Holiday discs 2012: Sufjan Stevens's Silver & Gold

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Sufjan Stevens
Silver & Gold

Calling Silver & Gold a collection of Christmas music is underselling things. Sure, there are five CDs in the boxed-set package, but let’s face it: compact discs are about as popular these days as 8-track cassettes and the Jingle Cats. Chamber-pop whiz Sufjan Stevens wisely ups the ante by including DIY Christmas ornaments, a fold-out poster, liner notes, chord charts, seasonal stickers, and temporary tattoos. Who cares if those stickers and tattoos depict things like a chainsaw-toting snowman wrapped in a “Merrily We Massacre” ribbon? It’s the thought that counts. Stevens is no stranger to tackling Christmas, but he’s never been as out-there as he is here. “Good King Wenceslas” is chopped and electro-screwed to where its sounds like he’s doing battle with imperial stormtroopers on the planet Zontar. “Holly Jolly Christmas”, meanwhile, suggests someone has been snorting powdered candy canes cut with 100-percent-pure glitch pop. As for “Make Haste to See the Baby” and “Ah Holy Jesus”, well, let’s just say that if you’re loading up the hay wagon for a December 24 pilgrimage to Bethlehem, you could stick worse things in the Alpine. For ambitiousness alone, Silver & Gold is easily the platinum-standard Christmas release of the year. Even when it’s impossibly fucked up, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

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