We last checked in with Jonathan Van Risseghem in July 2009 when we reviewed his album The Motions. Now, he has released a Christmas CD (December 1st). Before you click-off, the artist asserts: “I know Christmas CDs are really lame…but I promise this one is a lot different!”
We’re going to give it a chance, because honestly, Van Risseghem writes some of the best pop music going right now, but we had to ask – Why Jonathan, why?
MZ: What should listeners know about the new album?
He Is No Stranger is a concept release of the events surrounding the advent of Christ. But unlike most Christmas releases, He Is No Stranger, does not contain gratuitous sleigh bells, anything about Santa, or any “ba-rum-ba-bum-bum” or roasted chestnuts of any sort. I am the first to admit that I hate Christmas releases and usually consider them to be an artist’s career killer. But when I found myself with an unavoidable motivation to make one, I decided to make sure it sounded nothing like a stereotypical Christmas release.
He Is No Stranger is full of ancient classics that are re-constructed with different time signatures, different instrumentation, and many other cool surprises. Many of these songs have a very Coldplay-esque Brit-Rock vibe and others have a very percussive acoustic vibe. Many of the same musicians from the last release recorded on He Is No Stranger. There is plenty of Hammered Dulcimer and French Horn featured. He Is No Stranger has a cinematic tone to it that I think people will really appreciate.
MZ: What has changed for you since the last album?
A lot of cool things have happened since releasing The Motions back in March. In a matter of a few months the title track was featured in nationwide theaters and then was licensed to Delta Airlines to use in their airline flights, and it has been nominated for awards and all sorts of other cool stuff. A lot of people have heard songs off The Motions, which to an artist, is a higher reward than selling a copy of the CD.
With my last release, there was plenty of artistic variety. I approached The Motions with a Pop mindset….in that a pop artist often has plenty of cohesive variety in the songs so that they can be marketed to different demographics and, if something takes off, their next CD often resembles whatever was greatest accepted by the prevailing demographic. So, there was predominately a singer-songwriter sound that I would sometimes take in an alternative Brit-Rock or Alternative Pop direction. The ends of the spectrum compliment each other nicely and in building the bridge between them, I give credit to the many musicians who helped. So what is exciting is seeing different people of different ages and backgrounds, all appreciating The Motions.
I’m fortunate to perform live with a lot of the same musicians who performed on The Motions and so while I’m frequently performing, I am also heavily writing for the next release. Currently fifteen songs are finished and I can’t wait to finish in the studio and start previewing these songs to the listeners!
Well, we are back from listening to what at first seemed was going to be another emo Silverlake cash grab, but if you stick it out for another minute, Van Risseghem’s high standards and incredible productions instincts wash down and wrap you in their warm yummy blanket.
And besides most indie rock should really be filed under “What Sound Like the Opening Number of A Junior High Christmas Pageant in the Hamptons” so oughtta sound as good as any Bat for Lashes moment you felt this year.
You can listen to it here: www.vanrisseghem.com