The Festive Fifteen is my annual Xmas homage to John Peel’s much missed longer and more eclectic list of the year’s best tunes. The only rule is that all fifteen songs must have been released in the last calendar year, although increasingly the list is dominated by bands whose gigs Liz and I have enjoyed. There have been the usual litany of impossible decisions in compiling this eighth compilation since the great man’s death: I have almost certainly made an error by not including anything from Bobby Womack’s fantastic Damon Albarn-produced album; Allo Darlin missed the cut only because I only discovered their wonderful second album over a pint of Wandle in Rough Trade East the day after finishing the compilation; Jake Bugg was excluded despite being on stereo repeat because I got wound up by his record company’s over-bearing marketing campaign, despite his debut album’s obvious merits; and I should have listened to Kirsty and paid more attention to the Tallest Man on Earth earlier in the year. Maybe there needs to be a Festive Fifteen b-sides album..
1. First Aid Kit – Emmylou
Kirsty’s tip – Swedish sisters, First Aid Kit, have provided the best chorus of the year, a great Brixton Academy gig, and a lovely line for getting on with winter: ‘Stockholm’s cold but I’ve been told / I was born to endure this kind of weather’.
2. Mystery Jets – Greatest Hits
A great name-check song, as Blaine Harrison works out how to divides up the album collection at the end of a relationship. Personally I would have held on to ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ over ‘Country Life’ any day, but I’m with him on ‘Village Green’.
3. Alabama Shakes – Hold On
The one band on everyone’s ‘Best of 2012’? They were just awesome at Latitude, with a big, big bluesy sound.
4. Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Their album has been a grower and I only stuck with it because Mr Petridis was so effusive in his Guardian review. He’s almost always right and he was this time. Dreamy stuff.
5. Cousins – Jane (Not Her Real Name)
My sister of the same name will want me to point out that this is not about her, although she is Welsh and does know someone called Mrs Davis. She never nicked the W.I.’s cash though. Great ditty.
6. Palma Violets – Best of Friends
We saw this lot for the first time with Dominic West and a marquee full of other posh people at Port Eliot, but still really liked them.
7. Django Django – Default
I love the jangly guitars, onomatopoeic name, and happy tunes. One to smile to.
8. Bruce Springsteen – Shackled and Drawn
It was between Bruce and Bobby Womack for the old-timer-doing-great-new-stuff slot. Bruce won for ‘It’s still fat and easy up on Bankers Hill / Down here below we’re shackled and drawn’.
9. Andrew Bird – Lazy Projector
His Roundhouse gig was definitely the most eclectic I’ve seen this year and probably the most enthralling. Not content with playing every instrument he also did a lot of whistling.
10. Jack White – Love Interruption
Proving that break-up albums are generally the best, this is a cracker and I could have picked any track.
11. Public Service Broadcasting – London Can Take It
Best watched on You Tube. More songs for archive footage please!
12. Toy – Colours Running Out
We missed their residency at the almost-local Shacklewell Arms (where bands come too late for old-timers with work in the morning anyway), but caught a great festival showing and the album’s been on repeat since it came out. There’s a bit of the Cure in the there – the shoe-gazing, non-poppy bit.
13. Malick Pathe Sow & Bao Sissoko – Kora Julio
I could listen to kora music all day and often do at work. I think Cery Matthew’s increasingly wonderful Sunday morning 6 Music show introduced me to this gem.
14. Damon Albarn – The Marvellous Dream
His ‘Dr Dee’ album is a bit impenetrable, which just makes this track stand out all the more. Damon doing Elizabethan history.
15. I Am Kloot – Hold Back the Night
Just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And in the absence of an Elbow album this year Guy Garvey still squeezes on as a producer. Liz’s track of the year.
Bob Marley – Redemption Song
I toyed with Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour de France’ as the bonus track, to celebrate Brad’s stunning victory. It was almost ‘What the World is Waiting For’ to note the real second coming of the Stone Roses. But in the end a summer holiday spent watching Kevin MacDonald’s fantastic ‘Marley’ film, reading the odd biography and coming home to buy all the Marley, Wailers, Lee Scratch Perry and King Tubby I could find in the rejuvenated Wood Street Arcade, meant that it had to be Redemption Song.