Paul Brennan - Just A Day video still

Paul Brennan: Just A Day

Slowly, Paul Brennan has been nudging his way into our consciousness as a singer-songwriter who doesn’t wallow in a drab morass of self-pity, and as a purveyor of simple, old-fashioned tuneful songs, who doesn’t turn this conservatism inwards in an endless spiral of dead rock traditionalism and tedious hardware worship. It’s a bit odd that Brennan, a man who pens hummable melodies with straightforwardly emotional lyrics with solid, unfrilly arrangements should be such a rarity. Perhaps just singing a song, like telling a joke, is much harder than it looks.

‘Just A Day’, it has to be said, wavers on the edge of being a joke, taking a potshot at the hollow consumerist centre of Christmas. This, of course, is nearly as much of a cliché as spraying fake snow in shop windows and Christmas Eve vomit in the gutters, but it doesn’t stop it being a valid point. What I like most about the song is not the easy 3/4 strumming, nor the damned catchy Ringo-simple vocal line, but the undercurrent of hope that saves the song from being an empty tirade. In the video, a drunken, angry Santa stumbles through the streets of Witney before collapsing in tears at a graveside, and it’s easy to see Brennan as the sad, sozzled conscience of Britain, perhaps taking the mantle that Paul Heaton seems to have let slip.

Brennan’s last single was ‘Dance Like Morrissey’, a jaunty indie cross between The Wonder Stuff and The Saw Doctors – the video to which saw him once again get twatted on spirits, incidentally – and some adept Googling found a discussion of the song on a Morrissey message board, where one listener had observed “you sound like Michael Stipe if he’d just been kicked in the mouth”. Not quite sure how they came to this conclusion, but one of Brennan’s strengths is that he doesn’t revel in the obfuscatory mystery of R.E.M.’s best lyrics and vocals, preferring to shoot straight for the heart – although perhaps when ‘Just A Day’ breaks down to a sleigh bell rhythm with the line “just hope you’re not alone” it’s a festive homage to ‘Everybody Hurts’ (or, at least, ‘Rock‘n’Roll Suicide’). This might not be the most sophisticated record of the year, but if you relish the idea of singing along to a great melody, and surreptitiously wiping a tear away as you hoist your 11th gin of the evening, Paul Brennan will be a name to watch out for in 2014.