With the Christmas season well upon us, it’s only natural to have your home, and headphones alike, filled with merry tunes that align your heart’s rhythm with the joyous beats of the holidays. However, what about those few of us who are not content with the existential doom that this yearly celebration invites? Are you filled with anxieties regarding the unhealthy consumerism that plagues our society, or bouts of melancholy brought on due to seasonal mood swings? Well, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying good, relatable festive music! This is why, I’d like to introduce our dear, troubled readers to the hidden gem of Christmas EPs that is “I am Become Christmas” by the indie music project known as Lemon Demon!
With artist, comedian, and self-declared “internet person” Neil Stephen Cicierega on guitar, keyboard and vocals, as well as the talented yet inconsistent team comprised of (at differing times) Alora Lanzillotta, Greg Lanzillotta, Charles “Chooch” Sergio, Anthony Wry and Dave Kitzberg on bass, drums, guitar and backing vocals, our precious streaming platforms have been blessed by the acquired taste that is Lemon Demon. Neil, the consistent brain behind the operation has been an active content creator online since his early childhood, generating captivating internet phenomena such as the viral series “Potter Puppet Pals” in 2003, the satirical horror blog known as “Windows 95 Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks” in 2012 and, when working as a songwriter on Alex Hirch’s very own Gravity Falls, Neil Cicierega created the regrettably scrapped musical number "It's Gonna Get Weird,” that was set to have been performed by the show’s central villain, Bill Cypher. As a team, Lemon Demon has given life to a number of notable pieces such as the iconic 2005 flash animation hit “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” their most popular album “Spirit Phone” in 2016, and the recently viral “Fine” as a part of their 2006 album “Dinosaurchestra.”
I believe that the I Am Become Christmas EP is majorly underrated, even within the particular pocket of the niche music community that Lemon Demon occupies, despite Christmas music not being Lemon Demon’s bread and butter. It has the potential to become a staple of any indie fan’s artillery during the holiday season, especially those with a flair for the pretentious. As a sound that’s relatively difficult to get into, I hope that my analysis of three of the album's songs will persuade you to give them a shot.
The title of the EP itself is a play on the quote “Now I am become death [destroyer of worlds]” from the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, and popularised by Robert J. Oppenheimer. This line particularly, is a part of the dialogue between Arjuna, a prince set to go to war with his friends and kin, this being his holy destiny, and Krishna, the avatar of the supreme creator deity Vishnu. Arjuna is reluctant to go through with the task but Krishna explains that he should not feel this way. Instead, he should trust that this is his destiny and place his faith in Krishna, seeing as Krishna is Vishnu, a divinity; so powerful as to be equated to death itself. Therefore, while revealing his true divine form, Vishnu “is become death.” Thus, we can infer that the title of this album is Lemon Demon’s comedic exaggeration of the cataclysmic significance of Christmas. Additionally, it’s been speculated whether the choice to translate this quote in a grammatically incorrect way, combining the present and past tenses, was deliberate as to take the focus away from the metamorphosis undergone by Krishna, instead closing in on the result, or final product, of the process. This draws a particularly strong link to the final song of the album “CryptoSanta” due to its literal use of transformation as a symbol, as well as its heavy critique of consumerism.
The EP’s catchiest song “Aurora Borealis” is a one-sided dialogue told from the perspective of an awkward narrator trying to share and spend the holidays with someone he likes dearly. The listener is met with the shy advances of the speaker trying to convince us to join in on his unorthodox Christmas traditions while making sure that we’re having a good time.
