24th December – Helen Arney, Darren Hayman and Helen Atkinson

We’ve made it to the last day. Today we have 2 songs, a video and a short story.

Firstly, over to my good friend Helen Arney to introduce her song. – Darren

Never Built A Snowman – Helen Arney & Paul Richards, with Martin Randle

Last October I spent 3 days in a shed in Cambridge with drummer/playwright Paul Richards and musician/producer/all-round good egg Martin Randle, recording “It’s Going To Be An Awkward Christmas, darling”. Paul and I wanted it to be the kind of album that could soak up any excess Christmas cheer, and tell a few of the stories you don’t normally hear in lifts and departments stores around this time. It’s less “Driving Home for Christmas” and more “Christmas Dinner Microwave Meal For One”, not so much “Mistletoe & Wine” as “Traditional Family Christmas Argument”.

We recruited a few friends and family, including comedians Terry Saunders and Tom McDonnell, and my super-talented sister Kat Arney. She plays harp on this track, along with Martin on various magical synths and Paul on percussion.  The rest of the album is over on helenarney.bandcamp.com if you want to listen.

This track is about animachionophobia – a seasonal, yet crippling, fear of snowmen.

Helen Arney & Paul Richards – Never Built A Snowman

Despite the fact this isn’t a new song specially recorded for the Haworth project, Darren has very kindly popped it into his advent calendar on the Christmas Eve. If you like it, there’s a home-brewed animated video…

I hope it’s just in time to freak everyone out if there’s a white Christmas tomorrow.Watch out, he’s behind you!

More bla bla bla about Helen is here: helenarney.com – Helen Arney

This is me, my dog and a life size lego model of my dog….

It’s my advent calendar, I can do 2 songs can’t I? After a six track ep and curating 50 plus seasonal songs however I was unsure what to write. Being the last song I thought about things ending. It seems, sometimes, that Christmas is all anticipation and aftermath. In fact the aftermath seems to over lap with the pre-amble. Adverts for the January Sales collide with campaigns for last minute presents. Here’s a song about the relentlessness of time. – Darren

Darren Hayman – January Sales

Thanks for taking the time to listen and participate with mine and Tom’s Christmas project, the plan is currently to just leave it up here; a free archive of songs and stories. The very last thing on the 2011 Darren Hayman / Fika Recordings Christmas Advent is a short story by Helen Atkinson.

You Look Like Christmas by Helen Atkinson

Laura finished decorating the tree and took a step back to admire her handiwork. It was a mess but it was her mess, a lopsided mush of tinsel, all of the blue baubles clustered at the top and the silver at the bottom. She had been too enthusiastic again. The star didn’t really fit but she’d jabbed it onto the top of the tree, causing a flurry of pine needles to fall onto the laminate below. Christmas was her thing and she knew that she wasn’t ready to break the tradition just yet.

It had been one of the things that Dave had liked best about her, her love of Christmas, her annual thrash through the flat with tinsel and glitter. The tiny nativity set she’d had since she was a kid, and the bells she’d made from polystyrene egg boxes at primary school and had kept safe ever since. They’d only been together for a few weeks that first Christmas, and he’d been working so hard that she’d hardly seen him in the run up. When he’d walked into her little flat a few days before Christmas Eve, he’d laughed at the glitter on the floor and the enthusiastic mess of tinsel and holly and cheap home made decorations. Then he’d snapped the thread holding the sprig of mistletoe to the paper lampshade, grabbed it and walked over to her.

‘You look like Christmas,’ he’d said and she couldn’t say anything because she still felt her stomach churn when she realized that they were really together.

The national anthem started up from the TV – a squelch of half hearted brass that drew her attention back to the room. Just gone three. He’d be here soon. She hoisted herself to her feet, feeling her knees click in that way that they’d only started doing this year. Moved to the kitchen, opened the oven and basted the tiny duckling with marsala from the pan. Perfect for two. Their first Christmas together she’d done the whole thing – turkey, stuffing, mini-chipolatas from M&S. He’d had a few mouthfuls, then said he was sorry and pushed his plate away.

