Sunturns are a group from icy Norway featuring members of Making Marks, Moddi, The Little Hands Of Asphalt, Monzano and Einar Stray Orchestra, who come together seasonally to present their own take on Christmas (as descendents of Vikings, surely they should be celebrating Saturnalia?). Christmas II is the new album being released now, combined in a vinyl double album with Christmas I, from 2011.
Lyrically, they cover everything from shopping malls to the astronomical year, Jesus, death, loss and family fights, with a couple of songs on Christmas II sung in Norwegian (thanks to BBC 4, I can even translate the title of ‘Takk For Alt”). The two albums have different moods though: Christmas I is the more indiepop set, from the jam-like modpop of ‘The Sun Turns’ to the charming, coltish ‘Hallelujah (Christmas Is Here)’ with its Band Aid echoes and the joyfully melodic ‘Summer For Christmas’. It also includes a cover of Swearing At Motorist’s ‘Losing Mine’ and a much darker and intense version of Low’s ‘Just Like Christmas’.
Christmas II is a much gloomier affair (like the day after Boxing Day when those pesky relatives still show no sign of leaving). Opening track ‘Sunni’ is a widescreen affair, layered and complex with lots of piano, while the album ends with their cover of Ramones’ ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’, which here is just slow piano and regret-wracked voice. There are more piano ballads and the mood is generally melancholy (the message of 'Mount Kenya' is “buy me a ticket and get me out of this continent”). However, the optimistic and upbeat ‘The Axial Tilt’ describes the upturn in spirits once we’ve passed the equinox, while ‘Would You’ is a catchy, almost anthemic, tune telling how two people coming together at Christmas could make sense of life.
Indiepop fans will enjoy the albums and the contrast of the two records - the naïve charm of Christmas I balanced by the more mature reflections of Christmas II – means that all sides of Christmas are represented, though only certain songs have the legs to grace a Christmas compilation.