Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler – This Is Christmas
Review by Jack Foley
WHERE most artists are content to put out an album full of traditional festive classics (step forward Michael Buble and Justin Bieber) Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler have gone for a more alternative approach.
The result, This Is Christmas, is a predictably mixed bag but no less worthwhile, especially if you like your annual fix of festive songs without requiring to hear the same old songs reinterpreted over and over again.
The album itself was first touted in the middle of a snowstorm and completed in the midst of an August hurricane! Initially, it came about as a result of Emmy and Tim being holed up together in snow-bound Sussex last December, when having missed six flights between them, and having grown bored of building snowmen, they decided to team up to write a Christmas album.
Admits Tim: “I’m a sucker for all kinds of Christmas songs from carols to Nat King Cole to ‘70s glam rock classics and ‘80s guilty pleasures and it felt like a good time to contribute something new to the genre.”
Taking the name Sleigher, the duo started penning the first of these songs, while resorting to one Phil Spector cover.
A second writing stint later followed in New York in May, when obscure black and white Christmas movies such as Christmas in Connecticut helped get them in the mood, and was concluded in August just as Hurricane Irene hit the US East Coast.
They also enlisted a celebrity cast of musicians to provide the backing for the songs that followed, including Bloc Party’s Matt Tong on drums, Euan Hinshelwood (of Emmy The Great) on guitar, and a string section orchestrated by esteemed film composer Ilan Eskeri. Tim and Emmy played everything else.
The result is generally charming, sometimes obscure, mostly fun and only rarely cheesy and grating.
Marshmallow World sets the frivolous tone early on, while the strings-backed, synth pop of Snowflakes sounds like the duo’s nod to the ‘80s guilty pleasures of the likes of Wham’s Last Christmas.
There’s a ‘60s pop sheen surrounding the Emmy-sung Christmas Moon, which makes you want to dance under the mistletoe with the one you love, while there’s surf rock fun surrounding the lively Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing), the best Christmas song The Beach Boys and The Drums never recorded and my own personal favourite.
There’s an alternative Christmas feel to (Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas, which finds the LP at its most melancholy lyrically while lamenting the difficulty of being Mrs Claus, and a stab at horror in the somewhat more obscure Zombie Christmas, which ushers in some desperation and Goth-pop elements.
While of the moments that don’t quite work, Jesus The Reindeer is just plain surreal.
But Sleigh Me is a warm slice of festive romance that is rife with melody and slushy sentiments that don’t grate, and See You Next Year rounds things off in suitably breezy Tegan and Sara-like pop fashion, ensuring you depart the LP with a big sloppy smile on the face.
NB: Emmy and Tim will be headlining Bush Hall in London for a one-off Christmas show on December 14. So why not join them then and get into the festive spirit?
Download picks: Christmas Moon, Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing), (Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas, Sleigh Me, See You Next Year