For the Record: Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold

“Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas Vol. 6-10” is the second collection of holiday EPs recorded by alt-pop artist Sufjan Stevens. My nephew is a big Sufjan fan while I find his work hit and miss. This collection is more miss than hit.

Silver_and_GoldAs sequels go, it’s more of the same but lacking the freshness of the original set. There were some real gems in the first collection but I struggle to find anything here that really grabs me.

For the uninitiated, SS makes these EPs that are filled with traditional songs in non-traditional arrangements, original tunes, short snippets of songs and long, meandering tunes. Most of it is very loose and unpolished, like he got his friends and family and all the kids to sit around the living room recording songs. It’s interesting but not your traditional Christmas album.

Let’s run them down.

Vol. 6: Gloria: Songs for Christmas. This is the best of the bunch. Eight songs, starting with a fairly straightforward (for Sufjan) version of “Silent Night.”  That’s followed by the delightful original “Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past.” There are a couple more decent originals here — “The Midnight Clear” and “Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree).” I could see this disc becoming a permanent part of my Christmas listening.

Vol. 7: I Am Santa’s Helper. This one is meh. 23 songs, most under 3 minutes. I think the main problem here is when he’s doing something good, it’s over too quickly; and when he’s misfiring, to feels like it goes too long. Some nice traditional songs and some just weird stuff. Speaking of weird stuff, don’t watch this video if you have a weak stomach.

Vol. 8: Christmas Infinity Voyage. I cannot say with certainty that this was the worst Christmas album ever made but I can say with certainty that this was the worst Christmas album I’ve ever heard. It’s eight tracks loaded down with electronic noise. The only thing this disc is good for is if you’re having a Christmas party and it’s time for people to go home. Put this baby on and crank it up and you’ll clear the room.

Vol. 9: Let It Snow. Nine tracks, notable for a strangely dark version of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Nothing special here.

Vol. 10: Christmas Unicorn. There’s an interesting take on “Up On The Rooftop” and a fun version of “We Need A Little Christmas.” The whole thing wraps up with “Christmas Unicorn,” a song which starts out fine but then wears out its welcome long before its 12-minute running time ends.

To sum up: If you like Sufjan Stevens or unusual, eccentric takes on Christmas classics then it’s worth a spin. If you’re more of a traditionalist you’d best stay away.

 

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