HO HO WHO: English synthpoppers and French soccer aficionados Saint Etienne, who have recorded numerous Christmas songs over their two-decade career, gave their fan club an early Christmas gift this month with A Glimpse of Stocking, a compilation of their seasonal tunes along with seven new tracks including “Wintertime Love.”

HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS: Dropping most of the synthesizers and dance beats of most of Saint Etienne’s oeuvre, “Wintertime Love” plays more like a ballad crooned by an unseen band standing in the least lit corner of a dank tavern. It might be the song’s coda of a bar fight erupting and eventually drawing police sirens. Her voice more sing-songy than usual, Sarah Cracknell‘s lyrics hope for a Yuletide fling to escape the bleak winter weather. Crackenell is in on the joke though. As the song begins to die down and the background fisticuffs start, she finishes “Wintertime Love” with a giggle.

OUT IN THE COLD:Many of the 15 tracks on A Glimpse of Stocking—”Wintertime Love” included—could be mistaken for a Belle and Sebastian tribute band. On this song and even more in their 2006 cover of Claudine Longet‘s “I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You,” the trio from Croydon sounds a lot like that septet from Glasgow (who will be doing a live holiday show tomorrow for NPR Music). Better seasonal tidings can be found in “Gonna Have a Party,” which opens A Glimpse of Stocking with generous infusion of Saint Etienne’s familiar house beats.

CHEER FACTOR: 9/10. A song like this might typically only garner a 6, but The Sleigher loves hearing a good fight. And what’s Christmas without a few punches thrown? Three bonus points for Saint Etienne and their fists of festive fury!

LISTEN: [audio:http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/files/2010/12/13-Wintertime-Love.mp3|titles=Saint Etienne – “Wintertime Love”]