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Here we are again, the earth is soon to complete another orbit of the sun and return to occupy the same position in the cosmos that it did one year ago. Of course this is not strictly true, rather it is returning to a previous position relative to the sun. ish.

Before we add one to the year bit of the calendar, many will take this opportunity to take stock of the previous 12 months, and many will make lists of their favourite things of the last year. Here’s my favourite music; The 20 standout tracks that sum up the new music I’ve enjoyed this year. Hopefully I’ve curated into something greater than the sum of their parts.

I’ve seen a lot of this…

So here is this year’s compilation tape, which I’ve entitled “Haven’t Slept In Several Nights” which kind’ve sums up large passages of the year for me.

1. Back of your Neck – Howler

We return to the start of the year and a little catchy hook that was getting plenty of airplay on 6music at the time.

2. Default – Django Django

Another great tune getting lots of 6music airplay at the start of the year. I have to say though, that the album was a bit of a disappointment to me after the strength of this single.

3. Camp Cappuccino – Future of The Left

No such disappointment from Welsh noise-mongers FotL who’s “The Plot Against Common Sense” picked up this year’s 2nd Welsh Music Prize.

4.  Sixteen – The Indelicates

First of two selections from my album of the year “American Demo” which I’m very late to the party on since it was released in 2008, but definitely my find of the year. Love this track and how it reminds me of certain friends of mine who are trying desperately not to grow up.

5. I’m Always Going To Love You – Dexys

6. Incapable of Love – Dexys

Speaking of not growing up. Kevin Rowland lays his emotional immaturity on a platter for all to see in the semi-autobiographical semi-concept album “One Day I’m Going To Soar”. This pair of songs see Rowland duet with the actress Madeleine Hyland who gives a fantastic performance that gives these songs a little bit of a musical theater feel, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and it’s certainly not here.   

7. Greatest Hits – Mystery Jets

Another break up, and this time the couple in question are divvying up their record collection.

8. We Were Kids – Turtle Giant

Turtle Giant don’t sound like they hail from Brasil, but that’s what their bio says. Can’t remember where I heard this, but it’s a great single and was well worth delving back into their debut album too.

9. Our Daughters Will Never Be Free – The Indelicates

Second Offering from “American Demo” which was The Indelicates debut album. 

10. Lillibulero – Bellowhead

The hardest working band in folk returned with their 4th studio album “Broadside”. The intense touring schedule has paid off as this album entered the UK album charts at #16, unprecidented for an independently released folk about. “Broadside” like Bellowhead’s previous albums is  largely energetic arrangements of traditional folk songs, and ought to be listened to by anyone who thinks they don’t like folk music.

11. Far From Portland – Lau

Lau are something of a Scottish folk super group and although “Race The Loser” is their third album, I will admit this is the first to cross my radar. More sedate than Bellowhead, but their use of electronic samples certainly gives their original compositions a very contemporary feel.

12. Last Hours Of Being Young – Larcenist

Hailing from Boston, Larcenist describe themselves as perveyors of Doom Folk. Which is a little harsh as while the subject matter may be gloomy, some of the tunes are almost upbeat. This is from their 2011 EP “We Become The Hunted” and I eagerly await their debut album “Eager City Patient Country” which is released on 22nd January.

13. Dresden – The Cornshed Sisters

Absolutely gorgeous 4-part female harmonies from The Tyne.

14. Wisely & Slow – The Staves

You wait a lifetime for a decent female folk harmony from the UK then you get two in a year. 3-part harmonies this time from the Staveley-Taylor sisters. I’m insanely proud of the fact that these girls are from Watford, my hometown, and are a product of what goes for a music scene there.

15. Midnight Blues – Liz Green

Another stunning debut album “O, Devotion!” full of folksy-blues minimalism from Manchester singer-songwriter Liz Green. 

16. Conduit – Ben Caplan

17. Southbound – Ben Caplan

Decided to go with two tracks from Ben Caplan’s album “In The Time of The Great Remembering”. Which would be my album of 2012, if it weren’t released at the end of 2011. Great spot and tip-off from Dan after he saw Ben supporting Katzenjammer on tour. Great songwriting, great voice, awesome beard and fantastic name for his backing band; The Casual Smokers.

18. Going Home – Leonard Cohen

Cohen spends much of “Old Ideas” at virtually spoken voice, but it’s pretty powerful stuff.

19. Don’t Buy The Sun – Billy Bragg

Hadn’t spotted until very recently that Billy had released “Fight Songs” in 2011 between “Mermaid Avenue” albums with Wilco. It opens with this diatribe at The Sun, which given The Leveson Enquiry and further revelations from Hillsborough released this year, it is a very apt inclusion of this best of 2012.

20. Phrasing – Scott Walker

Fitting anything from Scott Walkers challenging album “Bish Bosch” on to a compilation album was always going to be difficult, so consider this a track included after 2 minutes of silence. I just want to bring this fantastic work to your attention. The track, like the whole album requires your full attention, and then some really strange things will reveal themselves to you. Give it a go.

