By Jim Beaugez | Photography courtesy of by Isaac Alexander
‘Fake Snow,’ written for the day after Christmas, belongs on every holiday playlist.
Christmastime, most Southerners would agree, is no time for cynicism. In our mind’s eye, it’s when Christians around the world set aside differences and unite to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Or, at least the arrival of Santa Claus and his sleigh full of really cool electronic gadgets and toys.
It’s generally a peaceful time, unless you’re counting George Washington’s Delaware River crossing on Christmas night in 1776 to attack the British in the Battle of Trenton. Even the soldiers fighting along the Western Front on Christmas of 1914 came out of their trenches to sing carols and share food, bringing the barrage of World War I to a halt for a few precious hours.
Since then, Christmas has seemed relatively quiet. But that illusion has allowed a more insidious enemy to take hold. Instead of fatigues and combat boots, these invaders wear turtleneck sweaters and loafers with bells that jing-jing-a-ling. We’re talking about the invasion of secular Christmas music.
Bing Crosby may have been first to fire a volley into pop culture with “White Christmas,” but the annual assault of Christmas music continues unabated every autumn. As the canon of schmaltzy Christmas songs and celebrity recordings grows ever larger, the season begins earlier and earlier. Department stores play Christmas music before Thanksgiving just about everywhere in America, and sometimes before Halloween.
Musician Isaac Alexander of Little Rock, Ark., wanted to join the Ariana Grandes, Taylor Swifts, and Justin Biebers of the world and release his own album of Christmas songs. He only made it one song deep into the project, but he made it count. Instead of dipping into sentimentalism and cliché like so many who went before him, he wrote the song “Fake Snow” about what happens when Christmas festivities are over.
“There’s this buildup where you’re looking forward to it, and all of a sudden it’s over,” says Alexander. “All the things you were looking forward to sort of become this big mess you have to clean up, literally and figuratively.”
There’s more to it than picking up wrapping paper and washing dishes, though. “All of a sudden when Christmas is over, it’s back to reality,” he says. “You have to go back to school or back to work. It’s like anything you look forward to. Once it’s over, you have to pick up the pieces and find something else to look forward to.”
Alexander is not a scrooge, despite the downer of a theme. “Fake Snow” is a chamber-pop gem, with late-Beatles orchestration, chiming bells, and melodies from the Brian Wilson school of songwriting.
“I have great Christmas memories from being a kid, but this song touches on more of the adult feelings that are happening, like [how] people are generally nicer to each other,” he says. “There’s this idea that we can help each other out and be a little kinder to your neighbor during the holiday season. Then when it’s over,” he laughs, “it’s like, ‘eh, back to normal.’”
Alexander has been writing songs for 25 years, a career he maintains alongside his role as co-founder of the Little Rock branding firm Eric Rob & Isaac, where he puts his graphic design and illustration experience to work. He also creates the artwork for his musical projects, including the retro album design for “Fake Snow.”
“That’s a picture [on the cover] of me as a little kid with my first guitar – it was a toy,” he says. “I love the throwback thing, making things look old [and] that design style from ’50s and ’60s record art, so I wanted to harken back to that stuff.”
Like most musicians, Alexander hasn’t been actively performing much since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March. Back then, he had an entire full-length album ready to release, but he shelved it for now. Instead, he’s released six of the songs to streaming platforms.
“Once that happened, there was no playing live, and it didn’t seem right putting something out at the time,” he says. “So, I’ve been sitting on it, waiting on a time that feels right to put out the whole collection of songs.”
Listeners can find “Fake Snow” on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.