CAST your mind to a far-off time, if you will: the 1980s and before. And then: the Christmas music you’d hear.
Back then, before t’interweb and swipe-right, there wasn’t really a great deal on offer for the discerning music fan come the festive season.
There was the glam band having another go at boozy, seasonal brotherhood recapturing the old days; there was the maudlin, oversentimentality of the tunes Granny would get misty-eyed to over a sherry. There was “Fairytale Of New York”, relatively recently, a tune which sounded like it was in your DNA forever, and there was “I Believe In Father Christmas”; but there wasn’t y’know, a whole lot else, really, that was cool about the releases in this twelfth of the year.
And can you remember when Christmas became truly, y’know, cred?
Many people date this to the release of Low’s stunning Christmas album in ’99; but if you were in the UK around that time, you’d have witnessed Saint Etienne and Tim Burgess bringing some pristine indiepop goodwill to all men with that performance of “I Was Born On Christmas Day”.
Since then, Sarah, Bob and Pete have periodically revisited the Christmas tune every two or three years, usually in EP form; hell, they even had the cojones to take Chris Rea’s jolly, brassy swing, “Driving Home For Christmas” and make of it swoonsome folk pop.
And the trio have just released a lead single and video for this year’s glitter-showered musical offering. It’s entitled “Her Winter Coat” and it and the EP of the same name are out now in digital format from Heavenly. Herein is the video, whyever not?
The song itself is very much of the hallowed and atmospheric stripe of seasonal songs, and thus very much towards Low country; Sarah, deep in the mix, whispers a spoken word tale over a dreamtime, phasing backing, which lyrically depicts a more wintry backstory to the cover stars of their recent album, I’ve Been Trying To Tell You, telling a tale of three friends, maybe before and also maybe after being lovers. dipping in sea lochs, visits to lonely kirks.
Bob Stanley says: “We love Christmas, as you probably know, and it feels like it’s been a while since our last really Christmassy Christmas record; but I think Pete has done a properly beautiful, icy, frosted, festive job on ‘Her Winter Coat’. Alasdair’s film for it is the icing on the yule log. I hope you love it as much as I do. We’re really looking forward to playing it live!”
And yes, the song gets more of what you’d definitely say is a short film than a video from Alasdair McLellan, shot in monochrome. He also directed a film for the album.
He says: “When I first heard ‘Her Winter Coat’, I thought it sounded really dreamy, otherworldly and magical. I was keen to shoot the video as a vague continuation of the film I’ve Been Trying To Tell You, and carry on the narrative of three characters from the film, and then also set it in Scotland as that’s where that film ends.
“I’ve always loved the Western Isles in Scotland and also the ferries that take you from one island to the next. Particularly the ferry from the Isle of Mull to Iona.
“Iona is such a beautiful, mystical island, so I wanted to tell the story of a girl running away from her troubles on the mainland and escape all the way to Iona on a spiritual journey to give herself some time to think. Just like in the song.”
Pete adds: “To complement ‘Her Winter Coat’, Sarah and Gus Bousfield have come up with the incredibly catchy ‘A Kiss Like This’, laden with swirling hibernal synths, and for a touch of Cold War frost we have the brooding melancholy instrumental ‘Lillehammer’ to complete the package. Hope you love ’em all!”
With vinyl production currently oversubscribed everywhere, the EP’s digital release will be supplemented by a four-track CD and two flexidiscs, taking Bob back to his days running the indie flexi label The Caff Corporation. You can get a flexi in Christmassy green for “Her Winter Coat” and red for “A Kiss Like This”, and they’ll all be out on December 10th. They’ll be available to buy individually or as a bundle; all proceeds from sales will be donated to the Trussell Trust, the UK’s foodbank charity. Good on you, folks.
Finally, a BFI Blu-Ray edition of Alasdair McLellan’s film for I’ve Been Trying To Tell You will be released on December 6th which features extras including new films for “Her Winter Coat”, “Hello Holly”, “Escalade”, and “Access To All Alone/Infinity 21”. It also includes all three original trailers for I’ve Been Trying To Tell You, a 29-minute interview with Bob Stanley and Alasdair McLellan about the making of the film the original Marc Jacobs Daisy commercial featuring “Nothing Can Stop Us”, which is how band and director first met. That’s available to pre-order here.
Saint Etienne’s Her Winter Coat is available digitally to purchase or stream now, here, with the flexidiscs to follow next week.
I’ve Been Trying To Tell You is available now digitally, on CD, CD+DVD; trad black, limited clear and Rough Trade exclusive powder blue vinyl, and may be ordered here.
Connect with Saint Etienne elsewhere online at their website and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.