Silver and Gold

An Album By

Sufjan Stevens

Review by

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Really, how much can a singer say in a second Christmas album that he couldn’t say in his first? If you’re a singer inhabiting such a peculiar combination of humility and grandiosity, multi-instrumental prowess, cross-genre imagination and seemingly extremely caffeinated work ethic as Sufjan Stevens, whose first seasonal release was a set of five CD-EP’s, there’s still apparently plenty to communicate … on another quintuple-disc opus. But where 2006’s Songs for Christmas sounded and appeared like the (way long) set of tunes recorded for friends’ Yuletide gift receipt glorified into a package released to capitalize on burgeoning indie-whatever that means nowadays-notoriety, Silver & Gold possesses the earmarks of Stevens’ keener self-awareness as a capital-S Star within a certain strata of celebrity. And it’s not really the worse for that known-ingness. Yes, he goes on at questionably extraordinary lengths with cuts running upwards of 12 and 15 minutes, the latter being the noisiest of the 58 tracks. But he’s almost too pithy elsewhere, with numerous instances of getting it just right throughout. And though Stevens dabbles in dubstep, glitchy punk and early ‘80s-styled industrial, there’s a surfeit of what’s become more or less his formula over his past few vocal albums: gossamer chamber folk, the rhythmic pulse of Phillip Glass classical systems music, the cracked transpositions of Americana per Charles Ives and the stirringly wan tenor that sounds adept complementing the lot of it. Amid his sonic smorgasbord is a philosophical rumination in the liner notes on Christmas in most every manner it can matter to someone, and the combination walk in tandem well with one another. Probably not the comfort music for family get-togethers that the Perry Como and Andy Williams Christmas discs have become, but we’re living in different times about which Stevens gets some of the point here.