CHART OF DARKNESS: The Take That dominance continues as expected but there's oddness all around in both of this week's charts, not least mad Icelandic cartoon series Lazy Town's spin-off entering at number 4. The lead character's called Sportacus, which has to be worth something. Virtually everything else is either a download climber or a download entry, Morrissey, of course, providing the only proper entry at 16. So that's Gwen Stefani's madness at 8 (could it be Christmas number one/two? Lord), Jamelia's much-hyped second single smash not exactly smashing in at 10, Chris Cornell getting the highest position of his career already in advance the easy way at 12 and the Scissor Sisters not exactly taking advantage of that ITV thing at 19. Slade and the Pogues are at 22 and 23 respectively, Paolo Nutini fades at 27, Ever Fallen In Love by Lil Chris (ed note - pls check) is at 33 and Jay-Z fails to make the popular distance again at 38. That's only two up on Thunder. Embrace's World Cup campaign seems to have done as much damage to them as it did to the players as their latest single enters at 54.
Oasis are the last band standing in that number one battle of three weeks ago in a chart settling down for the Asda sales, bar the Fratellis climbing back into the top 20, Gwen Stefani at 26, an Andrea Bocelli reissue (?) at 35, Mary J Blige not impressing anyone here with all those Grammy nominations at 42, Lil Chris at 54, Emma Bunton at 65 and for some reason the Babyshambles EP registering at 62. That's 33 places behind the second week of Katie'n'Peter, and they've had half the self-made publicity.
FREE MUSIC: On Monday we anointed the debut Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album with the prestigious number 23 slot in our end of year countdown. Time waits for no buzz band, however, so second album Some Loud Thunder is scheduled for 29th January over here, 56 weeks on from their debut. They've asked bloggers to host the two free mp3s of new tracks themselves but sod that effort for a game of soldiers, here's a direct link to the news piece where you'll find they're progressing along nicely after a lo-fi Spector bent, with the expanding drive of Underwater (You And Me) and dulcetly spooked piano-led Love Song No. 7. Alternatively, from download mash-up compilation Santastic II comes A Plus D's combination of Sarah Silverman and Trio's Da Da Da Give Da Jew Girl Toys. Or would sir prefer the dirty version?
HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Some expansive bubblegum music to take you towards The Season? Toronto's The Bicycles aren't for those with allergies to cuteness in indiepop, given they sound like a carnival sugar rush Apples In Stereo/New Pornographers (they also have Hidden Cameras associations) with cheap organs, ba-ba-ba harmonies, odd bits of brass and echoes of the 60s British Invasion and the tweepop golden age. Their album is called The Good The Bad And The Cuddly, which is about right.
VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Christmas songs, obviously. If you've not got A Very Sweeping Christmas yet, we don't want to talk to you. Here's some of its tracks in visual form while you're going and doing that, namely the songs by Jose Feliciano (look at the effort), Kate Bush (gorgeous piano solo version from someone obviously well stocked on YouTube, such is the reliance of her fans), Rufus Wainwright, the Ramones, No Doubt, Saint Etienne and Mew. You'll also find therein the Wedding Present covering Elton John, and Oi To The World was originally by the Vandals. And should that not quite be enough, bear in mind that we purposefully left out from that collection some of the most celebrated and endlessly played festive songs in the pop world. And that's without even mentioning Winter Wonderland by Jimmy Kimmel and Mike Tyson. Or Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas as done by Bert & Ernie.
FALLING OFF A BLOG: The blogosphere's not exactly scrimping on Christmas music blogs either: A Christmas Yule Blog has picked out some ridiculously eclectic vinyl obscurities including The Pac-Man Christmas Album, Pat Boone and, good christ, Fogwell Flax; the excellently titled FaLaLaLaLa is equally obscure; and Last Christmas really is just that song in all its covered and remixed forms, including Erland Oye, the Three Degrees and the celebrated Mr Methane. If the maintainers of that site are passing by, have you got Pullover's version from a Fierce Panda EP?
EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: So this time of year is about two things, wrapping up the year and preparing for festivities. For the former, Grizzly Bear's blog posts Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy's top 20 albums of 2006, and we won't mention two of the top three don't strictly count; on the latter score Dan Michaelson of Absentee and Steven Adams of the Broken Family Band have teamed up at Playlouder's behest as Hot Uncles for downloadable Christmas song The Joy Of Giving. What does it sound like? Two world-weary indie-alt-country singers fuelled on whisky and misanthropy, what did you think it'd sound like?
IN OTHER NEWS: One of the year's saddest losses, and we're only saying 'one of' to be on the safe side, was Grant McLennan. In wrapping up the year, we must note that on a brighter note his Go-Betweens partner Robert Forster has won the 2006 Pascall Prize for Critical Writing for his work in The Monthly magazine, for which he penned this superb tribute to his late foil. (news from Fire Escape Talking)