Torch Music Review

Shedding light on the music you should be listening to

Sufjan Stevens – “Silver and Gold”
It’s time for Christmas

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, and Sufjan Stevens has given us enough music to last the whole time.

Petoskey native Sufjan Stevens, who once set out to make an album for every state, also released a Christmas album in 2006. Now that we’ve finally gotten through all 42 of those tracks, it seems he felt we needed some new material–59 songs’ worth.

Yes, there are 59 songs here from the singular indie superstar. Are they all great? Not at all, but there are quite a few stunningly beautiful pieces here, original material and classic covers both.

The music is delicate and lovingly arranged, often heavily layered, with Sufjan frequently leading a choir in song. What’s truly striking, though not surprising, is the diversity of the material. No two songs are quite alike.

There are many truly worshipful, relatively straight-forward (for Stevens) renditions of classic hymns and songs, most notably with the blossoming warmth of opener “Silent Night.”

Then there’s the nine-minute, clacking electronics-ridden, almost dubsteppy version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Listeners beginning here would come to a very real conclusion: Sufjan Stevens is an insane musical mind. Did I mention his “album for every state” plan?

Stevens walks a higher tightrope between genius and absurdity than most, and does it better than most. In both layering simple classics with a dozen complementary pieces and transforming songs into something only conceivable by the most experimental of electronic minds, a knack for crafting ever-intriguing music and a love of the holidays is ever-present.

Take a break from the old, done-to-death versions of Christmas songs. Embrace that holiday spirit in the most bizarre way possible. Remember what Sufjan Stevens taught us: You are the “Christmas Unicorn,” and I am too.