Tyrone and Lesley’s Baubles: A Ukulele Christmas Song by Song

Tyrone and Lesley have released a Christmas album. Some would consider it an Anti-Christmas album. I reckon the more you think about it, the smaller a difference there is between the two, but that’s another story.  This is about the songs which comprise Baubles, which were written over five years, and recorded in 36 hours. It’s available here and (more cheaply) elsewhere. You can read about why and how we made it here.

The reviews are in!

“I would really enjoy this if I existed” – Santa
“…an album that is dear to my heart” – Rudolph
“…if i found this in my stocking… it would be very uncomfortable” – Mrs Claus

 

Most Christmas albums are cheap, shiny, lumpy, treasured throwaways – giftwrapped contradictions –  and Tyrone and Lesley’s Baubles proudly offers a unique twist on that tradition by putting 12 original tunes under the tree, music which playfully takes in holiday heartache and Xmas exasperation, alongside the wallet-wearying Christmas consumerism we all love and endure.

Played on ukulele and double bass, augmented with all sorts of bells and whistles, these 12 new songs of yuletide ukulele will put sparkle in your season, jingle your bells and cure your tinsellitis.

C h r i s t m a s t i m e   C o n s u m p t i o n

Ukulele Christmas

Christmas is for sharing (wishing) <> Christmas is for selfishness (wanting)

Someone, probably a young person,  wanting a ukulele for Christmas,  talking about the potential positive influence it will have on the occasion, the joy bound up in popular conceptions of the ukulele. The below video contains links to a free download and lyric/chordsheet.

Re-Gifting 

Christmas is a time for giving <> Christmas is a time for mindless  consumerism

Regifting is about the pressure to purchase and proffer presents, a process and product which is (according to the song’s narrator)  unwarranted,  and unwanted. The assumption is that the gift is unwanted, and passed on to another person who , presumably doesn’t want it either and therefore instigates and continues the process of re-gifting. Includes re-gifted musical quotes from Christmas carols.

Christmas (W)rap

Unwrapping gifts invites surprise and delight <> Unwrapping gifts invites a waste of money and paper

A hip-hop rap about the waste, annoyance and disposability of colourful Christmas wrapping. Written from a fan suggestion, thanks Elise.

Days of Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving <> Christmas is a time for getting

This is a micro-song on Christmas consumerism. A simple take on the 12 days of Christmas, an absurd joke based in synonyms for shopping,  a live recording based in the idea of the increasing frustration of the person marooned in a department store during Christmas time. Shorter than an itunes preview, it’s a throwaway tune, its inbuilt obsolescence reflecting the disposable nature of much Christmas paraphernalia. Perhaps.

H o l i d a y   H e a r t a c h e

Christmas Presence 

Christmas is about togetherness and family <> Christmas is about loneliness and separation

This song covers the piquancy Christmastime adds to romantic longing when separated from a loved one. Juxtaposing  images of a suburban Christmas,  and mixed Christmas imagery,  alongside a moment of performativity,  where the song’s weariness seems to extend to the writer,  who can’t be bothered finding an extra rhyme to complete a verse.

Christmas Through your Window

Christmas is about plenty and prosperity and togetherness <> Christmas is about privation and disenfranchisement and separation

This song’s quite an unusual one for Tyrone and Lesley to do, and certainly a risky one for me to sing. The lyrics imply separation in family, spatial, and economic terms. Depending how you read it, it may explore the personal impact of social inequity at a time when prosperity, plenty and family are pushed as social archetypes.  While the idea that suicide rates and domestic violence rates peak during the festive season ends seems to be a myth,  it’s certainly a time of family stress,  and intense loneliness for those who do not have (or are separated from) family.

Artificial Snow

The wintry Christmas is a reality <> the wintry Christmas is a falsehood

This instrumental was inspired by an instrument, a new ukulele that had been made especially for me by Bevan Galbraith at ‘Captain’ ukuleles. Its lovely, full-bodied sound and sustain led me to a particular set of arpegggiated half-chords. It seemed to sit fine without any words, so I incorporated it initially as ‘filler’ for the album, but Samuel’s bass part (alongside my debut as a vibraphone player) has made it one of my favourite moments on the record.

X m a s   E x a s p e r a t i o n

It’s Christmas this Christmas

Christmas is marvellous and something to be enjoyed <> Christmas is overrated and something to be endured

This song offers doggerel based in ennui and annoyance with the Christmas season. The throwaway lyrics and music arrived quickly, and with little effort, and it sounds like it. I made no effort to avoid amateurish compositional clichés, and it shows.

Boxing Day

When Christmas is over we feel fulfilled <> When Christmas is over we feel disappointed

This is a rhumba about the realities of the family gathering,  especially once the forced bonhomie of Christmas has dissipated: the post Christmas slump. Features Will Eager on drums. A snippet here over a studio montage.

Christmas in the Air

Christmas smells wonderful  <> Christmas stinks

This was a genre exploration at first, the source of its silliness being its sincerity.  I’d never written a power-ballad, or composed on a piano  before. Rather than the sweet, comforting odours of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the implication is that Christmas spirit is something that’s  a bit ‘on the nose’. Like most powerballads, its sweet covering disgusese its hollow heart. Features Samuel Vincent on the Steinway grand piano.

Like a Light Bulb

Secular Christmas songs are joyful,  and fun to sing along with <> Secular Christmas songs are saccharine, and a chore to sing along with

Recalling children’s creativity in creating shouted responding to Christmas carols I had the idea of doing a tune which performed only these ‘responses’. Sam then offered the idea that we only sing the phrase ‘like a light bulb’. The concept seemed so stupid and annoying we had to include it.

Why is Santa Everywhere? 

Modern Christmas traditions, especially the mythical figure of Santa Claus are delightful and homely and fun for children <> Christmas traditions especially the figure of Santa Claus are strange, sad,  weird and a pack of needless,  and unsustainable fantasies which can lead only to disappointment

Here a child is asking a seemingly obvious question – if there’s only one Santa,  why is he in multiple shopping centres,  and if he’s supposed to be so ‘merry’,  why does he seem so despairing? The song’s narrator questions the authenticity of the poorly costumed, amateur performer slumped in a chair at the shopping mall. such a common sight at Christmas. You can hear an instrumental sample of it below.

Recorded at Gasworks Studios October and November 2015  Performed by Tyrone and Lesley with   David Megarrity ukulele,  banjolele,  acoustic guitar, vibraphone, keyboards, percussion   Samuel Vincent double bass, electric bass, grand piano,  glockenspiel,  keyboards, percussion   Will Eager Drums

Tracked by Mikaela Gedye and Josh Tuck, Engineered and mixed by James See

It’s available almost everywhere.

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