Sufjan Stevens makes Christmas even better.
Chris Jones 2007-12-07
It's a notoriously dodgy idea that you can dissect an artist's work according to the biographical detail you glean from interviews/biographies/Wikipedia entries. Sufjan Stevens is a classic example: We all know he's a committed Christian with an interest in Reichian (Steve not Wilhelm) constructs, folk and brass bands. So when he finally releases his Christmas songs – originally recorded as EPs for friends – as a box set, you instantly focus on the spiritual aspect of it all. Right? Wrong…
Stevens has repeatedly told all who will listen that he regards his beliefs as something not to be explored in the public arena of his music. Yes, he has a hugely affecting humanitarian streak running throughout all his work, but this is a man whose multi-faceted approach and sheer dedication to churning it out is only rivalled by someone like Prince. Remember, he still may release an album for every state in the USA, if he doesn’t get distracted by the myriad of other projects that he’s involved with. |He's a complicated guy...What's more, anyone who includes a song entitled ''Get Behind Me Santa'' has to be some kind of genius who's obviously NOT taking the birth of our Lord too seriously.
Having said all that, Songs For Christmas does have some beautifully wrought traditional fare. His versions of ''Silent Night'' or ''Once In Royal David's City'' have exactly the kind of delicacy you'd expect from him, while he still has time to rock out (''Put the Lights On The Tree''), get silly ('Come on! Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance!'')and also be quite cynical (''Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)'') on top of it all. Hardly a straight-ahead Christmas album, then.
Whatever, it's Sufjan Stevens. He's a modern wonder, and now he's just made Christmas better as well!