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A Merry Electronica Christmas

Perhaps due to weariness of big band crooners like Michael Buble and Rod Stewart dominating the contemporary Christmas music market, many artists from the dance/electronica scene have also gotten in on the act in 2012, offering their own take on the season of goodwill. Here’s a look at five of the most intriguing.

The xx – “Last Christmas”

Wham’s 1984 classic might still be a much-loved favourite nearly 30 years on, but its melancholic tale of lost love perhaps explains why eternal miserablists The xx were attracted to record it for Fearne Cotton’s BBC Radio 1 show. Unfortunately, this was the moment when the Mercury Prize winners descended into self-parody – their well-worn formula of echo-laden riffs, polite dub wobbles and hushed melodies transforming the original into a Scrooge-like dirge which suggested that the once innovative trio have simply run out of ideas.


Bastille – “Oh Holy Night”

Formerly a solo vehicle for Dan Smith, now a fully-fledged electronic indie-pop quartet, Bastille rewarded fans with an early Christmas present this year, a follow up to their part-covers/part-mash-ups free mix-tape, Other People’s Heartache. Inspired by one of the greatest festive films of modern times, Home Alone, brilliantly nostalgic closer “Oh Holy Night” interspersed Smith’s haunting rendition of the carol with dialogue from Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin) before ending with the Angels With Dirty Faces’ “keep the change ya filthy animal” quote.


Dragonette – “Merry Xmas (Says Your Text Message)”

Hot on the heels of their floor-filling third album Body Parts, Canadian trio Dragonette’s yuletide offering proved to be just as playful, although its stream of expletives suggests this is perhaps one to avoid playing whilst at the dinner table. Channelling the late 70s disco-pop of Blondie, Martina Sorbara delivers a defiant kiss-off to an ex that sends a Christmas message two days too late on a contemporary twist on the concept of seasons’ greetings.


Alphabeat – “Xmas (Let’s Do It Again)”

Relentlessly cheerful Swedish sextet Alphabeat have always straddled that fine line between unashamedly joyous pure pop and slightly embarrassing novelty, but “Xmas (Let’s Do It Again)” is so sickly sweet that it should have arrived with a government health warning. Borrowing the seasonal synths from Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and fusing them with a sing-along chorus that even the High School Musical franchise would turn down for being too happy-clappy, it’s the musical equivalent of eating a whole selection box for breakfast.


Tracey Thorn – “Sister Winter”

Responsible for the most quietly charming Christmas album of 2012, Tinsel & Lights, Tracey Thorn revisited the organic electronica of her Everything But The Girl heyday for its closer, a cover of Sufjan Stevens’ introspective “Sister Winter.” Swapping the original’s slow-building triumphant march for a typically understated blend of brush-stroke rhythms and submarine bleeps, its emotive tale of returning home for the holidays after a hard year managed to be both beautifully melancholic and strangely optimistic.


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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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