparkle you need right now. Oozing sparkling crystalline vocals and a gentle celestial grace, it’s a truly beautiful rendition of one of my favourite winter soundtracks. Recorded originally for the Joyzine Advent Calendar, ‘White Winter Hymnal’ provides a taste of what’s to come from Piney Gir and Roxys, as they’re currently working on an upcoming new EP, set for release in 2021. (ML)

TLC – ‘Sleigh Ride’
Who doesn’t need a bit of TLC-shaped joy at this time of year?! (ML)

The Pretenders – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’
Originally performed by Judy Garland in the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, I love The Pretenders’ festive version of this classic. Praise be for Chrissie Hynde. (KC)

Dolly Parton – ‘Coming Home For Christmas’
This one’s for Tash! Dolly is the star in the winter sky and we all love her un-shakeable optimism. (KC)

 

These tracks aren’t on Spotify, but they’re too good not to include!

Fightmilk – ‘Healey’s Only Wish (This Christmas)’
Taken from their new festive album, the wonderfully titled Fightmilk & Cookies – a collection of Christmas covers from each of the band members, as well as a couple of seasonal originals – ‘Healey’s Only Wish (This Year)’ provides just the right amount of twinkling cheer along with the band’s trademark tongue-in-cheek wit. Combining scuzzy hooks, Healey’s distinctive vocals and traditional sparkling melodies, it’s an instantly uplifting festive earworm. (ML)

 

Potpourri – ‘Modern Girls’ (not on Spotify)
A festive offering from Sheffield band Potpourri, ‘Modern Girls’ ponders the idealism of a perfect Christmas amid the bounty of priceless love. Propelled by a swirling, sparkling majesty, it oozes a blissful euphoric aura, whilst maintaining a refreshing sense of realism. A perfect and relatable Christmas accompaniment for any of us ‘Modern Girls’. Of the track, songwriter Lauren Dowling reflects: “I guess I was thinking about the modern phenomenon of gift-giving as a language of love, but also as a point of contention. Whilst we’re more inclined to be charitable at this time of year, we also can’t escape our own expectations for grandeur and luxury, but for ‘Modern Girls’, it’s the former that tends to bring the most joy and warmth.” The band will be donating all proceeds from the track to Burngreave Foodbank and SAYiT charities. (ML)

 

Charlotte Carpenter – ‘A Light Christmas’
A festive cover by Charlotte Carpenter who is a previous guest on our GIHE radio show and the founder of Babywoman Records. All proceeds from this single will be donated to homeless charity Crisis UK, so do head over the her bandcamp and download it if you can. (KC)

 

The Joy Formidable – ‘My Beerdrunk Soul Is Sadder Than A Hundred Dead Christmas Trees’
This genuinely is one of my favourite Christmas songs whether it’s been a year like 2020, or the best year of my life. I love busting out this misanthropic anthem and mainlining a bottle of Baileys* to it. (Aldi’s Ballycastle*) (KC)

GIHE: Albums Of 2020

It feels strange to be celebrating anything in 2020, but the GIHE team want to shine a light on some of the brilliant music that’s been released against the odds during the last 12 months. If you, or your band managed to release a full length record, Congratulations! You should be super proud. If you didn’t manage to write anything new this year though, we fully understand and we’ll still be here to sing your praises when you feel ready to write again.

In the absence of live shows where we’d normally celebrate the release of an album, we’ve coped by dancing around our living rooms, miming underneath our face-masks and telling as many people as we can on our Zoom calls to listen to these records. So, in alphabetical order, here are ten albums that helped us get through 2020 (with some honorable mentions at the end because we’re a little bit fed up of restrictions this year…)

Bitch Falcon – Staring At Clocks
Released via Small Pond Records in November, Staring At Clocks is a blistering cacophony of grunge, post-punk and shoegaze inspired sounds from Dublin trio Bitch Falcon. Effortlessly switching from a savage scream to a sublime extended yearning, front woman Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s elastic vocal ability never fails to impress and my admiration for her natural talent swells with each listen. Her intuition is matched by Nigel Kenny’s razor sharp cymbal strikes and Barry O’Sullivan’s brooding bass hooks. Equal parts gritty and graceful, I’m properly in love with Bitch Falcon’s debut album and no, I will not stop talking about it. Listen to Staring At Clocks via bandcamp or Spotify.
(Kate Crudgington – Features Editor)

Bugeye – Ready Steady Bang
A long-standing fave of GIHE, Bugeye have previously wowed us with their vibrant live shows, including performing for us at The Finsbury and at Cro Cro Land, a festival put together by front person Angela Martin in my hometown of Croydon. They’ve also received plenty of acclaim from the likes of Radio X’s John Kennedy and BBC Introducing, and rightly so. Ready Steady Bang is like nothing you’ve heard before; a vibrant fusion of disco, punk and everything in-between, all fused together with magnificent energy into a relentlessly riotous and utterly uplifting collection. This explosive debut fizzles with a wonderfully unique colourful pizazz as the band reflect on the state of the world today. Raging with Angela’s gritty, snarling vocals and whirring electro hooks, alongside crunching riffs and poppy harmonies, each track is a total earworm. Reminiscent of nineties indie legends Elastica, with shades of the retro energy of Blondie, it’s an album oozing a sparkling majesty that’ll charge you up and leave you ready to face whatever 2021 has in store.
Ready Steady Bang is out via Reckless Yes Records, listen on bandcamp or Spotify.
(Mari Lane – Managing Editor)

Dream Wife – So When You Gonna… 
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about the release of this year’s sophomore Dream Wife album. I had been so completely enamoured by their 2018 eponymous debut that it seemed impossible not to be disappointed, but how wrong I was. So When You Gonna… is both uplifting and poignant in equal measure. From the heartfelt and relatable stirring emotion of album closer and pro-choice anthem ‘After The Rain’ to the immersive inspirational power of ‘Validation’ and fun-filled playful energy and trademark charisma of ‘Hasta La Vista’ and the album’s title track, it proves that Dream Wife are here to stay. With this latest collection, they’ve come back more empowering, passionate and truly joyous than ever.
Listen to So When You Gonna… via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Gordian Stimm – Your Body In On Itself
I remember thinking “yessss this is a bit of me!” when Gordian Stimm’s (aka Maeve Westall of itoldyouiwouldeatyou) experimental gem of a record first dropped into my GIHE inbox in April. Released via independent Leicester-based label Amateur Pop, Stimm’s debut album is a vivid exploration of bodily autonomy. There’s an enjoyable violence underscoring their vision; a gleeful, sometimes painful dissecting of the self and the social cues that either help construct or dismantle it. At times reminiscent of early Passion Pit or Crystal Castles, Your Body In On Itself is a wonderful collection of distorted, dance-able beats that I continue to enjoy even after multiple listens. The cassette tape is cute af too.
Listen to Your Body In On Itself via bandcamp or Spotify. (KC)

Happy Accidents – Sprawling
Probably my most listened-to full album of 2020, Happy Accidents’ Sprawling follows 2018’s equally addictive Everything But The Here And Now. Since first falling in love with the band back at Indietracks of the same year, I’ve been continually seeking comfort in their sparkling creations. Now a duo made up of Phoebe Cross and Rich Mandell, Happy Accidents have showcased all there is to love about them in this latest collection. An album about “getting out of your head and allowing yourself to connect with others on a fundamental level”, it offers a perfect juxtaposition of honey-sweet vocals, swirling jangling melodies and luscious harmonies, all delivered alongside the heartfelt emotion of the reflective, relatable lyricism, making it impossible not to get utterly immersed in. With Rich and Phoebe taking turns with the lead, each track maintains the glistening warmth and twinkling uplifting charm that first drew me to the band. And now I can’t seem to stop listening; forever seeking soothing catharsis in Happy Accidents’ shimmering, Sprawling indie-pop.
Listen to Sprawling via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Hilary Woods – Birthmarks
Inspired by field recordings, images from post-war Japanese & wet-plate photography and the secret life of trees, Hilary Woods’ second album Birthmarks is a cohesive set of shadowy soundscapes that smolder with quiet intensity. Released in March via Sacred Bones, the Irish multi-instrumentalist collaborated with Norwegian experimental noise producer Lasse Marhaugher to create a record that was “of the body…a more physical record” than her previous work. She crafted eight fleshy, twisted, charged lullabies that are laced with a mix of hushed vocals, melancholy strings, saxophone sounds, distorted drone noises and Okkyung’s exquisite cello playing. Recorded over the course of two years between Galway and Oslo whilst Woods was heavily pregnant, Birthmarks feels like her most personal and powerful record to date and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it this year.
Listen to Birthmarks via bandcamp or Spotify. (KC)

Indian Queens – God Is A Woman
Described by lead vocalist & guitarist Jennifer O’Neill as “a late night record”, London trio Indian Queens’ debut album is a sublime offering, designed to dissolve uncertainty and soothe anxious minds. Released via Cool Thing Records in April, the band have written thirteen dizzying tracks that are as driving as they are delicate, providing a welcome rush of blood to the head every time they’re listened to. I love everything about this band and I’m so glad I got to hear them live again in March before the rest of 2020 got cancelled.
Listen to God Is A Woman via bandcamp or Spotify. (KC)

Nova Twins – Who Are The Girls?
Us GIHE grrrls collectively agreed that this is a stunning debut album. Nova Twins’ battle cry for equality and diversity on Who Are The Girls? resonates long after the record stops spinning. Amy Love & Georgia South are a force for fun, for fury and – most importantly – for change in an industry that still “struggles” to book women as headliners at major festivals. This album, released via 333 Wreckords in February, is a collection of thundering bass lines, uncompromising rhythms and wicked riffs. It’s an aural uppercut that proves the London-based duos talent and instinct for writing anarchic anthems. Nova Twins always have us riled, re-energised, and ready to ask for more.
Listen to Who Are The Girls? on Spotify. (KC)

Screaming Toenail – Growth
Having blown us away with the impassioned magnificence of their live show at The Finsbury last December, anti-colonial queer punks Screaming Toenail have become firm favourites here at GIHE, and their message is more resonant now than ever before. Opening with a jarring recording of reports of trafficking migrants and “swarms” of refugees coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, Growth starts as it means to go on: honest, politically charged and utterly necessary. Combining shades of ‘80s post-punk with the band’s raw magnetism and angst driven drive, the album covers poignant subject matter, ranging from institutionalised racism and damaging hetero-patriarchal norms, to “little old ladies shoplifting from Boots” and other inspiring female figures such as Diane Abbott and Reni Eddo-Lodge. Growth is truly a soundtrack to our times. Fuelled by a motivational cathartic rage, it starkly reminds us that on returning to “normality”, we need to create a new normal. One in which voices like Screaming Toenail’s can be amplified to the max; one in which we prioritise creating safe, queer, inter-sectional communities and spaces for people to share their art together.
Listen to Growth via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Sink Ya Teeth – Two
Long time GIHE faves who first completely took our breath away playing for us live at The Finsbury a few years back, Norwich duo Sink Ya Teeth brought some groove-laden joy to this nightmare year with their second album, appropriately titled Two. Having been booked to play our very first Get In Her Ears festival that would have taken place this summer, being able to listen to all the unique dance-punk soundscapes throughout this album offered a bit of consolation. Blowing us away with the soaring, sparkling majesty of each track, they continue to mark themselves out as truly innovative in their craft. From the synth driven glitchy hooks of ‘Somewhere Else’ to the immense funk-fuelled groove of ‘The Hot House’, everything the duo create oozes an infectious shimmering energy, showcasing Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford as the ultimate dream team in both songwriting and performing.
Listen to Two via bandcamp or Spotify.
(ML)

