Album: Smith & Burrows, Funny Looking Angels (B-Unique)

4.00

 

As no particular fan of either The Editors or Razorlight, I didn't expect to find much enjoyment in this Christmas album by Editors singer Tom Smith and former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows; but such is the obvious chemistry between the two that Funny Looking Angels is far and away the most engaging of this year's seasonal offerings.

Featuring a blend of standards and originals spiced with judicious covers of sometimes obscure indie tracks, it manages to sustain a mood and attitude throughout without offering too many hostages to homogeneity. The opening "In the Bleak Midwinter" features Smith's lugubrious baritone against a hovering mist of chilly ambience, ultimately supplanted by a burst of epic illumination – the effect is as if the spirit of Elbow had been co-opted into Christmas duty.

It serves as the intro for the duo's own "When The Thames Froze", a blend of upright piano, martial snare and wan vocal that's just the right side of Coldplay-esque, with Smith finding succour from seasonal gloom in "skating across the Thames, hand in hand with all my friends". It's a pleasing notion to contrast against the fretful imagery elsewhere of streets filled with homeless and protestors, and Smith's heartfelt cry, "God damn this government/ Will they ever tell me where the money went?".

The biggest surprise, though, is Burrows's vocal charm on songs such as "As the Snowflakes Fall" and a cover of Yazoo's "Only You" assailed by vaunting sheets of synth and monochord piano. "As The Snowflakes Fall" is particularly lovely, with Burrows's falsetto harmonies echoed by fluting synth fills over the sleek piano groove, as he contemplates a winter epiphany. "Funny Looking Angels" itself, a cover of a little-known song by Birmingham indie band Delta, features a philanthropic message ("It's in my pocket, you can have it if I've got it") over a chunky handclap groove in which mandolin forms unusual alliance with burring horns; lowering brass also lends poignancy to a cover of The Longpigs' "On and On" led by Burrows' bittersweet assertion of co-dependency: "I wish you didn't need me/ And I wish I didn't love you so".

Elsewhere, Smith contributes a Snow Patrol-esque vocal to a cover of Black's "Wonderful Life", and duets with Agnes Obel on a slightly uncomfortable version of "The Christmas Song", while "This Ain't New Jersey" uses piano and celeste to effect a sort of Springsteen-ish slow burn behind another epiphany. This time, it's Smith who's initially complaining about the radio playing the same old songs each Christmas, and the TV always falling back on It's A Wonderful Life, before realising how comforted he is by the repetition. "We drink, we sing, and I forget the things that I need are here," he observes, finally thankful for the mercies afforded by the season. Hopefully, with several decent new additions to the Christmas canon included here, the radio won't be quite so repetitive in future.

DOWNLOAD THIS: When The Thames Froze; As The Snowflakes Fall; Funny Looking Angels; This Ain't New Jersey

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones