Truck Month Summer Reading Amazon Fashion Learn more Discover it Eric Clapton Father's Day Gift Guide 2016 Fire TV Stick Get Ready for Summer and Save 15% The Baby Store Shop now Amazon Cash Back Offer DrThorne DrThorne DrThorne  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $149.99 All-New Kindle Oasis Outdoor Recreation SnS

Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:$23.25+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

For some years now, Sufjan Stevens has been recording little EPs of Christmas songs for people he knew, to "make himself appreciate Christmas more."

Now thankfully he's sharing these songs with his eager listeners, in a five-disc collection that includes his folky reinterpretations of classic carols -- and then the festive ones he made himself. This is not the treacly garbage they put on the radio or in malls -- this is enchanting, festive, fresh music for the holidays.

The first EP -- recorded in 2001 -- is very much old-school Sufjan. Much folkier and banjoey, especially in the lo-fi "O Come O Come Emmanuel," folksy little songs about going to the country, and "Amazing Grace." But there are exceptions -- a shimmering reinterpration of an old hymn, and some bouncy sleigh bell pop.

But the collection blossoms with the sparkling "Angels We Have Heard on High," which is the lead-in to his more polished style. In the four EPs that follow, Sufjan flourishes out into synthy pop, xylophone tunes, dancey holiday music, mellow folk, and exquisite piano balladry. There's the occasional banjo tune, but they grow rarer as time goes on.

And as the collection moves forward, Stevens' music becomes more accomplished with each passing year. His music becomes more complex and more enchanting, right up to the rather pensive and downbeat fifth disc -- which is album-length -- with the shimmering piano of "Winter Solstice" and the offbeat synthpop of "Jupiter Winter."

Sufjan does repeat himself occasionally -- there are multiple versions of "O Come O Come Emmanual," "Lo! A Rose E'er Blooming," and "Once in Royal David's City." Fortunately each time he records the same song, it's radically reimagined. And even songs that most people are heartily sick of -- like "Jingle Bells" -- lose that appalling shopping-mall feeling when Sufjan plays them.

As well as the traditionals and classics, Sufjan injects a lot of his own songs. He makes a festive mishmash of instrumentals -- Hammond, guitar, a little flute, banjo, and lots and lots of bells! Lyrically this is right up his street. He can switch effortlessly from "K-Mart is closed/So is the bakery" to singing about the little Lord Jesus laying down his head in a manger.

And Stevens isn't afraid to look at the side of Christmas that isn't filled with love, joy and goodwill ("Our father yells/Throwing gifts in the wood stove... Silent night/Nothing feels right"). But then, he also has whimsical pop tunes like "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" which is suitably jolly for the holidays. Not to mention the sweetly romantic side as well ("I might kiss you on the back of your neck/Because it's Christmas time."

Sufjan Stevens is in excellent form with his collection of Christmas tunes. Old songs get a new spin, and new songs are absolutely enchanting in his psychfolky way. Now that it's Christmas time...
11 comment|67 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 23, 2006
The lofty dreams of Sufjan Stevens have always been one of his most admirable features. Whether it's a double album based on the state of Illinois, or better yet, an entire project based on the 50 states of the United States, Stevens has always captivated his audiences with some of the grandest music today! Like his most recent projects, his latest box-set, titled "Songs for Christmas," is a collection of 5 short Christmas albums that were recorded by Sufjan every year since 2001. Any die hard fan of the artist should have heard most of these songs before (they have been available on the Internet for some time now), but a low-price tag, attractive packaging and additional fold-outs, stickers and a songbook make this package a must-have for any Sufjan fan!

There are far too many songs on this collection to critique individually (42 in all), so I will simply point out that "Songs for Christmas" is one of the best Christmas albums that I've yet to hear in my life. There are traditional Christmas songs on here (both Christian and secular), Christian hymns, and even original songs by Mr. Stevens, himself. Each song is treated with the utmost care and respected for its worth and history, yet they manage to sound distinctly like Sufjan Stevens. With the exception of Volume 5 of the collection, "Peace," you won't find any of the symphonic embellishments that you've come to expect with albums like "Illinois" and "The Avalanche." Instead, what you'll find is a very toned-down Sufjan Stevens, reminiscent of "Seven Swans" or the lighter moments on "Michigan." More often than not, these songs will only feature Sufjan on guitar, banjo, or piano as he humbly sings the songs we've loved since our childhood.

The original songs on this collection are all surprisingly top-notch, though I doubt many of them will translate into pop culture quite as seamlessly as the other songs have. After all, a song titled "Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)" probably won't appeal to everyone. Regardless, these songs feature the charming nature that fans have come to expect from Sufjan over the years. They are not genius, by any means, but they are good and they definitely serve their purpose by putting you in the holiday spirit.

"Songs for Christmas" is not Sufjan's greatest album, nor is it meant to be. What it is is a charming collection of old classics and new songs from one of America's most talented musicians. Obviously, this album is not going to be for everyone. Those who don't identify with Christianity or celebrate Christmas probably won't find as much to enjoy here as they would on other Sufjan albums, but those who can identify with the subject matter will absolutely love it! For the price, there's no better Christmas album that you could possibly buy. So stick with "Songs for Christmas." You'll be thankful you did.

Recommended for fans of Sufjan Stevens, and anyone looking to get into the Christmas spirit without spending ludicrous amounts of money!

Key Tracks:

1. "I Saw Three Ships"

2. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

3. "That was the Worst Christmas Ever"

4. "The Incarnation"

5. "Get Behind Me Santa"

6 out of 10 Stars
0Comment|35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 29, 2006
Sufjan has exceeded my expectations with every album he releases, and this is no exception. For any fans of Sufjan; this is a must have. For any fans of Christmas Music; this is a must have.

All of your favorite Christmas songs are here, wonderfully redone with an unmistakably Sufjan sound. This album covers the entire spectrum of Sufjan's sound. There are quiet, folky, banjo pieces reminiscent of "Seven Swans", or parts of "M!ch!gan!", but he also inclusdes some of the large, complicated, orchestral compositions prominent on "Illinois"

Sufjan has many people help out on this album, including; "a college friend, a Presbyterian pastor and his wife, a string quartet, my little brother, to name a few." I was pleasenty surprised to find that Denison Witmer contibutes to a few songs on "Ding! Dong!" (vol. 3).

The best parts of this album, in my opinion, are the original songs that Sufjan has written. "It's Christmas!, Lets be glad!", "Come on, Lets Boogey to the Elf Dance!", "Hey Guys, It's Christmas Time!", and many of the others are now my new favorite Christmas Songs. Sufjan even includes lyric sheets and chord charts so that you can sing and play along!

Also, The packaging of this album is the best that I have ever seen. Stickers, a comic, a poster, 5CDs and a booklet with short stories by "Santa Sufjan" and many other things. If you are going to buy this album, buy the actual album, don't download it. And read through the entire booklet, Sufjan puts a bunch of very funny little comments all through it.

This album makes me glad that I have a 5CD changer in my CD player. I doubt I will listen to much else this holiday season. This album is one of the best christmas albums ever made, and I am sure that years from now I will still be roasting chestnuts to the beatiful music of "Santa Sufjan". This album makes a great gift, or a great addition to your own collection. And come on, when was the last time you got 5 (awesome) CDs for 20 bucks? Definetly buy this album right now.
0Comment|19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 5, 2007
I love Christmas music and I love Sufjan Stevens. When I saw that Sufjan had his own FIVE CD Christmas album, I bought it without hearing so much as a single track, knowing that whether the album was a success or failure, at least it would be unlike any other Christmas CD I own. Of course Santa Sufjan did not let me down.

First of all, the packaging and the graphic design of this mini box-set of Christmas CD's is awesome--It's worth buying just for the packaging. It includes a free set of stickers, a comic, a Stevens family Christmas portrait, and the most extensive liner notes in recording history, including some excellent Christmas essays and artwork. I was having so much fun with all that, it was a while before I even listened to the first CD of the set!

The five CD's are a collection of non-commercial CD-R's that Sufjan would make for friends and family each Christmas. The first four CD's were not intended to be sold or marketed, and are made up of mostly simple recordings of classic carols and many original Christmas songs. I believe the fifth disk was the only one created with the knowledge that it would be sold.

Since these CD's were made from the heart, and were certainly not an attempt to milk the Christmas music market, one is going to hear songs done in a very simple, rugged and direct manner, with warts and all. Phil Spector's "wall-of-sound" this is not. Rather, it is a humble, contrite attempt at honoring Christmas and Christ with song. Sufjan Stevens channeling the Little Drummer Boy, in a very literal sense, though there are a few songs that are more Spector than Simon & Garfunkel.

In my vast collection of Christmas CD's, numbering well over 50 disks, I found that there is one particular style that really stands out when employed, and that is when an artist chooses to focus on Christmas carols rather than the various secular holiday songs, and then does a simple, straightforward interpretation of these carols, with little to no embellishment. One of the early examples of this is Mitch Miller's "Christmas--Sing Along with Mitch." That album is filled with classic carols, minimal orchestration, and brilliant, lively voices. It works because Mitch wisely leaves the carols alone, staying away from cutesy production tricks, and allows the beauty of the songs to speak for themselves. No doubt Mitch Miller's album was in Sufjan sites when creating this box set, complete with the tongue-in-cheek "SINGALONG in Stereo" blurb on the front of the box.

Like the Mitch Miller album, Sufjan also chooses to stay mainly with carols, rather than do another rendition of "White Christmas" or "Santa Clause is Coming to Town." (However, we do get a Santa Sufjan original: "Get Behind Me Santa!") Like Mitch, his singing of the carols is fairly straight forward, with little fluff or ornamentation--he leaves that for the packaging. But unlike Mitch, Sufjan is quite creative with the musical accompaniment, giving carols a sound that is very earthy and simple. There is a definite folk/blue grass interpretation which is a real pleasure to listen to; it's the polar opposite the big band/swing/jazz style of most secular Christmas albums.

Yet there is more than just carols on this CD, Sufjan gives us many of his own original Christmas songs, which are neither secular nor sacred, but somehow occupy a space in between. They are spiritual without being King James, and they are secular without being profane. Singing about K-Mart, Santa and Jesus in the same tune is something only Sufjan could pull off. While there are some interesting songs in Sufjan's originals, I much prefer his folksy interpretations of the classic carols.

Then there are those carols in which we only get a simple, pleasing instrumental number, no voices or singing, just like the neat little instrumentals spread around Sufjan's 'Illnois' album. They are a wonderful little treat, kind of the musical equivalent of an occasional snack of a Christmas cookie. Speaking of Illinois, there are a few songs, especially from the fourth and fifth disks that would have worked well on either the Illinois or Avalanche albums despite their Christmas theme.

Sadly, while not lacking in creativity or originality, "Songs for Christmas" just doesn't quite cut it as a classic Christmas album. It's refreshingly experimental and "ad hoc" sound will not endear many listeners, as there seems to be certain unspoken parameters as to how far you can push Christmas music interpretations. Outside of the Sufjan faithful, I doubt many folks will be shelving their Bing Crosby or Carpenters disks in favor of "Songs for Christmas." Still, the best thing on this album are Sufjan's beautiful, light renditions of ancient carols, and the album is worth purchasing for those alone.

In a recent Christmas essay, Garrison Keillor states that all one really needs to have a wonderful Christmas are the there "C's" -- carols, cookies, and candles. Well Sufjan Steven's Christmas box set will certainly meet and exceed the "carols" requirement. Maybe next year he'll throw in the cookies and candles, I wouldn't put it past him.
0Comment|10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 28, 2006
Sufjan Stevens is on the cusp, moving from cult figure into some sort of stardom:

* His summer release, The Avalanche, a collection of outtakes from his masterful Illinois album, was a very mixed bag, with some very good cuts, but far from his best work. Yet, for the first time he broke into Billboard's top 100 albums chart.

* His three-night concert run at New York's Town Hall in late September sold out almost immediately (helped by a $25 ticket price). When I wrote to his Brooklyn-based record label, Asthmatic Kitty, to bemoan the fact that I (and I assume many other fans) would be missing the concerts, I got a reply that indicated that Sufjan and his company were taken aback by the success, surprised by the quick sellouts. They admitted that the $25 price may have been a miscalculation, since tickets were immediately, inevitably being offered on Craigslist and through brokers for $200 or more - and fans were the losers. (An amazing new 10-minute song, "Majesty, Snowbird," was captured by someone at one of the Town Hall shows and is currently a popular clip on YouTube.)

* A recent half-hour set on PBS's Austin City Limits probably introduced Sufjan to more new listeners than ever before. (See clips on PBS's web site.)

* And recently there was another good news/bad news announcement on the Asthmatic Kitty web site... Sufjan's new boxed set, Songs for Christmas, is sold out and backordered. (It's back now!)

All this growing popularity is immensely well deserved. Sufjan Stevens's "orchestral folk-pop" is unique and often breathtakingly, heartbreakingly beautiful. The soft-spoken yet incantatory power of songs like "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!" and "Casimir Pulaski Day" helped make Illinois the best album I've heard in the last few years. And Seven Swans, his most overtly religious album, contains several songs (such as "We Won't Need Legs to Stand," "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands") that move a cynical old agnostic like me to tears. Poetic and mystical rather than preachy, Sufjan's Christianity remains in the background and on the edges of his very fine "secular" works, Michigan and Illinois, the first two in a projected series of 50 albums named after the 50 states.

Inevitably Jesus is somewhat more prominent in the new boxed Christmas set. It consists of five EP-length discs, 42 cuts in all (some, as on all his albums, brief instrumental fragments or transitions) - two hours of music for slightly more than the price of one CD. Sufjan has been doing an annual mini-album each Christmas, mixing traditional and original material, both religious and secular, and this set collects the four previous discs and adds a new, longer one for 2006.

His melodic style is well matched to holiday songs. If the thought of new renditions of "The Little Drummer Boy," "The First Noel," or (three times, no less) "O Come O Come Emmanuel" makes you gag, this may not be the best new album for your collection. But if you're a fan (as you may have gathered, I am), you won't want to miss it.

Several of the best original songs are sad or wistful or even angry. They provide a good counterpoint to such whimsical fun as "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance." Among these new blue-Christmas classics are "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!" - a possibly autobiographical piece, simple and lovely and sad; and "Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)" - a good quarreling-lovers holiday weepie in the tradition of Joni Mitchell's "River." (And actually, that's only a medium-length title for a Sufjan song.)

The new 2006 disc closes with three of these less-than-joyful songs in Sufjan's patented mini-oratorio mode. They are wonderful: "Jupiter Winter" is cosmic in scope, channeling Gustav Holst for its ending (according to Sufjan's notes); "Sister Winter" is a much more personal song of sadness and loss, building to a rock-symphonic close that resembles "Majesty, Snowbird," the new concert-only opus that is creating such a stir; and "Star of Wonder," mysterious, gorgeous, sustains itself for seven magical minutes.

Certainly the new material provides the most artistically satisfying and exciting parts of the box. But the traditional carols are well done too, and will make excellent additions to your iPod X-mas playlist. Some of the better ones include "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming," "I Saw Three Ships," "We Three Kings" and "O Holy Night" (the two blended into one seamless cut), the slightly retitled "What Child Is This Anyway?" and the great-for-kids "The Friendly Beasts."

The set includes a 40-page booklet, stickers and a poster. Get it while you can. By next year, Mr. Stevens may have become too big to do this kind of homemade Christmas present for us again.
0Comment|13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
For some years now, Sufjan Stevens has been recording little EPs of Christmas songs for people he knew, to "make himself appreciate Christmas more."

Now thankfully he's sharing these songs with his eager listeners, in a five-disc collection that includes his folky reinterpretations of classic carols -- and then the festive ones he made himself. This is not the treacly garbage they put on the radio or in malls -- this is enchanting, festive, fresh music for the holidays.

The first EP -- recorded in 2001 -- is very much old-school Sufjan. Much folkier and banjoey, especially in the lo-fi "O Come O Come Emmanuel," folksy little songs about going to the country, and "Amazing Grace." But there are exceptions -- a shimmering reinterpration of an old hymn, and some bouncy sleigh bell pop.