The doorbell rang. He was here. She arranged her face in the mirror above the fireplace, carefully ironing out any wrinkle of sadness or disappointment, curving her lips into a smile that almost looked natural, before opening the door.

‘Hello darling, Happy Christmas.’ His breath, as he kissed her, smelt of smoked salmon and brandy butter and champagne.  She closed her nostrils and breathed through her mouth. His arms were around her shoulders and she laced her fingers around his back, clinging on for as long as she dared.

He laughed as he looked behind her at the Christmas tree.

‘I thought you said that you weren’t going to bother this year?’

‘Well, I wasn’t but, you know me, it’s not Christmas until the decorations are up. And I had a bit of spare time.’

A bit of spare time, she thought. Six or seven hours of spare time. It doesn’t take a long time to prepare a small duck.

‘It’s great to see you Laura. It’s great to be here.’

‘Do you want a drink?’

‘Just a cup of tea for now, love. I’ve had one glass already.’

Her head tipped up.

‘But surely that doesn’t matter now. You’re not going to be driving any more tonight.’ She tried to flatten her intonation at the end of the sentence, not letting it lift into a question.

He sighed, dropped his eyes down, raised them again.

‘Lesley’s parents are coming round tomorrow early. We’re taking the boys down to the steam railway. Christmas treat.’

She said nothing.

‘But I can stay for a good few hours yet. Don’t have to be back till late. We can still have nice afternoon. It’s great to see you Laura. It’s great to be here.’

The duck was perfectly cooked. They ate in the semi-darkness of Christmas afternoon, the table lit by red and gold candles. Both spoke in soft, kind voices, careful not to spoil the day. Later they both stretched themselves out on her tiny sofa. She fed him After Eights and they watched Holiday Inn on Channel Four and she hummed along with Bing Crosby whilst he dozed quietly, his head on her shoulder. She fidgeted him awake when the film ended and they had sex and played cards. She watched him relax and tried not to trick him into drinking too much wine so that he’d have to stay.

When he left, shortly after midnight, making a lame Cinderella joke that they’d both laughed at too hard, she poured herself a large sherry in a brandy glass and sat on the floor next to the Christmas tree. One end of tinsel was sticking out from the mess of decorations and she wound it round her little finger, pulling it tight against the joint so that the fleshly pad swelled and turned white and red. She looked up at her Christmas tree. The star didn’t really fit but she’d jabbed it on the top, causing a flurry of pine needles to fall. She didn’t know why she bothered any more, but this was her thing. And she knew that she wasn’t ready to break the tradition just yet.

23rd Christmas – Audio AntiHero

One of the highlights of this year has been meeting and working with a whole new wave of young labels and creative folk. Claypipe, Odd Box, 2nd Language, Fika, Pull Yourself Together and Audio Antihero are all doing it for love and not money. You should give them your love AND your money though.

My hope is that as a childless old fuck these young scamps will come round and feed and clean me when I’m put in the home. Bearing that thought in mind, today’s advent gifts are all from Jamie Halliday from Audio Antihero. Over to you Jamie. – Darren

Audio Antihero: Specialists in Commercial Suicide has been running since late 2009. I haven’t had a good Christmas since 2008. I’m hoping this year will change that.

The three songs we’re offering come from some of Audio Antihero’s  favourite sons…brothers in arms…failures of the real world…champions of the internet…bitches of the blogosphere. Enjoy.

Benjamin Shaw & Fighting Kites – ‘This Christmas (I Just Want To Be Left Alone)’

A one off collaboration from our miserable backstabber Benjamin Shaw and our very own Shadows reborn, Fighting Kites. It’s pretty odd to hear Shaw’s lyrical spark combined with genuine musical proficiency, much less a brass section…no complaints though.

Benjamin Shaw and Fighting Kites – This Christmas (I Just Want To Be Left Alone)

Benjamin Shaw’s “There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet is out now. Fighting Kites can be heard on “Split” with Broken Shoulder.

Broken Shoulder – ’Stiller Nite’

It takes a special kind of Audio Antihero to re-interpret ‘Silent Night’ in German, instrumentally, while leading the piece with a Southeast Asian instrument called a khene. But that’s BroSho.

