Although it may be a bit too early to fully enjoy Christmas music, the holiday marketing bonanza has already begun.
Bunches of people will line up outside of big-box retailers to find the highest quality gifts for the lowest price. Every Christmas shopping trip needs a soundtrack, though. Sufjan Stevens has all of your Christmas music needs covered with his new release, “Silver and Gold.” Comprised of five discs spanning over three hours, “Silver and Gold” is a solid collection of Christmas tunes that stays true to Stevens’ avant-garde-esque sound without scaring away your older relatives.
Considering the rise in digital music purchases, consumers have had little reason to buy hard copies of albums. However, “Silver and Gold” is one album that needs to be purchased in the flesh. Opening the one-inch-thick box set, the album presents you with a multitude of knick-knacks. There is an incredible amount of items in the box: in addition to the five individual CDs, there are three pages of temporary tattoos, sheets of stickers, a Christmas ornament, a poster and a book of lyrics complete with chords for each song. The stickers continue the mythology of Sufjan Stevens. One sticker shows an action hero character with the word “carnitas” in bold letters, while another shows a skeleton Santa Claus, bursting through a door like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
Even though the box is a spectacle in itself, the music of “Silver and Gold” is what really stands out. Stevens covered numerous Christmas standards and also added numerous new songs to the already sprawling Christmas music catalog.
“A Holly Jolly Christmas” is one standard that Stevens has taken and covered to his heart’s content. He manages to make the quaint tune into a grandiose romp complete with foot stomps and hand claps. Sounding more like an acoustic demo from Sleigh Bells, Sufjan Stevens and his friends make this classic one of the stand outs on “Silver and Gold”.
“Let it Snow” is another song that Stevens has made his own. Over a finger-picked guitar and haunting oohs and ahs, Stevens changes this song into a minor key, joined by Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn. The song, which is usually quite happy and pleasant, is turned into a sad ode to winter and its efforts to keep you bundled up in your home.
The first disc in the collection, entitled “Gloria,” is where Stevens has a lot of fun. Starting off a Christmas collection is difficult, but this rendition of “Silent Night” is an example of how beautiful this song can be in its full form. A female choir joins Stevens has he fingerpicks his way through this touching chorale.
The best song, though, is an original. “Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You From Christmases Past” is full of odd lyrics including this gem, “… if drinking makes it easy/ the music’s kind of cheesy.” The group chorus is a pleasure to listen to and is likely the best song in the entire collection.
It may still be a bit early to listen to Christmas music, but Sufjan Stevens’ “Silver and Gold” is a pleasant mix of new and old songs, all of them touched by Stevens’ trademark quirk and personality. As the liner notes say, “sing with your friends and enemies.” “Silver and Gold” is a pleasant collection of Christmas standards and originals that will make any fan of the genre happy until Dec. 26.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Patrick Fort at Patrick.firstname.lastname@example.org.