Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Title: “Songs for Christmas”
In 2006, Sufjan Stevens culled five extended plays from the previous six years for a new release. What began as a holiday tradition for family and friends turned into the “Songs for Christmas” box set.
Like with so many other Stevens projects, brevity is not the strong suit of “Songs for Christmas.” At more than two hours total, its redundant.
As each shows a different stage in Stevens’ development, the first EP, “Noel,” includes the first and best of three versions of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Electric guitar flourishes juxtapose wonderfully against the twang of the Detroit-born singer’s banjo work, a dynamic that resurfaces on the EP’s final track, “Amazing Grace.”
Mixed with the familiar songs are Stevens holiday originals, ranging from forgettable to inspired. Stevens penned both “Put the Lights on the Tree” and “Sister Winter,” which sound at home with more familiar holiday originals. The best stretch comes in the middle of the third EP, when “We Three Kings” and “O Holy Night” are followed by “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever,” another strong Stevens original.
As a novelty, it overstuffs the stocking, but Stevens’ touch on well-worn material is not without putting his signature stamp on it.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.