Broken Shoulder – Stiller Nite

Broken Shoulder appears on ”Split” with Fighting Kites and his debut “Broken Shoulderrr”.

Nosferatu D2 – ‘It’s Christmas Time (For God’s Sake)’

When the Nosferatu D2 album first came out in October 2009, people seemed to really like us. That sadly did not last past Christmas 2009. Nevertheless, this is the final track on our first release and I’ll be more than happy if this is the last Audio Antihero released song you hear in 2011. But do come back for more.

Nosferatu D2 – It’s Christmas Time (For God’s Sake)
Nosferatu D2’s “We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise” is available now.

Happy Birthday to you, Kathleen. X

21st December – Red Shoe Diaries and We Show Up On Radar

Red Shoe Diaries are five friends from Nottingham who write pop songs for messed-up grown ups. I first met their bass player Rob while he was DJing at the bar I worked at, probably some 7 or 8 years ago. It was like most bar work – fun with the right people, intolerable with the wrong. Those nights Rob turned up with the Don’t Start Feeling All Romantic DJ crew were always the best.
When Fika Recordings kind of got going, Red Shoe Diaries were one of the bands I wanted to get involved. They’re a bunch of lovely people and have recorded some absolutely beautiful songs, so it was always going to be easy. It was their determination for vinyl that got me out of my cassette comfort zone, for which I’m grateful now (though in the midst of the stress and chaos of getting it all together, there was probably a time where I’d have put that 10″ where the sun don’t shine…!)
So if you’ve not picked up a copy of their 10″ EP, When I Find My Heart…, head here to buy a copy. There’ll be more from Red Shoe Diaries in 2012 – expect a download only single and video for Ice & Snow, along with a couple of brand new b-sides… In the mean time, enjoy their download and the video!

Red Shoe Diaries – San Francisco Snowglobe

Here’s what Tom (Red Shoe Diaries) has to say:
San Francisco Snowglobe , the working title of which was Don’t Stop Believing (in Father Christmas), is the first bit of home-recording that we have released. Fittingly fuelled by mince pies and mulled wine, and recorded this Sunday before watching Gremlins, it is several stories woven into one song about friends in far flung places, whom we miss at this time of year.
It’s a song of little snapshots of christmastime in different places. We like the thought of sunnier climes dressed up in faux snow and Christmas trees at this time of year, and snow-globes from places where it doesn’t really snow. We hope you enjoy the song.
Happy Holidays!

On to more Nottingham based Christmas fun from We Show Up On Radar.

WSUOR is Andy Wright. He’s a good chap, a funny one too. He writes somewhat surreal nursery rhymes; a balance of the dark and the twee. He’s got an album coming out in the new year. And he’s got a few shows with Anxieteam in London and Nottingham in January. He’s ace.

We Show Up On Radar – We’re Working Too Hard

We Show Up On Radar
Facebook
Bandcamp

20th December – FortunaPOP! and Scared to Dance

First off here is Sean from FortunaPOP!

Before the world and his wife went positively Christmas song crazy Fortuna POP! released a couple of yuletide albums ourselves. Here are a few songs from those, plus a “new” number from Mr Simon Love previously of the band The Loves. Thank you to everyone who has supported the label this year, we (I) appreciate it very much. It’s been, um, emotional. The 15th birthday shows at the Scala in particular have scarred me for life. Merry Christmas.

 

A Fortuna POP! Christmas by Fortuna POP!

If Sean is the Indie Scrooge then Paul Richards at Scared to Dance is the Bob Cratchit. Scared to Dance is an Indie Club, Live Promotion Co but most charmingly of all, a printed fanzine.

Here is their Xmas podcast for you to enjoy.

19th December – Ballboy and Cosines

Let the lights flicker, let your heart flutter. Here comes Gordon from Ballboy and a piece of festive prettiness. It’s called ‘Merry Christmas to the Drunk, Merry Christmas to the Lovers’ which is apt because I’m still half cut whilst writing this.

