Gabrielle Aplin “Just Like Christmas” (2021)

Never Fade Records
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People like to talk about how there hasn’t been a new, modern Christmas standard since “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Stereogum is trying to shoehorn a whole bunch of forgettable songs into the standards category, but you have to scroll to the comments to get the true answer… Low’s majestic “Just Like Christmas” is indeed a new standard. How so? Well… because it has been and will be consistently covered from now until eternity by artists of taste and stature (and of no particular stature as well!). Will Ariana’s “Santa Tell Me” get covered by anybody but some big pop act? Probably not – and frankly my guess is her song will likely live on as largely a trendy clothing store playlist experience. “Just Like Christmas,” however, is beautiful, simple, and downright incredible. Its simplicity lends itself to reinterpretation (as the true classics often do), and year-upon-year an artist or two adds a new stellar version to the mix. This year I present English singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin‘s version to be considered as one of the best out there. Gabrielle strips it down, chooses some interesting lyrical phrasing, and leaves me shaking my head with how brilliantly she controls her voice. Color me impressed and put yet another brick on the pedestal lifting Low’s new holiday standard.

Bottom Line: Gabrielle Aplin wields her vocal weapon with perfection on this most excellent cover.


Sing a Song of Christmas: Three New Tunes Exclusive to the Guardian (2013)

The Guardian Christmas

The Guardian
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Last year, The Guardian newspaper asked three singer/songwriters to write an original Christmas song, with the only rule to include five provided phrases they felt “sum up the spirit of the holiday:”

“Do I have to wear this paper crown all day?”, “No really, sprouts do make me sick”, “The trains are pathetic on Boxing Day”, “I think you threw away the gift vouchers” and “Will someone turn the heating down?”

Their website provides the whole background on the songs, including interviews with the performers. I like the concept, and very much hope they do it again.

Dan Croll‘s “A Guardian Christmas,” is my favorite of the bunch. The sparse beats and R&B vocals are very much a sound-of-the-moment (and a sound which I like), and he does it well. I would certainly edit out the “Ho, ho, hos,” and everything after the second set of jolly laughs – and that 1:30 running time would be easy to squeeze into any mix. I really like the feeling of the final bit – that’s what sold me.

Gabrielle Aplin‘s “Untitled Christmas Song” also has some of the elements I like to look for – a sense of the melancholy of Christmas, and a bit of humor. She has a lovely voice, and the song is well done and quite short (bonus!). I suppose the only thing that would make it better would be a more fleshed-out production. Otherwise, really quite good.

Lewis Watson‘s “Home Alone (at, or before, Christmas) here” is my least favorite of the three, but it most certainly has some redeeming factors. The song is an ode the the McCallister family of the Home Alone movies – and tickles the bit in me that associates my own Christmas experience with Christmas TV and movies. However, it remains the least satisfying by having a low production value, and a part where he throws as many lyrics in as possible. Still good enough to be listenable, no doubt.

Bottom Line: All these songs are enjoyable enough to play in the background at a party – so perhaps consider adding them to your Soundcloud playlist, or use one of those fancy websites to download the MP3s. Most certainly an above-average collection, and had they offered easy, free downloads, may have scored higher. 3.8/5