Here’s our latest round-up of four current and recent record releases worth a listen.
More will follow next year.
• Kylie Minogue: Kylie Christmas
Casting against type is one of those things that looks like a stroke of genius on the odd occasion that it works, but mostly it doesn’t, and it’s then roundly condemned for being so obviously doomed to failure.
Pop princess Kylie Minogue tries her hand at miscasting on her latest album, her 13th, and, predictably enough, comes a bit of a cropper.
The 47-year-old comes closer to getting away with reversing her two duetting partners’ roles than might be expected, however.
Television funnyman James Corden is handed a straight singing part on a version of Yazoo’s 1982 No 2 Only You - a Christmas chart-topper for the Flying Pickets in 1983 and also covered on Smith and Burrows’ 2011 yuletide album, Funny Looking Angels, but otherwise of no seasonal significance - and rock legend Iggy Pop, a proper singer, is tasked with providing humorous input on a revival of the Waitresses’ 1982 near hit Christmas Wrapping.
Both take on their roles gamely enough, but you can’t help but feel that Pop might have been better suited to Only You and Corden to the Waitresses’ novelty hit.
The Australian’s only other sort-of duet partner on Kylie Christmas is Frank Sinatra, but he is unlikely to have had much say about his contribution to Santa Claus is Coming to Town, having been dead since 1998. It’s difficult to see the US crooner, were he able to offer an opinion from beyond the grave, regarding his appearance here as the pinnacle of his career, though.
The other 10 tracks that make up the standard version of Kylie Christmas, a No 12 hit currently sitting at No 22 in the album chart, are more predictable choices, such as the 1963 Andy Williams hit It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and the 1953 Eartha Kitt hit Santa Baby, delivered in appropriately upbeat and suitably sultry fashion respectively, and the LP is none the worse for that.
This is too knowingly kitsch and upbeat to be a turkey, but it is also cheesier than the potted Stiltons occasionally given out as Christmas presents. It’s all good-natured festive fun and, though it won’t be everyone’s idea of the ideal Christmas present, it is pretty much what Minogue’s many fans would expect from such an album by the former Neighbours actress, so they won’t be at all disappointed.
Its better moments include an almost-poignant take on 2000 Miles, a No 15 hit for the Pretenders in 1983 since covered by the likes of Coldplay, the Unthanks and, coincidentally enough, fellow former Neighbours star Natalie Imbruglia.
• Johnny Marr: Adrenalin Baby
If you’re a friend or relative of a Smiths fan and you’re currently deliberating whether to buy him – and it’s almost certainly a him, in much the same way that an Adele fan is almost certainly a her – frontman Morrissey’s debut novel, List of the Lost, or this album, guitarist Johnny Marr’s first live offering, as a Christmas present, this one is the pick of the pair, unless its intended recipient is fond of amusing euphemisms for private parts such as “central issue” and “bulbous salutation”.
It draws heavily on the 52-year-old’s last solo album, 2014’s Playland, featuring its title track, Dynamo, Back in the Box, 25 Hours, Candidate and Boys Get Straight, but its 17 tracks also include the 1989 Electronic single Getting Away With It and four Smiths numbers – The Headmaster Ritual, Bigmouth Strikes Again, There is a Light That Never Goes Out and How Soon is Now? – and an enjoyable cover of the 1960 Crickets song I Fought the Law.
Marr’s voice might only be serviceable, but his guitar work is, as ever, exceptional, making this album, a No 96 hit recorded mostly in London and Marr’s home city of Manchester, worth having, if far from essential.
• Fictonian: Desire Lines
Desire Lines, the debut album from Fictonian, alias singer-songwriter Glen Roberts, sounds a lot like Coldplay in one of their more bedwetter-friendly, less adventurous moods.
Roberts is a one-man band, but his reliance on simple loops and sparse production makes this come across as atmospheric and minimalist rather than cheap and cheerful.
There are some pleasing turns of phrase and nice touches over the course of this album’s 11 tracks, making it a promising calling card for Roberts.
• Foo Fighters: St Cecilia EP
This free EP, named after the US hotel it was recorded in and also the Italian patron saint of musicians, comprehensively disproves the old adage that you get what you pay for as it’s the best thing the US rock giants have done for years.
Its five tracks, though slickly produced, are more rock-orientated than the band have sounded for a while and a lot more straightforward and focused than anything on their last album, 2014’s Sonic Highways.
The title track is the pick of the bunch here, combining rousing singalong lyrics with the classic Foo Fighters song structure, essentially alternating quieter bits with noisier ones, that has marked out their biggest hits over the years.
Saviour Breath is also pleasingly punchy, being reminiscent of the Motorhead classic Ace of Spades in parts, and not at all let down by the incomprehensibility of its lyrics.
It can be downloaded for free at www.saintceciliaep.com, though fans are invited to make donations to charities working with families affected by last month’s terrorist atrocities in France.