Katie plays the piano.

Ballboy – Merry Christmas To The Drunks, Merry Christmas To The Lovers

Cosines give us their cover of Yo La Tengo’s Winter A-Go-Go

Simon and Alice met on the London Underground after a Stereo Totale
gig in 2009, two days later Simon was round Alice’s house unblocking
her kitchen drain.  Since then Simon has been round and put up two
curtain rails, a blind and a shelf.  When they are not doing DIY they
like to talk Beach Boys and analogue synths and occasionally play
music together abley assisted by Dan and Jonny.

The band are quietly working on new material and have a show pencilled
in for the 14th April at the Buffalo Bar.
Facebook
Bandcamp

Cosines – Winter A-Go-Go

18th December – Pete Astor and Winter Cabin

Someone said to me the other day, when do you think people will stop putting ex-Hefner after your name? I don’t suppose they ever will, but I thought I’d do Pete a favour and not list the four (at least) great bands he has been.

Pete has been a friend of mine since about 98 but I’ve been a fan of his since about 88. It’s very strange to hear a voice that is instantly recognisable as your mate and one of your favourite artists. It’s an odd feeling.

Pete Astor – Christmas Time

Pete Astor did the singing, guitar and bells. David Sheppard did everything else. Recorded at Westminster Studio by Alejandro Pelaez.

David Sheppard is level pegging with Bill Botting in Advent contributions because he is also the backing band on this next track by Winter Cabin. We phone Dave when we want our music to sound better. That’s what he does.

Peter Wix of Winter Cabin is a relative new friend, I’m working on making him an old one in time. – Darren

Winter Cabin is the Anglo-Spanish trio of singer Ines Naranjo, lyricist-singer-arranger Peter Wix and musician/arranger David Sheppard. Wrapping discreetly provocative lyrics in music inspired by Italian movie soundtracks, Gallic pop and English and European folk forms, Winter Cabin have previously appeared on two Second Language compilations and are currently preparing a debut album for 2012 release.

A song of midwinter discontent, ‘WINTER ALL OVER THE WORLD’ was begun in a dark London basement and completed in a frosty Spanish village, watched over by towering, snow-capped mountains.

Winter Cabin – Winter All Over The World

WINTER ALL OVER THE WORLD by Winter Cabin

What kind of Christmas is this ?
One for the frightened witnesses
of all the cuts and stitches
visited on our riches.

What kind of business is this ?
There’s one born every minute,
soaking up all our guilt,
wrecking the goodness built.

The bitter perfume of this freeze
smothers the con and furs and sleaze
ding donging merrily on high.
Shepherds are quaking at the sight

What kind of silent night portends
the smashing of windows in dissent ?
Hark at the rude wind’s wild lament
as in our masters’ steps we tread.

For all the good life that they’ve sold
no frankincense no myrrh no gold.
Now in our masters’ steps we tread
where yonder Merc lies dented.

Now is the winter of our
disc on tents in city squares.
Occupy Heaven if you dare.
Occupy Heaven if you dare.

17th December – Bill Botting and Tigercats

Another debut from one of my Secondary Modernists. Bill Botting steps aside from his day jobs in Moustache of Insanity, The Secondary Modern AND Allo Darlin to give us not one but two slices of Australian Christmas cake.

Bill has been in my band the Secondary Modern for a few years now. It must be frustrating because Bill just wants to play bass like McCartney and I keep saying, don’t play bass like McCartney. However I play bass in Rotifer and Robert keep saying to me, Play it more like McCartney. Here’s Bill’s first song.

Bill Botting – Mulled Wine

Bill has this to say…
“I haven’t written anything absolutely on my own for a few years. I think because I’m lucky enough to play with some of the best songwriters around I excuse a lack of confidence by telling myself I just don’t have enough time. But, if you make the effort the time is there. So I made time to write two Christmas songs. I really hope they stand up (or at least sit up straight) next to the frankly astounding Tigercats. I’m letting Darren decide if you get both or just one.

