Christmas isn't fun any more. But if there's one man who can save the festive period from the blues it's Sufjan Stevens. He's the only artist who could make you look away from the baying crowds desperate to get a copy of Rudebox for their little sister and think, "that’s sweet".
Ever prolific, Sufjan's been recording a Christmas EP every year now since 2001 (apart from 2004) for his family and friends, and this lovingly-assembled collection sticks them all together. It features pretty much every Christmas standard, from ‘Away in a Manger’ to ‘Jingle Bells’, or, as our hero puts it in the sleeve notes, the whole “abysmal canon of Yuletide carols”.
It’s not meant to be sardonic, though: Sufjan’s always been open about his faith and this five-disc collection is his reaction to the “excesses of Christmas and the spirit of it”.
So not only do we get ‘Silent Night’ and company, but we get Sufjan's own Christmas songs with characteristically-long titles like ‘Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well You Deserved It)’ and the pun-tastic ‘Get Behind Me, Santa’. Of course, being one of the most consistent performers of recent years, they’re as good as anything from Michigan, Illinois or the recent The Avalanche scraps collection. The guy's a pro.
Songs for Christmas is beautiful. Not just because it features songs last heard in Year Seven nativity plays, but beautiful because it comes in a little box with stickers, a cartoon poster, hand-drawn sleeves and a songbook that, bless, has all the chords in it so that you can strum along to ‘Once In Royal David's City’. It's just so bloody cute.
If it wasn't already sold-out on Play and Amazon, it'd make a perfect Christmas present for anyone from your little nephew, who you're trying to bribe into liking the same music as you, to your grandma who can't, for once, complain that it's too loud. It beats Slade and Wizzard hands down, anyway.
9Will Dean's Score