It’s raining in Los Angeles, and it’s not the same as snow, but it does feel good to have a reason to be forced indoors and get hygge with it.
Last fall, I made the soundtrack to an indie video game called The Red Lantern. It’s a beautiful, contemplative dog-sledding adventure set in the Alaskan wilderness. Earlier this month, the folks who created the game, Timberline Studio, released a holiday-themed expansion for the game called “Yule Dogs.” They asked me to write a new piece of music for the soundtrack to go along with it, and I had so much fun making my kind of secular-winter-solstice-Christmas music. The whole soundtrack is instrumental, but I felt like good holiday music needs a little caroling choir, so I wrote a melody and I asked my friends Jenny Owen Youngs and Jess Abbott if they would lend their voices and sing some ‘oooohs’ in the great Christmas tradition of…well, now that I think of it, I’m not sure if there’s a specific Christmas song I was thinking of, but ‘ooohs’ definitely seem Christmas-y to me.
If you’d like to listen to the new track, which is called “Holiday Lights,” here it is on Bandcamp, or here’s a link to stream it on Spotify / Apple / Amazon, etc.
Actually, wait. I know why Christmas “oohs” are such a big thing for me. It’s because of Danny Elfman’s score to Edward Scissorhands, a movie that I absolutely love, and one of the great collaborations between him and director Tim Burton.
For my last Song Exploder episode this year, I got to talk to Danny Elfman about a Christmas song from another soundtrack of his – Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Danny Elfman was the person who first made me want to make music in any kind of serious way, because I wanted to give people the feeling that his music gave me when I watched those movies. So it was a big deal. He’s a wonderful storyteller, with an incredible voice (both his speaking voice and singing voice), and if you’d like to hear that episode, you can find it here on the Song Exploder site, or on your podcast app of choice.
The holidays can be hard for people who have lost someone close to them, as I have. I don’t know why, but it seems like we lose a lot of people around this time of year. Maybe that’s not the truth of it statistically. Maybe it just feels heavier – a weighted average. In the spirit of celebrating things coming to an end, though, I wanted to share this great, hilarious, touching obituary that I read last week. I did not know this person, Renay Mandel Corren, but it’s a wonderful remembrance, and it made me thrill at the joy of remembering people we love. That joy is usually submerged in grief, but to read an obituary so buoyantly funny let me focus on that part. I’m truly grateful to her son, the writer.
What kind of year has it been? A hard one. Again. Maybe not as hard as last year. A small wish, then: for next year to be a little easier still. For little joys to be held aloft, not submerged or subsumed by anything.
ps: As I’ve been thinking about the Red Lantern song, and Danny Elfman, and hygge-tude, I started to imagine a little playlist of instrumental songs that sound like snow falling to me. I made one on Spotify called ‘wintstrumentals,’ if you’d like something to listen to as you hopefully lean into an excuse to be cozy.