I love Christmas. Always have. I really do start listening to carols about August (only in secret though – I don’t play them out loud till November. I do tend to make things difficult for the people closest to me though, and I worry that at some point I’m going to fuck up Christmas and we won’t get it back. I think that’s the feeling I’ve had while writing. Trying not to ruin something you love, or hurt your loved ones.

Okay, thanks for indulging me – Merry Christmas!” – Bill Botting

Here’s Bill’s second Christmas Song

Bill Botting – Acting Without Acting

Bill Botting appears to be in a race to see who can be involved with the most Christmas Advent tracks but Ian Button has pipped him by recording his fourth (?) track by producing Tigercats.

Here they come those fearless and ferociously funky Tigercats. Here’s Giles Tigercat to explain…

“This is a song by the Sonics, which some Sonics fans don’t seem to like but I can’t understand why. We covered it quite faithfully last year in a suitably ragged style, but Duncan doesn’t let us get away with that kind of shit any more, so we mixed it up a bit an now it’s kind of like a Tigercats song. Laura played one of Darren’s synths on it once he’d told us how to take the lock off. Ian Button recorded it in his magic mobile studio and it was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had recording anything.” – Giles Barrett

Tigercats – Santa Claus

Tom Fika Recordings here.
I think I’m allowed to briefly jump into Darren’s post, mention my love for both Bill and Tigercats, and make a bit of an annoucement…
***drum roll please****
Tigercats have an album coming out! And the vinyl will be on Fika Recordings!
Isle Of Dogs should be out on March 26th 2012. We’ll be doing the LP, while Acuarela Discos handle the CD version. There’ll be new versions of tracks from their first couple of EPs and a handful of new songs too.
If you’ve not seen Tigercats live, please do, they’ve become one of my favourite live bands this year. They’ve got some shows coming up, so no excuses:
Jan 13 – George Tavern, Stepney
Jan 19 – MAP at the Silver Bullet, Finsbury Park
Jan 20 – Portland Arms (with Standard Fare)
Then they’ll be playing London Popfest on the 25th of February with Allo Darlin’, before doing a few dates with them on tour (Feb 26 Leeds Brudenell Social Club / Feb 27 Leicester The Musician / Mar 2 Norwich Arts Centre). Phew!

16th December – The Near Jazz Experience and The Understudies

I like jazz. I don’t care who knows it. I don’t mean, smooth, easy vocal jazz. I don’t mean Ella Fitzgerald. I mean wild, untamed, cacophonous, expressive jazz. Coltrane, Coleman, Davis etc. But it goes further than that. My interest in Free Jazz has taken me out towards free improvised music by Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and others. I was playing a cd the other day and my Wife came in the front room because she thought I was breaking something.

I didn’t think this would happen. Like most punks and indie kids I associate Jazz with indulgence and ego. Once you’re inside this wonderful rewarding music it seems the opposite, it’s generous, intellectual, melodic and to me almost ego-less. Rock starts to like it’s the one wearing the slippers.

I don’t expect you to come with me, but trust me there comes a time when Jazz comes to all of us.

A perfect stepping stone might be Terry Edwards and his Near Jazz Experience. It’s not jazz, it’s ‘near’ jazz. – Darren

Here’s Terry with more words on his song.

“We Freak Kings” – a version of We Three Kings inspired by Roland Kirk’s “We Free Kings”, played by The Near Jazz Experience.

This is the first studio recording to be released by The Near Jazz Experience, an improvisational trio featuring multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards, erstwhile Madness bassist Mark Bedford & drummer Simon Charterton (of Zook, Nitwood & The Higsons). Be of good cheer – there’ll be an album in the New Year.

Recorded by Kevin Feazey at Livingston Studios, Dec 2011. Courtesy of Sartorial Records. – Terry Edwards

The Near Jazz Experience – We Freak Kings

Attempting a link between today’s two artists, The Understudies are no sartorial slouches either. The Understudies wear quiffs and shoes and are probably at least halfway through their jazz conversion. They are sepia toned, classic, precise and thoughtful.

