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Passing through my third-life crisis peacefully in South London, finding out new stuff, and then getting cross and excited about it.

Monday, 14 December 2009

The 7 Greatest Christmas Songs You've Never Heard - #4

#4 - Donna & Blitzen by Badly Drawn Boy

This is the only entry on my list not from a dedicated Christmas album. It’s also probably the most mainstream of the tracks, as it features in the very good soundtrack to the better-than-average film adaptation of the better-than-average Nick Hornby book About A Boy. (I have a soft spot for Love Actually which I curse myself for on a regular basis, but About A Boy is basically a better version with tolerable levels of sentimentality.)

For a while in the early 1980s, Badly Drawn Boy was the most celebrated British artists, feted a sort of twee Beck because of his complex arrangements and multi-instrumentation. He did concept albums that didn’t massively suck, and so a film soundtrack was a good avenue for him to show off his talents. And because the film covers a year in the life of a boy, a Christmas song was always likely.

I love the track in question for several reasons – the string intro is sparse then nicely layered into the track; the lyrics aren’t overly Christmassy, but still have a festive feel; the melody is maddeningly catchy, and Badly Drawn Boy’s vocals are always appropriately ramshackle compared to his songs.

The best bit, however, is the kettle drum accompaniment which kicks in after about a minute – it’s unexpected and appeals to the attention-seeking 10 year old boy in me, who would still love to batter out a rhythm in exactly this fashion.

Halfway now - only 3 more to go. Any guesses?

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