Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas Vols. 6-10
Dec 11, 2012 Web Exclusive
Five long years stretched between proper Sufjan Stevens albums, from 2005's breakout Illinois to 2010's heartbreaking The Age of Adz, but for those who believe that he is anything but prolific, Asthmatic Kitty presents the second compilation of Stevens' Christmas EPs. Stevens somehow found time each year to explore the tensions between the garish commercialism and tradition and religious core of Christmas. With over 52 tracks (an even 100 when added to the first collection) Stevens veers from the silly to the serious to the pious.
There's a one-off quality to a lot of Silver & Gold, such as the 8-bit version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" or the robots-and-laser-beams take on "Good King Wenceslas." They are a novelty the first time around, but wear a little thin on the second or third listen. There's always a feeling, though, that the people in the room are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Some of the fun songs work on a larger scale and bear repeating. "Coventry Carol," from Vol. 6: Gloria, starts off as a straightforward take on the 16th century carol, but slowly warps into something that Danny Elfman could have written for a Tim Burton movie. "Lumberjack Christmas/No One Can Save You From Christmases Past" is an upbeat take on the season: "If drinking makes it easy/the music's kind of cheesy/the specials on the TV."
Then there are moments of absolute, stunning beauty. "Christmas in the Room" is a classic Stevens song, full of heartache and passion and nostalgia. Cat Martino's gorgeous vocals turn "The Sleigh in the Moon" into a slow-burning treat.
And for the person who truly has everything, the epics "The Child With the Star on His Head" and "The Christmas Unicorn" each combine all of these aspects into one tidy gift.
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 7/10