12 Plays of Christmas – Ben Walker and Josienne Clarke

I promised myself I’d start earlier this year so in late October Quiff packed up it’s tiny hipster record deck and retired to its cell for some heavy-duty meditation. Six weeks – and some impressive hair growth – later and here we are one day ahead of last year’s schedule. Congratulations are due all round I’m sure you’d agree. Especially since, at the last count only 9 of the 12 records required for this list had been chosen.

The idea is simple, one terrific album for each of the next 12 days taking us up to the probable, or improbable, birth date of that terribly nice, or terribly rebellious, bloke who may, or may not, be the son of a god that may, or may not, exist. All clear? Good, because what’s likely to happen is that I will continue to mask my laziness with a blend of forgetfulness and displacement activity and we’ll finish some time in early January. Still, the records will be very, very good.

We begin with an album which was one of the few whose impending release I was truly excited about.  Ben Walker and Josienne Clarke’s previous record was a thing of joy and wonderment. A quiet folk opus drawing together the myriad threads of a thousand musical ideas into a warm and cosy blanket of beauty.

This is not a band that lack for ambition or the talent which is required to steer a record away from the rocky outcrops of pretension. Overnight is, like the best things, both seemingly obvious and unfathomably deep. It is the story of a single person on a single night , rising at dusk and setting just after dawn, lost in contemplation, dreams a mere whisper in the leaves.

Something Familiar is eloquent and melancholy, the gossamer-light flicker of a flame going out:

I wouldn’t say I was lonely
But I know we’re alone
My mind clings to memory
Like a heart to a home

There is the sense of a truth unfurling here, a darkness embraced by their dawdling, jazz-tinged cover of Gillian Welch’s Dark Turn Of Mind, the crystalline purity of the original turned imperceptibly to reflect the light from a new angle:

And so the record turns, skewering down into the night, drifting in to a listless sleep before rising to the warm caress of the sun. The truth, before so insubstantial, is now absolute and unavoidable. Her relationship is over and it is time to begin anew:

Overnight is a record of death and rebirth told through the most cunningly obvious of allegories. It is the darkness at the end of something and the lightness of the start. It tells the story of the terrible thoughts we have when relationships end, of guilt and anger and relief and reminds us that we rise again, the glory of a summer’s day ahead.

Overnight is available on Rough Trade Records.

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