What makes a Christmas "less sinister," you might ask? What makes Christmas sinister in the first place? Well, I know that I'm not the only person out there that has negative associations with Christmas, and who has come to reject it, in part due to those associations, and in part due to being educated later in life of the ways in which celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on a co-opted Pagan holiday is a bit of a sham. Hell, I've learned that many Christians reject the holiday, while there are Christians out there who claim that encompassing other traditions and beliefs into this holiday is a "war on Christmas." The whole thing is fucking ridiculous if you ask me, but there are some ways in which I can appreciate the spirit of the holiday. I have a sneaking suspicion that placing celebrations of giving and gratitude in the winter has been an unconscious way to fight off seasonal depression. Of course evil, greedy corporations have found ways to exploit that and turn it into a time when many people experience the greatest stress of the year, driving them to commit absolutely atrocious acts in its name. Meanwhile the pressure to be joyous makes the loneliness of others seem a crushing weight.
Personally, the holiday madness has made me prone to seriously consider blowing my brains out more than once. The fact that my father and step-mother had their brains blown out right between Thanksgiving and Christmas exacerbates that, I must admit. Also, children of divorce hardly ever have much joy during the holidays after having their parents play an emotional tug-of-war in which they were the rope. So I hate Christmas. And with my Pagan-leaning spiritual practices, I'm more likely to celebrate the solstice, and to call "Christmas" Yule. The holiday tradition I've enjoyed most in the past was having a day of feasting on bagels, cream cheese, and salmon lox, while watching horror movies in a blanket fort.
However, last year I actually celebrated Christmas with my Christian mother and step-father, participating in the exchanging of gifts, and generally having a pleasant time. I made physical albums of my music in the form of CDs in handmade sleeves to give to my parents, and I put out a holiday download online for my friends, family, and followers. I've been making a conscious effort to associate my music with days of the year that I've had negative associations with in the past, and that was a pretty successful attempt. It made for a less sinister Christmas, and this year I'm repeating the formula. However, my mother's summer wedding has brought a whole new element into this year's Christmas: a large new step-family. So I'm currently sitting (it's Christmas Eve) in my step-brother's family home, to which I've brought seven copies of another handmade album to share around. Some of these Christmas goers will have to share - there's definitely going to be more than seven other participants in tomorrow's gift exchange. I encountered many technical difficulties while uploading and assembling this year's album, so a process that I figured would leave me several hours in the day for songwriting instead had me working on these gifts until nearly midnight. As a result, I'm winging it by just passing them around to people and dictating who has to share, and (as opposed to last year's album) they're getting the same track list that I constructed for the digital downloads.
Last year's A Wintering Soul had a track listing that was customized for my parents, while Yuletide Carols...shit, I don't even know what was on that album anymore, because I didn't download it or save it as a playlist. I only remember that it included "They Delving 3.0," probably because it was a rarity I figured folks should have, though it's an oddly dark tune to have on a holiday album. Well, this year I set out to make a more uplifting collection of soft ambient-rock tunes that would be appropriate background music for a holiday get-together; that might offer a soft cushion for introspection; and would maybe bring some solace to those who have a tendency to despair at this time of year. Okay, a couple of these tunes have a bit of a manic edge to them: "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day" has it's moment of panic-stricken madness, "Signor Fancypants" has a bounce that wouldn't be out of place in a mosh-pit, and "The Seventh Swan" has teeth. But for the most part, these are songs that I consider to be soothing, without being too melancholy. It was actually pretty hard to compile, - though, in retrospect, "Lily White" could have easily fit in. Admittedly, my music is predisposed toward the dark side. However, "Cerebellum" and "Horizons" gave me the idea to attempt this, so rather than going for popular crowd-pleasers, I let these generally overlooked electroacoustic, soft-rock ballads set the tone.
Obviously, "Less Sinister Cousins" helped inspire the name of this collection, and - being one of my newest songs - feels as though it's a more-special gift than the others...except maybe for the Alternate Spin of "Fistfuls of Whimsy," which is also new. I have a terrible tendency to make my music freely available soon after its initial publication, which might be counterintuitive to making money off of it, but, well...it's fucking Christmas. And I hope y'all enjoy it, no matter what your spiritual/religious/anti-capitalist/atheistic/Scrooge-ish inclinations may be. It's a gift from me to you, if for no other reason than I want you to enjoy something I've imbued with my soul.
HFH, y'all. Happy Fucking Holidays!
Last year's A Wintering Soul
The physical incarnation of A Less Sinister Christmas