Honorable mentions:
A.A. Williams Forever Blue
Ailbhe ReddyPersonal History
ByenaryByenary
The Crystal FursBeautiful and True
Diet CigDo You Wonder About Me?
Dream NailsDream Nails
Lido PimientaMiss Colombia
MOURN – Self Worth
Nadine ShahKitchen Sink
No HomeFucking Hell
Phoebe BridgersPunisher
REWSWarriors
WaxahatcheeSaint Cloud
The Fight Is Not Over (Live album feat. Problem Patterns, Sister Ghost, Strange New Places, Gender Chores)

Track Of The Day: Dream Nails – ‘Lonely Star’ (Christmas Song)

The gift that keeps on giving, feminist punks Dream Nails have shared their joyful new Christmas single ‘Lonely Star’. Dedicated to those who may be feeling isolated or alone at this time of year – especially their LGBTQ fans – it’s a poignant punk-infused offering designed to lift everyone’s spirits and raise money for The Outside Project, the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ Crisis/Homeless Shelter.

“This Christmas is going to be a bit different from the usual,” explains guitarist Anya Pearson. “So, we wrote a Christmas song that sends strength and love to anyone finding this time of year particularly tough, especially those who are LGBT or struggling with acceptance and support at home. We see you, we’re here for you and we love you!”

The single is accompanied by a DIY video that shows the band having lolz while recording the track and sporting some lovely Christmas jumpers. “With government failures to respond to the pandemic adequately, we feel strongly about raising money for The Outside Project,” bassist Mimi Jasson adds. You can donate to the organisation by downloading ‘Lonely Star’ from the band’s bandcamp page here. Dream Nails’ values aren’t seasonal – “We see you this Christmas! / We see you the whole year through!” – and their continuous efforts to energise and support their communities is something us GIHE grrrls are always in awe of.

The four piece will be playing ‘Lonely Star’ live for the first time during their special live-streamed Feministmas gig on 6th December (ticket info here.) “After another lockdown near the holidays where we can’t physically come together, it’s important for us to have a space where we can keep in touch as a global punk community!” Mimi explains, so join in if you can!

Listen to ‘Lonely Star’ below.

Follow Dream Nails on bandcamp, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Dream Nails – ‘This Is The Summer’

Both an energetic and a sardonic insight into the climate crisis we’re currently facing, feminist punk witches Dream Nails have shared their latest single ‘This Is The Summer’. Lifted from their upcoming self-titled debut album which is set for release on the 28th August via Alcopop! Records, the band prove once again that their activism is as sharp and essential as their riotous punk sounds on this latest offering.

“‘This Is The Summer’ is a song about how our climate is breaking down irreversibly,” explains Dream Nails vocalist Janey Starling. “Colonial capitalism, waged by UK governments and corporations for centuries, has ravaged our earth. We need to be urgently fighting for migrant rights so the UK welcomes climate refugees displaced by countries hit by extreme weather. We must demand transparency from oil companies who relentlessly put profit before people, even as the world burns.”

Starling’s vision is passionately and equally shared by her band mates Anya Pearson (guitar), Mimi Jasson (bass) and Lucy Katz (drums), who all play humorous parts in the track’s accompanying video. Directed by Guen Murroni and filmed with a women, non-binary and trans crew, the footage is a fast-paced blend of shots from recent protests in London, the band parodying newsreaders, and a live performance they filmed in a scrapyard during the August 2020 heatwave.

Pearson elaborates on the context of both the track and the video: “We wrote ‘This Is The Summer’ in the heatwave of 2018, recorded it in another heatwave in 2019 and now we are releasing it in yet another heatwave! Our video for the track shows how the current pandemic, white supremacy and climate change are not separate issues but interlinked. The song is about the brazen complacency of getting drunk and catching a tan in the park while the world burns.”

Fuelled by the need to change the world around them and inspire others to do so, Dream Nails will be celebrating the release of their debut album with a live stream performance on the 5th September. You can join in the fun by pre-ordering the album, which will also get you a link to the party (pre-order link here).

Watch the video for ‘This Is The Summer’ below and follow Dream Nails on bandcamp, Facebook and Spotify for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut