Welcome to day two of the Christmas Album Countdown! Today I’m checking out an album that’s brand new to me. I’ll admit that I’m not completely on board the Sufjan Stevens bandwagon yet, but in the spirit of expanding my Christmas music horizons for this series, I decided to give the guy a try.
I was definitely surprised when I looked up Songs For Christmas on Spotify, only to discover that it’s actually FIVE different albums, totaling 42 songs in just over 2 hours. To be fair, some of the tracks are less than one minute long, but it was still somewhat daunting.
The best thing about this album is the assortment of the fresh, different takes on basically every classic Christmas carol you can think of. “I Saw Three Ships” is bluegrass and has all its rhythms augmented (stretched out to be longer than normal). There are also new arrangements of non-Christmasy hymns. Ever heard “Amazing Grace” played in a 6/8 country lilt accompanied by banjo? Yeah, me either. How about “Come Thou Fount” swung? No, not that one either? Personally, I loved the 2-against-3 setting of “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
The “secular” Christmas songs are not the typical ones like “Sleigh Ride” or “Let it Snow” or “Santa Baby.” Instead we get “It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!” “Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!” and “Get Behind Me, Santa!” So many exclamation points. There are also a bunch of little instrumental interludes. “Angels We Have Heard On High” has to be one of the coolest xylophone mini-pieces I’ve ever heard.
Not gonna lie though, I did get a little bored around CD number four. It’s a little much by that point, and some of the songs, like “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” and “Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)” got a little sad, dark, and frankly, weird. I could have done without most of the fourth and fifth CDs.
I mentioned several tracks that stood out as particularly unique, but I think my favorite of them all was the rendition of “What Child Is This Anyway?” Not only is the arrangement haunting, as the song lends itself to, it also includes the following lyrics:
“Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh
The Babe, the Son of Mary.”