Today’s Sounds: Sufjan Stevens

Christmas music in excess by gay indie pop machine Sufjan Stevens + a solo track by the twinktastic singer from the Drums & a Charli XCX video feat. old Hollywood damsels crying, and Grimes associate/stripper/rapper Brooke Candy grabbing her own boobs with Scissorhands.


Sufjan Stevens, Silver & Gold (Asthmatic Kitty)

Just how much Christmas music can you take? And how much of it can one man make? The answers are here, within this four-EP box set. (Apparently Sufjan Stevens‘s broad definition of “EP” encompasses 22-song tracklists.)

In 2006, this mild-mannered (ie. gay), Christian indie pop machine abandoned his overly ambitious 50-LP series paying tribute to the United States. (He gave up after two, Michigan and Illinois. But we’re probably better for it. Imagine what Wyoming and Alabama would’ve sounded like.) His next release was Songs for Christmas, a five-disc set of Yuletide records that he produced annually for friends and family. And now we have four more, packaged as Silver & Gold.

If you’re wondering how this could possibly qualify as recommended listening, it’s because this is much more than some rote, run-of-mill Christmas cash-grab. There are strong original songs, like the beautiful “Christmas in the Room” (a Christmas tune in name only). There are also broad palettes of instruments, arrangement and styles applied to the old hymns, carols and songs, from straight-up church choir sing-alongs to contemporary classical renditions to strange funk jams to epic electronic deconstructions. The segue from “Good King Wenceslas” to a cover of Prince’s “Alphabet Street” might be my favourite moment.

Factoring in the first box set, Stevens has undoubtedly put years of work into his Christmas project, which also features a series of bizarre music videos and a pile of bonus material in the packaging for both sets. And he deserves credit.

Of course, some people react to Christmas music like it’s shit on a stick. If you’re one of them, you already know that you’ll hate this. But if you’re not, and you need to switch up those Phil Spector, Beach Boys and She & Him discs, or you want to try and sneak this into your parents’ CD-changer, this is your best bet for Xmas 2012.

Stream the whole damn thing at NPR.


Jonny Pierce, “I Didn’t Realise”

Just over a year after the Drums released my favourite record of 2012, their singer, Jonny Pierce, has announced a solo album, out sometime in 2013. This is a video, clearly, though not a very inspired one. But if you dig Euro alleyways, b&w cinematography and cute boys (who can’t dance), HUGE bonus.



Charli XCX, “Cloud Aura” feat. Brooke Candy

The last time Brooke Candy guested in a video, she was Grimes‘s grotesque alter ego. Here she raps while grabbing her own boobs with Scissorhands (!), assisting Charli XCX in a montage of Hollywood dames, crying. Finally, Louise Brooks and Honey Boo Boo in one package. My life is complete/over.

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