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It’s been some time since I last updated this blog. I’d apologize, but you probably weren’t even expecting anything. And since I really only consider this a bit of a twitter spill-over, I’ve not really been expecting much more from it either. Having said that, 3 months, is quite a big gap even in an occasional blog and is probably due to the perma-cold/flu I’ve had for the last 8 weeks or so.  In fact I’ve pretty much only found the time to write this post due to being at home with some horrible form of amoebic dysentery. Which is nice.

It's Christmas Innit

It’s Christmas Innit

Anyway – With Christmas very nearly upon us – It’s on the 25th of December in case you needed reminding – I thought I’d put together a little festival playlist to put you in the spirit, as they say. We can now officially get in the spirit since it is (very nearly at least) December. Like many, the creep of Christmas into November and seemingly October and September too pisses me off. There are many reasons it gets my goat, but one of them is that the Christmas songs I loved so much as a child are overplayed on TV adverts and on shop floors, leaving them almost entirely feelingless and in some cases, frankly annoying.

So here is a little playlist of fresh (he said realising one is possible 100 years old) tunes which are largely unsullied by commercialisation, Christmas-creep and the hard sell. Thanks to those on twitter who responded to my call to arms and suggested tunes, I hope I have given you all credit in the liner notes below. I extended my basic rule of no Department Store favourites and extended it to excellent, but infrequently heard, cover versions of Christmas standards, which ruled out such great renditions such as Slow Club’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Macy Gray’s excellent Winter Wonderland and much of any Ella Fitzgerald Christmas album.

Without further ado – Click to listen to DrBillyo’s Alternative Christmas Playlist 

Liner Notes:

1. The Fall – Hark The Herald Angel Sing (Peel Session).

Immediately I break my “no standards” rule – but this is almost unrecognisable, and it’s The Fall and they’re worth breaking the rule for.  Thanks to @lewispaul64 for the suggestion.

2. RUN-DMC – Christmas In Hollis

Hip Hop and Christmas songs are not comfortable bed fellows. But RUN-DMC manage to include the almost obligatory Christmas Bells with ease. Suggested by @LisaJameson

3. The BellRays – Santa’s Got A Big Old Bag

With elements of Funk and Garage Rock, this is probably just the BellRays jamming to be honest, but they make it seem so effortlessly cool. From A BellRays Christmas, a favourite festive EP of mine for a few years now.

4. Louis Armstrong – ‘Zat You Santa Claus

Like Ella Fitzgerald, although there are numerous albums of Christmas songs by Louis Armstrong, they are largely all standards, this little big band number is largely overlooked by those who choose the corporate Christmas tunes.

5. Ella Fitzgerald – Good Morning Blues

Ella belts out a jazzy number which has scared off the department stores, good – we can have this one to ourselves.

6. Mahalia Jackson – No Room At The Inn

A magic Gospel voice, knocks Mariah Bloody Carey into a cocked hat. Tip off from @john_the_monkey via his musical advent calendar last year.

7. Chuck Berry – Merry Christmas Baby

A Bluesy number from Chuck Berry, this has long been an overlooked classic in my opinion. It’s what Christmas eve, mulled wine and open fires were made for.

8. Titus Turner – Christmas Morning

I must confess to knowing little about Titus Turner, but heard this on Bob Dylan’s Christmas Theme Time Radio Hour.

9. Lead Belly – Christmas Is A Comin’

Christmas as told in the Delta Blues.  Another introduced to me by Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour

10. Loretta Lynn – To Heck With Old Santa Claus

Think you can do Christmas without Country? You are so wrong. You gotta have some country.

11. Eels – Christmas Is Going To The Dogs

Sounds a little down on Christmas? Or is it just a different perspective?

12. Fountains of Wayne – I Want An Alien For Christmas

Who doesn’t? You heard him Santa! Get on it! Spotters badge to @coldbrain

13. Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler – (Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas

Ever give a thought to Mrs Claus while her Husband is off around the world? The standout track from Emmy & Tim’s festive collaboration last year. Tip off from @SteveEustice

14. David Ford – Have Yourself A Bitter Little Christmas

A lovely little ditty, with some pretty dark lyrics. Bit too good to leave off though, despite largely trying to avoid negative Christmas songs. Another spotters badge to @SteveEustice

15. Frightened Rabbit – It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop

Perhaps the subject of David Ford’s song should have taken a leaf from the Scottish Indie Rockers, It’s Christmas, can’t we all just get along? Thanks to @fadeupyoursmile for the excellent tip.

16. Low – Just Like Christmas

Back to something more upbeat and positive. This is the track which comes closest to entering the Department store playlists, indeed it’s fast on its way to becoming one of the Christmas standards, but for now it’s ours.

17. Stevie Wonder – What Christmas Means To Me

Wrapping this compilation up with two songs which pretty much sum up Christmas to me. First Stevie Wonder explains what Christmas means to him.

18. Tim Minchin – White Wine In The Sun

Followed by a Song which entirely sums up my relationship with Christmas… Except the sunshine, natch. Stupid Aussie!

Merry Christmas