At rednoW we pride ourselves on finding wonder in an eclectic mix of media. Since it’s the holidays we’ll be taking a weeklong look at an eclectic boxset of holiday songs by one of our favorite musicians, Sufjan Stevens.
For the last few years Stevens has been the darling of the indie music world, though he has not necessarily sought out this fame. He is a brilliant musician but isn’t exactly comfortable with celebrity. The music Stevens makes doesn’t come from a love of fame or even a love of performing, but rather a love of creating and crafting music. Knowing this it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that most of the 42 songs that make up the five volumes of Christmas music were originally recorded as Christmas gifts for friends and family.
The first three volumes of Stevens’ Song For Christmas boxset were recorded from 2001 to 2003, one volume each year. After taking a year off in 2004 while he recorded his album Illinois, Stevens made two more volumes, one in 2005 and another in 2006. As Stevens’ fame grew in those years, his income and access to better production for his gifts grew as well and the music became cleaner and better produced. This might be most obvious on the fifth volume, Peace.
It wasn’t until November of 2006 that Stevens made the entire boxset available. Prior to that the first three volumes could be found on a number of fansites, but weren’t available through normal retailers. Eventually the demand was high enough that Stevens’ record label, Asthmatic Kitty Records, packaged all the EPs and released them as a single boxset. In typical Sufjan fashion, music wasn’t all you got with your purchase of the Songs for Christmas boxset. Also included are a poster of Sufjan Stevens, an animated short for “Put the Lights on the Tree” by Tom Eaton, an essay by Rick Moody, two original short stories by Stevens (who at one point was a part of the writing program at the New School in New York), stickers, comics and a sing-a-long book for all five discs.
It should be expected in such a “mixed bag” that the songs on the five volumes run the gamut both musically and lyrically. Some songs are sparse, some are full. Some songs are humorous and quirky and others are traditional and earnest. Some were written by Stevens and some are classic Christmas songs. There’s a little bit of everything on these five volumes and PLENTY to wonder about… So keep checking back as we take a week long look at a mix of our favorite songs from Songs For Christmas.