You’re probably asking yourself, ‘Just how quirky is Sufjan Stevens’ new Christmas compilation, Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10?’
Well, rather than spoil the fun and answer that question for you, let’s take a look at a few tracks.
“Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You” is an upbeat folk stomper with a children’s choir that develops into a wistful, flute-ornamented aria.
“Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling” sounds like a forgotten Wolf Parade demo, all squawking guitar and lo-fi imperfection. Choice lyrics include, “Baby Jesus is the king-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling.”
“Alphabet” is a glitchy, digitized cover of the 1988 Prince single “Alphabet St.” Not sure how that fits into a Christmas album, but at this point, who cares about continuity?
There are 58 songs in total, compiled from Christmas EP’s recorded between 2006 and 2010. Featuring guest spots from such indie heavyweights as The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, Silver and Gold runs the gamut of Stevens’ schizophrenic musical styles. In addition to those already mentioned, other tracks range from traditional hymns (“How Shall I Fitly Meet Thee”) to popular seasonal classics (“Sleigh Ride”, “I’ll be Home for Christmas”) to the obscure folk songs of Venetian gondoliers (“Barcarola (You Must Be a Christmas Tree)”). Stevens applies his unique arrangements to them all — oh yes, there are flutes and bells — lending thematic cohesion to an otherwise insanely diverse palette. All told, Silver and Gold is challenging and exhaustive, yet wholly welcome, departure from more typical saccharine Christmas albums.
The collection is a follow-up to Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5 from 2006. According to the artist’s website, the vinyl box set contains all sorts of goodies for avid collectors like lyric sheets, chord charts, stickers, temporary tattoos, and “hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design (by Sufjan Stevens, drug-free since 1975).”
Stream the entire compilation below, and be sure to watch the weird, creepy video for “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”