By Smoke Fairies
Those of you looking for an alternative Christmas album could do a lot worse than buy Smoke Fairies' latest golden offering to the crib. It's their second album of the year on the back of their eponymous third album released in the spring, although this one is released on the Rough Trade label. Not bad for a band that split up briefly after touring their second album Blood Speaks a couple of years ago..
Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies have produced ten brooding, smouldering tracks with their distinctive harmonies miles apart from the Christmas of Slade, Mariah Carey and Chris Rea. In the words of the band "it's buzzy and raw and not one tinkling of sleigh bells can be heard".
The album starts with the death-march intro of 'Christmas without a kiss' which seems to evoke that drunken Christmas Eve feeling, heading back from the pub with no-one but your muddied thoughts. The tempo shifts to a dizzying reflection on the stars before sobering up at the climax.
It's an encouraging start but there are some really outstanding tracks here. 'Three Kings', a classic Smoke Fairies song with a great hook, 'Wild Winter', which has a beautiful ending, and the last song on the album, the hypnotically melancholic 'All Up in the Air'. There's also a really lovely cover of Captain Beefheart's Steal Softly Thru Snow which brings out the melody of the madcap original.
This is a really impressive album written by a duo totally in control of their craft which captures the true spirit of Christmas. Their star may not be bright in the firmament and probably never will be but these Fairies are at least on top of this writer's Xmas tree.