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It's That Time Of Year

by Hawker M. James (with The Demos)

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about

A prolific singer/songwriter long celebrated for his DIY production ethic, Hawker M. James (formerly Mike James/Mikey Jukebox, mastermind behind Admirers and the Mercies, one-time Longwave drummer, and stockpiler of bedroom demos) releases his first-ever Christmas song as a gift to his fans and a reminder that we needn’t be so cynical about the holidays in spite of how difficult we might find them to be.

James, a genuine fan of the holiday season, says “I want listeners to understand that I mean every word of this tune. There’s not even a hint of irony. People complain a lot this time of year, but I think any time you can get people together where you otherwise would go the whole year without seeing them, it’s a good thing. And if you’re giving kids gifts, what could be wrong with that.”

As with so much of his material, the main melody for “It’s That Time of Year” came to James almost fully formed several years ago, but he sat on it for a while. “Every year around the holidays I hear it in my head,” he explains, “so I’m not sure why it’s taken me ‘til now to record it.”

When the initial inspiration came to him, James heard something along the lines of an orchestral “pops” tune (along the lines of what Rochester Philharmonic pops conductor Jeff Tyzik would feature in one of his programs) with a splash of Tom Waits -- and Bing Crosby. “I watch Holiday Inn every year,” James explains. “That’s my favorite Christmas movie. Obviously White Christmas too. I’m into that whole Irving Berlin vibe. I wanted this song to be Gershwin-like.”

James also imagined a children’s choir on “It’s That Time of Year,” but made due with a group of singers who he didn’t have to pay as much -- i.e: his Demos bandmates Jay Milton and Cal Saunders (who also happened to be working on their own rendition of “Silent Night”). Late on a wintery night as James’ grandfather lay in a hospital bed close to the end of his life, James, Milton, and Saunders stood in front of a microphone and sang the chorus vocals. James had to push the group to sing in its upper register, but in three swift takes he captured the magic. “There was a lot on my mind that night, obviously, having gone straight from the hospital to the recording space. But I think it shows in how… spirited the performances ended up being.”

These days, James doesn’t fuss over production details as much as he has in the past. He tracked the basics, layered the three sets of group vocals for a choir effect, and mixed the song in three short sessions and it was done -- something fans can look forward to as James proceeds with this next phase of his career. “I’ve always been a production fetishist,” he says. “And that’s still going to be there, but I’m more focused on the songs themselves now. Rather than sit on things because I’m trying to capture certain textures and production methodologies. My music now is like the food I’m eating -- more organic, less GMO.”

It’s fitting, then, that James would record this song now, when he’s less preoccupied with the sonic presentation.

“This song pops in my head and I’m thinking ‘This is one of the best things I’ve ever written.’ I feel like this song fits right in with the vibe of ‘Jingle Bells,’ like it could’ve been written back in the golden era of Christmas music. I mean, when I die, this song deserves to be remembered, whereas something like ‘Culture Shock’ probably won’t be. Let’s be honest.”

-Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

lyrics

December bells are ringing
And all the carols singing
The silent nights
The holy times

This is the children's season
The time for peace and reason
Let's shine a light
Into their eyes

It's that time of year
So merry Christmas dear
And to all send out love and be of good cheer (give good cheer)

Step out with patience wielding
And fall onto believing
The sounds of toys
Innocent noise

Let them think faith is folly
they may just end up sorry
But we'll shout out some
Prayers for their luck

To see old faces jolly
When our youths were spent in holly
Safety and warmth
Hope, joy, and love

credits

released December 17, 2013
Produced and Mixed by Hawker M. James
Engineered by Jason Milton
Mastered by Sam Polizzi
Artwork & Photo by Constantine Giavos

Hawker M. James- vocals, acoustic guitar, orchestration, electric bass, drums, percussion

Jason Milton- vocals, piano, organ

Callan Saunders- vocals

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Hawker M. James Rochester, New York

James finally shows his followers what those of us in his inner circle already knew: that even when James records on his beaten-up 4-track, he always strives for the production values that have distinguished his delightfully varied body of work. With the Long Playing Lo-Fidelity album, he proves that, whether working with a medium, small, or no budget, his innate knack can't be contained. ... more

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