Welcome back to the Real Gone Singles Bar, the place where we explore the various individual tracks and mp3s that have landed in our inbox over the previous few weeks. This time around, we offer a festive selection – a collection of tunes with a Christmas theme, ranging from the traditional to the bespoke. Some of the material is brand new; some re-works the familiar in a new way, but when heard together, we hope these tunes entertain, and will prop up any great alternative playlist!


Makers of one of the year’s finest albums, Canadian band The Matinee end a great year with their own take on a yuletide favourite. They’ve taken Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ and remodelled it in the Americana style, which really brings out the sad undertone in the lyrics. Since the song in so ingrained in the public consciousness, it’s great to be able to hear it in a new way. The combo of heavy twang interspersed by sad steel guitar is classic Matinee, and with the lead vocal sounding ready to crack, it now sounds like the old tearjerker it deserved to be.

Melodic punkers King of Cups are here with an important message: There is no “War On Christmas”. Their Xmas offering combines choirs and sleigh bells with riffs worthy of blink-182 when they embark on a brilliant four minute attack on the idiots who allow themselves to be riled by Fox News and their rubbish. It’s sharp; it’s satirical…but above all, it still feels festive, and proves that Bowling For Soup don’t have the monopoly on satirical silliness.

Presenting their first new recording in several years, beloved third wave ska legends Save Ferris apply a jaunty rhythm and a world of bells to a tale of obsession and heartbreak on ‘Xmas Blue’. Monique Powell’s lyric drops the listener into the mind of a bitter, lonely figure who’s never recovered from a breakup, making for uncomfortable listening in the best possible way. Musically, the chopping guitars and ska based rhythm are very much familiar territory, and constantly lift something miserable to the realms of bizarrely enjoyable. It’s a ‘Lonely This Christmas’ for the ska set, and although it mightn’t quite rival No Doubt’s ‘Oi To The World’ or The Voodoo Glow Skulls hammering out ‘Feliz Navidad’ in the name of fun, it’s always good to have Save Ferris back again.

By choosing to open with a round of wordless vocals and Christmas bells, ‘Merry Fuzzy Christmas’ by Washing Machina has a traditional quality lurking beneath its surface, but it doesn’t skimp on the guitar riffs. Throughout the bulk of this fun track, a wall of guitars throws out Weezer inspired chords, cranking the distortion to eleven, providing a great contrast to a vocal that’s decidedly more of an indie pop persuasion. Although everything ends up sounding like Letters To Cleo on overdrive, there’s also a semi-sarcastic sassiness here that might remind some listeners of The Waitresses. Whichever way you approach it, this is a great track – festive fun that even the most hard hearted listener might enjoy.

Abbie Barrett’s gentle voice sounds absolutely superb as it glides across a slow bass groove and sleigh bells on ‘Christmas Star’. Although working to a smaller budget, there’s plenty about this festive track that taps into an Aimee Mann inspired mood with its downbeat vocals and big, sweeping melody, which will be enough alone to sell a great adult pop tune to a lot of listeners. Factor in a choir of vocals for that extra wintery feel and an unexpectedly angular lead guitar creeping through during the climax, and it provides yet another reason to believe that Barrett has a talent that’s deserving of far more attention.

Whenever Type O Negative covered anything, the track immediately became their own. This fact has not been lost on drone rock band Forlesen, who’ve taken Type O’s festive dirge ‘Red Water (Christmas Mourning)’ and, in turn, reworked it in their own image. The original track’s deep gothic tones are now gone, and in their place, an abrasive, cold riff now takes centre stage. Part drone, part black metal, part funeral doom; it’s almost impenetrable, but impossible to ignore. Over the sheet of noise, the band have also introduced a range of oppressive vocals that are spawned from a swamp of extreme metal ugliness. The Type O Negative track is all but unrecognisable in places, but conveys an intensity that’s so un-festive, it’s likely that Peter Steele would be proud of the result.

Here’s a new take on something very familiar. ‘The Christmas Song’ is one of the classics, with a melody and lyric that’s been embedded into several generations, often via Nat ‘King’ Cole’s interpretation. Vocalist Breland shares a great take on the much loved track that retains a very similar laid back, easy listening jazzy feel, but shares a more modern vocal. The featured voice presents itself with a honeyed ease over a jazz bass and smooth piano throughout, providing the ultimate showcase for Breland’s talents, and the singer – although remaining very respectful – makes the tune their own in the modern age.

Finally, a traditional finish… The Dollyrots love Christmas. The release of a festive single has become something of a fixture for the duo, and this year, they’ve shared a high octane take of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ for your pleasure. The speed driven power pop punk riffs take on the typical Dollyrots energy, ensuring fans will love it from first listen. Sure, you could cover about three dozen better Xmas songs, but this recording shares a very cool riff, and Kelly’s lead vocal brings a massively sugary melody throughout, making it a perfect fit for the band’s typical blend of tough and sweet sounds.

December 2023