Comrade Hat’s ‘Winter Songs 2009-2015’ is behind door number 16 of our Essential Advent Calendar.
The pseudonym of Derry-based singer songwriter Neil Burns, Comrade Hat describes his music as “pop/folk/psych/lounge/prog/OTHER”. His unusual stage name is the moniker given to him in school after his Soviet-style hat.
We first came across Neil when researching for our interview with Great White Lies – Neil is the joint musical director of the Inishowen Gospel Choir, is a classically trained composer and pianist, and has collaborated with various artists across different styles.
Available from Neil’s bandcamp page, ‘Winter Songs 2009-2015’ is a compilation of songs from Neil’s past 5 Winter/Christmas EPs: ‘The Winter Takes it All’ (Jan 2015), ‘4 Songs for Winter’ (Dec 2013), ‘Christmas is Upon Us’ (Dec 2012), ‘Guiding Star’ (Dec 2010), and ‘Happy New Year’ (Dec 2009). In addition to ‘Winter Songs 2009-2015’, Neil’s other releases are also available.
Comrade Hat covers many different styles in his music – ‘Going Home’, the 5th song on the album, has a real 80s feel about it. Opener ‘In The Bleak Mid-Ulster’ is a nice take on the Christmas classic, with elements of jazz bolstered by a brass band – beautiful.
‘Bills’ starts off as a sort of parody of ‘Close To You’ by The Carpenters – we think there’s a bit of The Pink Panther there too? Neil’s wit and humour shines through, with his voice lazily tripping in and out of his skilled piano.
‘Star Of Wonder’ is an a capella masterpiece: one expects the familiar carol, but 10 songs into this album we know to expect the unexpected. Followed by ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’, which evokes visions of monastic chanting. Beautiful and haunting.