TODO: Kirsty MacColl

TODO is one daily thing recommended for you, by us.

If she's known at all in this country, the late Kirsty MacColl is best known for her duet with The Pogues on the Christmas classic Fairytale of New York (sample lyric: "You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot/Happy Christmas my arse, I pray God it's our last"). In a post yesterday on the Guardian's music blog, Shane MacGowan (!) offered a reminiscence of MacColl, six years to the day after she was cut in half by a speedboat in Mexico. She's one of our favorite singers of all time, and the fact that she never really achieved much fame in her lifetime makes it more than likely that those who haven't heard her music aren't going to have many opportunities to. Which would be almost as tragic as, well, getting cut in half by a speedboat in Mexico.

TODO: Kirsty MacColl

MacColl, the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl (the guy who wrote "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face") got her start as part of the pub rock/punk scene that culminated in the Stiff Records label; her early singles (some of which were actually hits for Tracey Ullman, of all people) hearken back to the girl group aesthetic of the sixties: they are incredibly catchy and infectious (we are unable to come to the end of the bridge in "They Don't Know" without shouting "Baaaaaay-bee"). Contract issues kept her from recording as a solo artist for a while, but she reemerged with 1989's Kite and followed it up with Electric Landlady and Titanic Days. These are three brilliant records that reveal a mature, sophisticated songwriter who conveys all the joys and hurts a woman endures in this life. (Titanic Days' "Soho Square" is both beautiful and heartbreaking; the title track, in which the narrator recalls a doomed, violent relationship, contains this gem:"So hot so hungry, so fare thee well goodbye /I got so angry, now I sit here and sigh/My love, always, we should rejoice in these titanic days"; nothing in MacColl's world is black and white. You know, just like life.) MacColl's voice takes a little getting used to: there's something both grainy and ethereal about it. We were initially resistant for just that reason, but after the proverbial repeated listening, we finally took to it; it's gorgeous. (She was also a brilliant interpreter of other people's work: Her cover of The Kink's "Days" blows the original out of the water; her reworking of Billy Bragg's "A New England" gave us a whole new appreciation for Bragg.)

It's hard to choose just one of these three records (or Tropical Brainstorm, her Latin-tinged finale) to recommend; we love them all equally. But were we forced to, we suppose we'd suggest you go with Titanic Days: it's dark, aching, and pretty close to perfect. We can't think of an artist we miss more.

Shane's yule blog: on a sad day there's still room for surprises [Guardian]

Justice for Kirsty