The Austin Chronicle

Boxing Day

Complete catalogs trump career overviews

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, December 14, 2012, Music

Sufjan Stevens

Silver & Gold (Asthmatic Kitty)

Sufjan Stevens doesn't simply love Christmas. It's one of his most fruitful muses. Succeeding 2006 minibox Songs For Christmas, the Detroit native's second 5-CD set, Silver & Gold, collects an abundance of ephemera: DIY tree ornament, a large and rather frightening poster, stickers, temporary tattoos, and an 84-page booklet with liner notes, lyrics, and chord charts. Someone also let loose with clip art, from the fonts to the psychedelic cut-and-paste renderings throughout. The entire project looks like an Archie McPhee catalog gone haywire. Musically, it's equally kaleidoscopic. Fitting neatly next to Stevens' most recent album, 2010's The Age of Adz, there's lots of electronic bleeps, some utterly gorgeous choral pieces that epitomize the Christmas spirit, an unlikely mash-up of "Good King Wenceslas" and Prince's "Alphabet St.," and some uncommon re-imaginings of "The Midnight Clear," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and "Jingle Bells." Original tunes with preposterous titles ("Ding-A-Ling-A-Ring-A-Ling") are equalized by the beauty of the title track and a version of "Sleigh Ride" that would make Devo proud. With more than two-and-a-half hours of music and enough extras to keep children of all ages occupied deep into the long winter's night, Stevens once again pulls off a wondrously wide-eyed antidote to the boring Christmas album.


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