It's Advent and at our house that means a month of Christmas tunes in rotation. Every year I buy a few new ones — reinterpretations of classics and new songs hoping to make it into the holiday cannon. My favorites are mixes of both, most recently from Sufjan Stevens, Kristin Hersh, Low, Amy Mann, Over the Rhine and the amazing Sam Phillips.
About 4 years ago I decided to try it myself and started tracking for "Silent Night" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". Since then I've transferred the songs to three different computers and unfortunately lost different source files and mixes along the way. Last year I pieced them together and shared rough mixes songs with friends but they were just that — rough. So this November I remixed the songs, added new bass tracks and cleaned up the vocals. These mixes are available on iTunes now.
"O Come, Emmanuel" was inspired by a song named "Rutti" by Slowdive. I loved how much room each chord had to breathe and I thought it could be an interesting device to use on this sacred hymn. I re-purposed a chord progression from the chorus of "Longing for the Golden Heart" on my Eat the Young album. My wife sang the vocals, effected to suggest a cathedral performance.
The photo in the artwork is of my brother-in-law's Christmas tree. I set the type in Avant Garde and created my own ligatures to create a rhythm that matches the motion of the photo.
The tune for "Silent Night" is from a canned Flannery song that I recall had inspired roots in "Let Down" by Radiohead. However, I wrapped it with E-Bow and added lots of guitars so in the end it sounded nothing like where it started and got loud enough to wake the baby Jesus and the whole stable! This is probably the worse re-interpretation of a lullaby ever recorded but a great way to start a party.
The photo is from a 'mom and pop' restaurant in Chattanooga called Soups On. Year round they committed signage atrocities that I regularly photographed. I'm sure there were car accidents on Broadway as people tried to read the menu posted on the building. At Christmas it was even worse as yard ornaments took over the 3 x 10 grass plot in front of the restaurant. This pop-culture interpretation of the Holy Family feels like the perfect accompaniment to the song.
Finally is Little Drummer Boy. I've always had a love/hate relationship with this song primarily because the drum part was sung rather than played. There are a two exceptional versions by the Dandy Warhols and The Violet Burning that come to mind because they are so overdriven that the "rum pum-pum pum" is only a side show. Since they rocked it I've taken it a different direction. Here it is, sans rums and pums.
The artwork is inspired by military stencils. I figure only an enlisted boy would be wandering through Bethlehem with a drum!