Unfortunately for him, one major factor is viciously working against the date he’s attempting to plan: we’re currently experiencing armageddon. Despite the obvious signs pointing to the fact that this is not the time to be indulging in quality time with loved ones, our beloved loverboy insists that “we’re not in peril, we are in apocalove.” The way I see it, the message behind this song highlights the importance of appreciating the small things in life, even when finding ourselves living in a dystopian hellscape. I think this song is an ode to the beauty of awkward teenage romance and the imperfections that keep it exciting. While the stress of the holiday season grabs hold of our emotions, leading to an avalanche of stress and despair, I think we can all listen to this song and admire how despite the fact that “the horizon is a fog from the breath of everyone” our post-apocalyptic partner just wants to spend this “pretty winter night [with] your hand in mine.”
The next song in the album is aptly titled “Sad,” after the phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a form of depression that manifests solely during the colder months of the year. From my perspective, this song raises awareness of mental health, particularly the struggles of growing older, told through the eyes of a man who lost a sense of purpose, a state only worsened by the oncoming holiday season. The slow, repetitive, and monotonous melody, while not particularly catchy, effectively evokes the sentiments associated with this emotional state. The instrumentals are extremely minimal, restricted only to a very simplistic looping percussion-heavy track and the occasional odd sound effect. Even the backing vocals are minimal and come across as jarring and uncomfortable. This effect is mirrored in the lyrics of the song as well, with the particular stylistic choice made to embed parallelism in the backing vocals, to display the magnifying effect that the change in weather has on one’s already unstable mental health. “Cold plus hopeless: cope less,” “cold plus listless: kissed less,” “cold plus relapse: collapse” and “cold plus morose: comatose” seem to increase in intensity, creating a domino effect that mirrors the ways in which being afflicted with seasonal depression impacts one's life gradually. Overall, my impression of this track is that it stands as a reminder to check in on your loved ones during difficult times, as well as a reminder of the importance of asking for help.
The last, and perhaps most meaningful song of the EP is “CryptoSanta,” a scathing critique of the consumerism plaguing our current understanding of Christmas as a tradition. We begin with the premise of a scientifically driven endeavour, narrated by an employee on the team who is striving to perfect the way in which Christmas is celebrated, focusing particularly on the distribution of presents. While this may be marketed as a selfless act “For the children!” It does not take long before we are privy to the fact that the motivation behind this project is less altruistic and more capitalistic. The disregard for the laws of nature in the pursuit of profits leads to a workplace accident in which our narrator walks through the path of the very beam used to open the portal that provided them with their precious cargo of presents. What follows is a disturbing transformation: accelerated growth of long white facial hair, weight gain, and involuntary outbursts of laughter. Perhaps acting as a backstory to the world’s most famous Christmas icon, this is truly the story that embodies the statement “I am become Christmas.”
In the end, this is only my personal interpretation of these tracks but I believe that the very thing that makes Lemon Demon’s music so magical is the wildly absurd concepts that can be analysed in a range of different ways. And since this style of content creation isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of hot cocoa, I’d like to recommend my list of alternative, or at least less widely recognised Christmas melodies. To those still partial to the mainstream, I suggest a closer look at Sia’s “Everyday is Christmas” album. While I am aware of the immense popularity of the song “Snowman” I believe that a number of her other Christmas tracks are just as good, if not better. For those with a taste for a darker sound, I recommend “Christmas With the Devil” by Spinal Tap, or Korn’s cover of "Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from everyone’s favourite Christmas-Halloween classic: Nightmare Before Christmas. To any Crybabies in the audience, I’d love to remind you of Melanie’s very own “Gingerbread Man” and to those with an indie streak I suggest checking out Mother Mother’s “Cry Christmas,” as well as their cover of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Moreover “Christmas Caller” by Beach Bunny, “Christmas Kids” by Roar, and “HOLIDAY” by Lil Nas X all feel like obvious choices for different reasons, but a quick reminder never hurts.
Ultimately, no matter what kind of music you listen to during the holiday season, I hope you find a way to share this time with those you love. Try not to let the stress that comes with such an inevitably busy time make you too sad, maybe you’ll get to enjoy a beautiful view, such as the Aurora Borealis and even expect a visit from your very own CryptoSanta! Happy holidays everyone!