‘Tis the Season
With a season upon us that is inundated with holiday music, it’s hard to distinguish between another holiday album and a genuine blend of holiday cheer. This year, Sufjan Stevens has kept the holiday tradition of finding good music alive with his release of Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Volumes 6 – 10. The box set is not only comprised of music but Stevens has wrapped up his joyful jubilee with temporary tattoos, Christmas stickers, self-assembly paper ornament, Christmas songbook and with many more surprises included; an element that is pure Sufjan Stevens.
The set also gifts listeners with collaborations from a few other familiar friends; Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Cat Marino and a fine frenzy of musical friends rounding out the 58-track album.
“Silent Night” opens this holiday gift with a rustic and whimsical twist on this timeless song. Each song on the album either takes on a refreshing Stevens-spin from the classic from holiday’s past or seems to be typically Stevens leaving a slightly confused take on the holidays. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is a 39 second enchanting flute instrumental and there’s “The Child With the Star on His Head,” a slow-paced song dusted lightly with horns but, transitioning over the course of the fifteen minutes into a more psychedelic rock holiday. “Jingle Bells” seems to take flowery hippy tone, while “I Am Santa’s Helper” slightly misses the musical mark only adding a layer of confusion in between the a capella “Ah Holy Jesus,” and the piano solo of “Moaz Tzur (Rock of Ages).”
This isn’t the traditional Christmas album but then that’s what makes – Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Volumes 6 – 10 so unique. Stevens doesn’t put the holidays into the classic mold, but forms a sense of wonder and exploration. Hopefully we won’t have to wait so long for the next set of volumes.