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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have yourself a Sufjan Stevens Christmas, 30 Nov 2012
By 
Rough Diamond (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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You know what? Sufjan Stevens might never finish his '50 States' project, but with this latest festive compendium he's only 40 away from releasing his 50th Christmas album. And who's to say he won't do it? With his 10 Christmas EPs, Sufjan is marking out a whole parallel career that, in its own odd way, is every bit as satisfying as his non-Christmas output. The latest five-disc batch contains no fewer than 58 songs, combining traditional favourites, 20th century cheese, and a handsome crop of mostly excellent new material. Quality is patchy - but open 58 Christmas presents and you're not going to like every last one, are you? There are sublime, magical moments on every disc, and Sufjan at his best is so good that you'll happily forgive him the various duds and misfires that are here too. Style-wise, we're mainly in 'Age of Adz' and 'All Delighted People' territory here, so if you enjoyed those albums then there's nothing to fear from this set and you can buy it with confidence. In fact, the spontenaity and try-anything experimentation if anything makes the Christmas albums the more interesting listen.

A quick word of appreciation for the hard-copy box, which is well worth £22 more than the download. For a start, each disc is housed in its own distinct (and utterly cranky) artwork, and this helps to consolidate the individual identity of each set. You also get a few sheets of weird manga-style yuletide stickers and some frankly inappropriate temporary tattoos, a large pencil sketch, possibly by a pschologically disturbed teenager, and a really excellent and comprehensive booklet with full singalong lyrics, chord diagrams and a couple of long discursive essays by Sufjan himself. Oh, and there's also a build-it-yourself cardboard Christmas decoration that's so ridiculously complicated it'll have even Mensa members banging their heads on the table in sheer frustration. In other words, this whole project is self-evidently a complete and utter labour of love, and you'd do it and yourself a disservice by downloading it.

All in all, this is as brilliant, quirky, paradoxical and confusing as you could possibly wish for. Roll on 2052, and Songs For Christmas Volumes 46-50.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sufjan Stevens - It's a wonderful life, 28 Nov 2012
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Finally ploughing through the four discs of Sufjan Stevens new Christmas album "Sliver and Gold" is the musical equivalent of watching "It's a Wonderful Life". It is a multilayered work containing equal measures of whimsy, sentimentality and deep dense beauty. Followers of Stevens have been here before of course. Many of his albums such as "Seven Swans" have a very wintery sheen about them and no one does Christmas like Sufjan Stevens. In "Silver and Gold" he releases a three hour long, 59 track extravaganza as a tinsel tinged follow-up to 2006's 42-song-long "Songs for Christmas" collection. In reality Sufjan is somewhat ambiguous about the joys of the season describing the Christmas Tree as "nothing more than a symbol of environmental bondage". He has also recently raged against the avalanche of consumerism that engulfs December 25th. Whether or not he is trying to deconstruct the whole festive season is a moot point since these Scrooge like instincts are tempered in his work by the undoubted magic of the season, its sparkle and goodwill. As he states in the booklet attached to this Xmas marathon "Christmas is what you make of it, and its songs reflect mystery and magic as expertly as they clatter and clang with the most audacious and rambunctious intonations of irreverence." Speaking of which you could download the horrible roboticized version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" which goes on forever like a rancid turkey in the microwave. You could also get a interesting cover of Prince's "Alphabet Street" which is very well done although quite what its connection is to Christmas is a matter for a detective with the skills of Sherlock Homes to solve.

There are of course plenty of traditional Christmas songs here including "An Age of Adz" style version of "Good King Wenceslas", a joyous MOR version of "Sleigh Ride" and a 52 second version of "We three kings" which sounds like it is being played at a school carol concert. None of these really match Stevens best ever traditional version of a Christmas standard the brilliant "Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel" on "Songs for Christmas" which is a pure joy, but collectively they are great fun. And yet this is Sufjan Stevens and hidden amongst this wealth of material are plenty of new tracks not least "Carol of St. Benjamin The Bearded One" which takes the traditional "Carol of Bells" and mutates it into a achingly beautiful Stevens song which is worth the price of admission to the whole box set (for info this review of of the twelve quid download version). Equally tracks like "Barcarola", "Justice delivers it death" and especially the bubbling "Christmas in the room" are up there with his very best. The latter is a beautiful little love song and if there was justice in the world it would kick the wretched Slade and George Michael off the Christmas jukebox with a firm boot up the backside. In a direct message to a partner he speaks tenderly of "No travel plans, no shopping malls/ No candy canes or Santa Claus/For as the day of rest draws near/It's just the two of us this year".

The whole feast of Xmas indulgence ends with the 12 minute "Christmas Unicorn" which sees Stevens sing the words of Ian Curtis and make them work wonderfully in this setting. At the this point the listener has travelled a very long journey which has had many peaks of snowy beauty but also had to endure some dark brown slush along the the way. But that is the point for Sufjan Stevens good, bad or indifferent is about 100% more interesting than most other artists today and "Silver and Gold" is a delight.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic, Electric and Eccentric, 13 Nov 2012
By 
Syriat - See all my reviews
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Sufjan Stevens is a man who likes to push boundaries, experiment and come up with truly different music. This is a man who decided to turn his music into a 50 states project with a different album for each US state. Then he decided to abandon this after two albums. Did he ever intend all 50 states? Who knows. He also wrote an entire album and was involved in a film dedicated to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. He also came up with some of the most beautiful music ever. And he also recorded 5 ep's of old and original Christmas music and released that. He is now following it up with another 5 ep's in a box set. All Christmas music. Some old and some new. The question is does it sound like Age of Adz with its electronic noises or Michigan with its banjo, acoustics and hushed tones. The answer is both.

The box set is impressive. Its expensive as well. So what do you get? Well 5 ep's with a total of 58 tracks to start with. Each in a different cardboard case with different artwork. You also get an extensive booklet with 3 different essays on Christmas, lots of pictures and lyrics. A poster which is pencil art and quite nice and surreal. A make it yourself Christmas star complete with instructions. And finally some tattoo's and stickers.
However, this is all just a sideshow compared to the music. It sounds like it was recorded on a shoestring and includes Silent Night, Hark The Herald Angels and many other hymns that you will recognise. And then there are some classic american Christmas songs, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is an example of one that doesn't quite work. It has electronic squelches in the background and a trilling whistle accompanying the track. It sounds a mess and really isn't. But it doesn't quite pull it off. But that's the idea. Experimenting with Christmas songs and creating new ones. There are some tracks here which are just full of joy and spirit, take Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling. And other are very quirky. But it's great to hear the Christmas spirit being distilled in this way. Although quite how a cover of Alphabet Street meets the criteria of being a Christmas song I don't quite know. One track takes this quirkiness to levels previously heard on Age of Adz. Christmas Unicorn is 15 minutes and starts as quite a traditional sounding but new Christmas song and then during its time moves into electronic territory before turning (quite literally) into Joy Divisions Love Will Tear Us Apart.

So, is it worth it and is it any good. I think both answers are yes. Its possibly better than the first box set and it is a great mix of traditional, experimental and quirky. Not everything works. But then there is so much here to take in that some will not hit at first and others (take Joy to the World and its descent into electronics) may never. But its gotten this listener smiling, nodding and enjoying it far too much. Sufjan Stevens is one of those few artists prepared to take some risks and experiment every time. That should be applauded.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking expanse of christmas madness, 16 Nov 2013
This mammoth collection of music for Christmas is bordering on the insane, and represents the effortless genius of Sufjan and his merry troupe of musicians. His first Christmas set was a more conservative array of Christmas classics with a Sufjan twist, plus the odd dose of abstract anti-Christmas strangeness but volumes 6-10 are mind blowing. Some of the most beautiful a capellas I've ever heard are intertwined with DIY punk renditions of Jingle-bells plus a healthy dose of original work all employing the varied musical skills of friends and family. I just love the attention to detail Sufjan puts into his work and the vinyl boxset is a delight all in itself, all created with care and a healthy dose of tongue in cheek. Magnifique!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 7 Jun 2013
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I bought this for my brother-in-law but hogged it all Christmas myself. It is beautifully packaged but much smaller than it looks on screen. For some reason, I thought it would arrive in a cube-shaped box! Can't wait until next Christmas..."I'm the Christmas unicorn......"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars xmas never sounded this good, 9 Feb 2013
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not since cartman sang 'oh holy night' in the southpark xmas special did i tap along to ditties like these in the middle of february
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas!, 10 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Silver & Gold (MP3 Download)
Not quite as good as his previous christmas collection, but well worth it for a number of stand out tracks, and heck it's Christmas
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ding dong merrily on high!, 6 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Silver & Gold [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Is there no end to this man's talents?
It's already been too long since 2010's incredible 'The Age of Adz', but this second collection of Christmas tunes is a great stop gap.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, especially the vinyl set, 12 Dec 2012
This review is from: Silver & Gold [VINYL] (Vinyl)
What can you say about something this great? I've been a Sufjan fan only relatively recently, having discovered his brilliance with the 'Age of Adz' album. I subsequently purchased a few others including his previous Christmas collection, so when I heard he had a new collection coming out I was excited to say the least. And, amazingly, it doesn't disappoint, despite my high expectations. I wont go into details of the songs, suffice to say that they are ace, but feel I must say something about how great the vinyl box set is - the extras included are fantastic and it is like a mini Christmas in itself when you open it up. In short, if you have a record player, buy the vinyl set. Have just noticed too that the set is available for less than £90 here on Amazon, which is about £60 less than it cost me from the US - wish I'd waited now to buy it here but am still delighted with the one I have.
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Silver & Gold by Sufjan Stevens
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