UPDATE – November 28, 2014
Atlas Eets Christmas was officially issued for the first time today as part of Black Friday Record Store Day on transparent red vinyl. In addition to being sold at various independent shops, vinyl copies are available online and it will be released on CD and digital formats on December 2nd.
Clearly Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne loves Christmas, but have you ever noticed that most of the band’s “Christmas” work revolves around Lips’ musical mastermind Steven Drozd? Sure, they referenced the holidays occasionally in their first decade, but it wasn’t until Steven joined that they lit their stage with Christmas lights and started releasing Christmas covers (like “The Little Drummer Boy” in 1994). Then came “Christmas at the Zoo” – chords and melody by, you guessed it, Drozd. The filming of Christmas on Mars was primarily Wayne’s obsession, but it stars Drozd and its soundtrack has “Drozd” written all over it. And in 2009 Steven – sans the rest of the Lips – recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with Jeff Richardson for (Oklahoma indie label) Nice People’s Christmas single.
All this brings us to Imagene Peise – allegedly an Iraqi jazz pianist, though little more is known about “her.” “Rumored to have committed suicide in 1978” she has managed to have a myspace nonetheless…
…which explains “most of what is known is shrouded in clouds of legend and smoke of myth.”
Well, hmm, isn’t it interesting that the name of this talented musician from Iraq sounds like “imagine peace” – as if John Lennon spelled it in his funny way wonsaponatime. And, what’s this… “she” has recorded the The Atlas Eets Christmas Collection! Now why does her playing sounds like that of Steven Drozd’s (if he were to have an instrumental side-project, perhaps as the soundtrack to a psychedelicized Charlie Brown Christmas sequel)? Why does the artwork for “her” Christmas album look like the work of Lips visual designer George Salisbury?? And why did “her” version of “Winter Wonderland” appear in The Flaming Lips’ “Silver Trembling Fetus” YouTube announcement??
What’s that you say?
“Atlas Eets Christmas” is the Flaming Lips’ secret 2007 Christmas album released in a very limited physical quantity under the pseudonym Imagene Peise (with a sticker that read “Love Is The Answer – Merry Christmas From The Flaming Lips 2007”).
Say the album title out loud and it sounds like “At last, it’s Christmas” When sung in the title track it can also sound like “At last year’s Christmas,“and the alias credits are similarly punning:
“Imagene Peise – Piano
Ominog Bangh – Laughing/Crying Glider Synthesizer
Shineyu Bhupal – Drones, Sitar, and Baritone Tambura”
It’s no longer a secret really…
For Christmas 2009, “Frosteeeee” streamed at myspace/flaminglips and on December 23, 2010 an Imagene Peise YouTube channel was created and linked by @theflaminglips on twitter later that day (embedded above). “Imagene Peise” uploaded the entire album to YouTube plus newer recordings of “Silent Night,” “Have Your Self a Merry Little Christmas” and “Merry Christmas to You”.
This year Steven is apparently continuing his tradition of re-harmonizing Christmas standards in the psych-jazz style of Imagene Peise – he asked his twitter followers for suggestions last week (below, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is the frontrunner). The Flaming Lips are also continuously streaming holiday chestnuts from their newest website atlaseetschristmas.com. Linked by Wayne on twitter yesterday, he described the site as “infinite Christmas sounds…24 hours a day.”
Similar to their site flaminglipstwentyfourhoursong.com – which began playing their day-long song “7 Skies H3” on Halloween at midnight – the Atlas Eets Christmas site plays a seemless mix of Flaming Lips and Imagene Peise recordings segued together. In addition to all of the Atlas Eets Christmas “secret” holiday album the site derives its name and URL from, it also streams Lips’ Christmas classics – like Clouds Taste Metallic standout “Christmas at the Zoo,” “A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn’t So)” and their “White Christmas” demo for Tom Waits – and rarities (including original music from their film Christmas on Mars not on the album, and their arrangement of “Silent Night” with Spiritualized’s “Lord Can You Hear Me”). Listen to hear what new recording song Drozd will add to the mix in the coming weeks:
2011 – The Flaming Lips recorded a new version of “Atlas Eets Christmas” with The Plastic Ono Band for a collaborative EP that was released at their New Year’s Freak Out that year. Watch them in the studio here and read more details here.
There were two versions of “Santy Claus is Coming…” released that year, the first for only a couple of days before it was taken down and re-recorded. Five other new Flaming Lips tracks also debuted on the 2011 Christmas music stream at atlaseetschristmas.com, most of them short interludes (as heard below along with the original “Santy”):
2012 – Shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve, another new track appeared, this one an original,“Kindness Song.”
Additionally on the eve of the night before Christmas (December 23, 2012 that is), the Lips – specifically Steven Drozd with the help of Derek Brown, Daniel Huffman (aka New Fumes) and, for two songs, Wayne Coyne – played the Atlas Eets Christmas material live for the first time ever! Most of the show surfaced on YouTube soon after.
2013 – “Blue Christmas” was added to the collection:
2014 – After years of waiting, fans are finally able to own a copy – and on transparent red vinyl no less. Nice!
It’s funny to think this all started with a few tracks uploaded to myspace 7 years ago. It really has taken on a life of it’s own!
Here’s the 2014 tracklist: