Find an alternative festive soundtrack

Christmas isn’t the same without those schmaltzy old pop tunes. The malls start playing Fairytale of New York and Stop The Cavalry in early November, and the countdown to Christmas gets underway.

This is when the few remaining record shops on the High Street fill the windows with Phil Spector’s Christmas album, or Susan Boyle’s seasonal collection remaindered from last winter.

Those looking for some fresh festive music for 2011 aren’t exactly spoiled for choice. Depending on your age, your hormones might be all astir at the thought of Michael Buble’s imaginatively-titled Christmas, or Justin Bieber’s Under the Mistletoe collection, but otherwise the pickings are a little slim.

One exception is the rather fine offering by She & Him, the duo comprised of country-folk troubadour M Ward and everyone’s favourite kooky indie actor Zooey Deschanel.

Their album, entitled A Very She & Him Christmas, embraces the kitsch value of Christmas songs to the full. Tracks include standards like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Silver Bells and Baby It’s Cold Outside.

The mood is knowing, retro and tongue-in-cheek, but betrays a certain affection for Christmas tradition. Deschanel’s spooky vocals are sweet and only a tiny bit cloying, like that family tin of Quality Street you are working your way through on Christmas night.

The duo have enough cool and indie cred to impress the most sullen adolescents in the family. They also have enough respect for the old tunes to keep granny happy. It’s a guaranteed winner for the Christmas Eve party.

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