Released on Nov. 13, 2012, Sufjan Stevens’ newest Christmas album, “Silver and Gold,” is a slight disappointment. Typically, I am a fan of his unusual melodies and soothing voice, but this album sounds like it was recorded at a Christmas party where he and friends drank one too many drinks. Some songs on the album sound like genuine attempts to recreate Christmas favorites, but some seem too ironic, like he’s purposely trying to butcher the tunes. And while I’m not a fan of the boring, same old Christmas carols year after year, this drastic of a change is not favorable in my opinion. Stevens seems to be in key throughout most of the songs, but his accompaniment is another story. With 58 songs to choose from, Stevens covers a number of crowd favorites, but maybe not in the best way possible.
His first Christmas CD, “Songs for Christmas,” released in 2006, seemed to have a better grasp on the crowd favorites, without making listeners cringe. His unique blend of instruments, along with his distinct voice, makes a few of his songs some of my favorites, but I was most certainly not as big of a fan of this album. If you are a fan of modern, contemporary, Christmas carols, than this may be the CD for you, but be prepared to take a step back. Stevens’ purpose is to surprise listeners, but I for one, am not as big of a fan as I was with his first Christmas installment. Stevens’ does cover some obscure Christmas melodies on “Silver and Gold,” rather than the clichéd favorites, which is admirable. But how well he actually covers the songs is up to the listener.
With “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and “Silent Night,” Stevens adds a twist to favorite Christmas themes without ruining them – at first. But halfway through the song, I found myself begging for the beginning. Off-key harmonizers, mixed with obscure instrumental notes makes for a cringe-worthy second Christmas installment, which is unfortunate from someone with such immense talent. Not many know about Stevens’ and his unique blend of melodies and instruments. Because of the obscure nature of some of these tracks on the album, I hope that not many rule him out, solely due to his lacking ability to adequately cover a Christmas song. But if you’d like an Indie Christmas album for the holiday season, I would most definitely stick with his original chapter of Christmas jingles, “Songs for Christmas.” You’ll thank me later.
Photo courtesy musicsufjan.com