The Understudies [Facebook]

The Understudies [Myspace]

The Understudies – Midnight Mass

15th December – The Hardy Tree and Dave Watkins

One of the highlights of my year has been discovering Frances Castle, aka The Hardy Tree and Claypipe Music. Not only because she’s great company and fast becoming a new friend but also because she made my personal favourite album of the year.

A lot of my favourite music at the moment seems, to me, to deal with memory. The Hardy Tree sound instantly familiar but also strangely remote and exotic. Also in a world of dwindling record sales and bespoke, boutique releases, Frances really does the most beautiful limited, handprinted record sleeves.

Me and Frances will be releasing a record together with WIAIWYA records next year.

Go and buy something now and support one of the good guys. – Darren

www.thehardytree.co.uk

www.claypipemusic.co.uk

The Hardy Tree – The Fields Lie Sleeping Underneath

Dave Watkins has played with me for years in both the Secondary Modern and Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee and I was delighted that he has decided to make his songwriting debut on the Christmas advent. I was shocked that it was a six minute prog opus. Here Dave explains.

Dave Watkins: vocal, ukulele, banjo, electric guitar, children’s shakes
Dave Sheppard: parlour guitar, drums, children’s glockenspiel
Steve King: electric guitar
Ruth Atkins: electric bass

Recorded by Jon Clayton at www.onecatstudio.co.uk

When Darren suggested contributing to a musical advent calendar, I immediately thought of Dave Sheppard. I haven’t recorded that much stuff on my own, and I wanted to partner with someone I like and could trust to help. With us were Ruth and Steve, who both work with me. (Ruth also plays bass in Crumbling Ghost, one of Stewart Lee’s album choices for the year.) We had a really fun Friday afternoon with Jon Clayton making this.

For my two daughters, snowmen, Christmas and winter are synonymous. My daughters are three and a half years old, and for weeks they have been asking me when The Snowman is coming to visit. They want him to live in the sitting room. Raymond Briggs is responsible.

Being a father has given me licence to love Christmas again. I once felt an obligation to be dismissive of its tinselly rituals. But now I believe they are magical – truly. And, because my own childhood was spent in the West Midlands during the 1970s, that sense of magic has found its expression in prog-inflected hard rock. – Dave Watkins

(and remember it’s 6 minutes. It’s not over until you’ve heard the Glockenspiel – Darren)

Dave Watkins – Snowman Parts One and Two

14th December – Emma Kupa from Standard Fare and The Dream of Horses

I didn’t listen to Standard Fare because of their name. Seriously, I’m that stupid. Emma Kupa, who writes and sings for Standard Fare is a truly ferocious talent. She has a completely natural musicality about everything she does and, like all the best singers, is completely unaware of the oddness that makes her unique. I can’t think of anyone that sound like her and that’s the biggest compliment I can pay anyone these days. – Darren

Here’s Emma on her song. – This is the second or third time I’ve been asked to write a Christmas-themed song, and having succumbed the last few years, I didn’t want to write another song about Christmas or snow. I’m Jewish and this year Channuka coincides with Christmas, so that gave me an opportunity to sing about something different. The story goes that a flame in the temple lasted 8 days which was a miracle because they only had oil for one day. So I wanted to take this message (which is easily as good as how great some baby boy is!) and transfer it to the current political and economic situation. It feels like all hope is gone, but maybe we can keep the flame burning! – Emma Kupa

Emma Kupa – Channuka

Rebecca Evans is one of several new friends I made during January Songs. She played clarinet on the song, ‘Staying In.’ She became an even better friend this summer when she took me to an old steam railway in the North East this summer. – Darren

One of the nicest things about this project has been people forming bands especially for the project. Here’s Rebecca on her song.

We put the band “The Dream of Horses” together just for the purpose of this project and recorded it all at home. My younger sister, Sophie Evans, wrote the majority of this song and tells me that the lyrics are all loosely based around people who think that they’re too cool for christmas.

We invited Jon Melvin in to do some of the vocal parts, Jon and me are in band together called The Union Choir and we’ve just released a christmas song with this band for another project – http://thechristmasproject.bandcamp.com/ – Rebecca Evans

The Dream Of Horses – Dress It Up In Tinsel