So, sometime around the beginning of 2012 I made two resolutions. Move out of my parents’ house, or record an album. In a fit of pique at the end of what was honestly a fairly terrible year (or more accurately, a serie of fairly terrible months), I decided to make one final stab at completing my naive declaration of self-betterment. Since the London rental market tends to fall apart round about December and I’m still really unable to actually earn any money, I decided to go for broke on the second part of my tedious life-goal.
Of course, part of releasing an album requires actually putting in the groundwork of writing music, and that’s been a strangely hard task over the last 6-12 months (a situation best explained in a later post). So how best to indulge my creative outputs with minimal cerebral-musical engagement? Simple! Record some covers.
The tradition (if you can call it that) started on roughly the 22nd of December 2009, when, while heavily under the influence of pre-christmas alcohol and restlessness, I recorded myself singing two verses of White Christmas on my laptop’s built-in microphone, accompanied by heavily eroded ukulele and synthesised strings. The vibe I was going for was a sort of Leodesian alt-pop, I guess? The different lines don’t quite match up harmonically or rhythmically (because I recorded them each separately without a click track). The idea was a sort-of christmas present to my Facebook friends (as well as egotist self-aggrandisement). Bouyed by the success of this, I recorded a version of In The Bleak Midwinter in much the same fashion. Less than 100 seconds of gloom-pop naiveté, sure, and quite a departure from my regular music “style” (whatever that is), but it was a fun exercise.
One year later, I recorded a version of and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, ostensibly as part of my largely-aborted Sixty Minute Songs project. This time unabridged! And with the original Judy Garland lyrics, of course. There’s a sense of melancholy entirely missing in Sinatra’s arguably more famous re-working; “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough” is a totally weak line that really means nothing. I mean, seriously, come on.
Anyway, skipping out the christmas eve of 2011 (in which I skipped out of finishing a techno version of Good King Wenceslas in order to go to the pub), that brings us up the the present day. I initially planned to record five new tracks in the same vein, but time constraints brought the number down to just two: Silent Night and Let It Snow. I’d like to think there’s a noticeable evolution in my recording/production techniques, and there’s certainly a more complex instrumentation (and an audible increase in recording quality, even with the heavy lo-fi processing). Lumping the songs together into one packaged format on bandcamp has given it more of a sense of ‘purpose’ – presented out of chronological order, there’s a sense of unity in the sound even despite the varying qualities/complexities/approaches. And I’m going to share a quote from the Time-Traveller’s Wife (a book I’ve not actually read) that was shared with me by Kat Bouch and has struck a chord ever since.
“The compelling thing about making art – or making anything, I suppose – is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid ‘there’, a thing, a substance in a world of substances.”
The sense of having done something is far greater than the act of ever having to do it. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Anyway, christmas might be over but the bleak midwinter continues for a good few months yet. I haven’t made any especially different resolutions for 2013, but even this modest attempt at self-publication has given me the boost to confidence I need to put more out there. 2012 was a fairly dry period for me, creatively, and I want to be able to say that this year was different. Here’s hoping for a happy new year!