Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas Album Review

Sufjan Stevens is an American singer from Detroit Michigan who is best known for his eclectic music with styles varying from electronics to lo-fi folk.  This November, he released a Christmas album entitled “Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10.”

In case you think that 58 holiday songs won’t sufficiently get you into the winter spirit, Stevens includes a Christmas box set.  The first thing you will notice is the cover art, which is of a glorious Christmas ornament placed on a celestial background with the title and artist name surrounding it in bold cursive.  Inside are the 5 EP’s placed in kitschy sleeves, a poster of a crowd of assorted creatures and cartoons, holiday-themed stickers and tattoos, and a booklet filled with the song lyrics and a story of Stevens’ own creation.  Originally meant as a gift for his family and friends, this album will warm your heart, no matter what holiday, if any, you’re celebrating this year.  

This is meant to be a follow up to his previous Christmas album called, “Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5”.  It contains 5 EP’s and a total of 58 songs.  He recorded one EP each year for the past five years.  It is filled with covers of Christmas classics but also includes some original songs and instrumentals.

It starts off with the classic, “Silent Night”, which is completely traditional.  This is also true about, “”Auld Lang Syne.”  They both could be heard from the mouths of carolers as they stand on your front stoop and attempt to achieve the same goal as Stevens, which is to bring Christmas joy.  His other holiday covers include, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells,” which provide a more fun and nostalgic sound.

The craziest cover is “Alphabet St.,” which was originally by Prince where Stevens’ voice can be heard over electronic sounds and record scratches.  Another wonderful surprise is a cover of a traditional Jewish hymn, “Maoz Tzur’ (Rock of Ages).”

His original songs found within the album are of a strange mix.  They seem to represent what’s in  Stevens’ brain in musical form.  Some contain wacky lyrics and fast-paced tunes (“Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You from Christmas Past”) and others are sad yet beautiful ballads (“Justice Delivers Its Death”, “Barcarola (You Must Be a Christmas Tree)”).  It ends with the song “Christmas Unicorn,” which is a 12-minute masterpiece including Stevens’ singing the lyrics “I am a Christmas unicorn” and ending with an almost unintelligible cover of the song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division.

Fans of Stevens are aware of his musical past.  He is multi-instrumentalist who is able to create a melody using only a banjo or a full orchestra of sounds.  “Mysteries of the Christmas Mist” fits the song title perfectly because while listening you will picture a set of harps and pianos emerging from a cloud of fog on Christmas morning.  “Particle Physics” is more electronically oriented.

This album isn’t for everyone as it is very unique.  If you dislike Christmas or the holiday season I warn you, whatever you do, avoid this album at all costs.  If you love the holidays then order this album as a fitting way to accompany your afternoon of Christmas decorating or annual frolic through the snow.