But the collection blossoms with the sparkling "Angels We Have Heard on High," which is the lead-in to his more polished style. In the four EPs that follow, Sufjan flourishes out into synthy pop, xylophone tunes, dancey holiday music, mellow folk, and exquisite piano balladry. There's the occasional banjo tune, but they grow rarer as time goes on.

And as the collection moves forward, Stevens' music becomes more accomplished with each passing year. His music becomes more complex and more enchanting, right up to the rather pensive and downbeat fifth disc -- which is album-length -- with the shimmering piano of "Winter Solstice" and the offbeat synthpop of "Jupiter Winter."

Sufjan does repeat himself occasionally -- there are multiple versions of "O Come O Come Emmanual," "Lo! A Rose E'er Blooming," and "Once in Royal David's City." Fortunately each time he records the same song, it's radically reimagined. And even songs that most people are heartily sick of -- like "Jingle Bells" -- lose that appalling shopping-mall feeling when Sufjan plays them.

As well as the traditionals and classics, Sufjan injects a lot of his own songs. He makes a festive mishmash of instrumentals -- Hammond, guitar, a little flute, banjo, and lots and lots of bells! Lyrically this is right up his street. He can switch effortlessly from "K-Mart is closed/So is the bakery" to singing about the little Lord Jesus laying down his head in a manger.

And Stevens isn't afraid to look at the side of Christmas that isn't filled with love, joy and goodwill ("Our father yells/Throwing gifts in the wood stove... Silent night/Nothing feels right"). But then, he also has whimsical pop tunes like "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" which is suitably jolly for the holidays. Not to mention the sweetly romantic side as well ("I might kiss you on the back of your neck/Because it's Christmas time."

Sufjan Stevens is in excellent form with his collection of Christmas tunes. Old songs get a new spin, and new songs are absolutely enchanting in his psychfolky way. Now that it's Christmas time...
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 21, 2006
I don't even know what more there is to say about this amazing item. DEFINITELY don't download it, buy it and get all the incredible packaging, including the "liner notes" which in reality is a book with not only lyrics and chords but a few short stories, one of which basically changed my life and my whole outlook on Christmas. Do you find Christmas vaguely nauseating and depressing, especially when you consider how much you loved it when you were a kid, and the overt and sickening materialism and consumerism of it all, and the lack of emphasis on the actual miracle of Jesus as savior, and the way your slightly to moderately dysfunctional family never comes remotely close to living up to societal expectations of a warm fuzzy happy holiday? Yeah, me too. Buy this set, read the story "Christmas Tube Socks" and then listen to all five discs (disc 2 is my favorite, since it contains an incredible version of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and a Sufjan original "Put the Lights on the Tree" that tells you to call your grandma on the phone if she's living all alone, and to tell her Jesus Christ is here and that she is not to fear). Sufjan...you're amazing.
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 16, 2012
I think many of us have come to expect the "Christmas album" to be a soulless cash-grab unleashed upon the world in the sunset days of an artist's career (hi, Bob Dylan), but Sufjan just wasn't interested in waiting another 20 years. Rather than phoning it in (Sufjan Stevens doesn't *do* phoning it in), he clearly goes all in to deliver this epic 5 disc set.

Now, it so happens I have a reputation as a bit of a Grinch when it comes to holiday music. It seems like you've got two choices: classically styled non-secular music (that I can appreciate, but let's face it, you've heard 'em all before) and the "modern" secular music that all sounds like it got stuck somewhere in the '50s (I really don't want to hear about Rudolph any more, fellas).

But what if both of those things sounded like Sufjan Stevens songs? Cause, you know, Sufjan Stevens was singing them, and plucking his banjo? And what if Sufjan threw a few of his own quirky originals into the mix? Why then, you might catch my interest.

What Sufjan gives you here is the best of both traditions, breathing new life into songs that normally make me want to claw my eyes out. It's enough to even warm the heart of a scrooge like myself.

Do you like Christmas music? I think you should buy this. Do you not like Christmas music? Well, I think you should buy this too, because Sufjan just might convince you to change your tune.
0Comment|3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 15, 2006
I confess I haven't been a fan of Sufjan's (before now): anyone brave or crazy enough to even try to make a concept album for each of our 50 states commands at least my respect, but his music is pretty quirky at times, even for my taste. This little box is special. As Sufjan explains, music is one of the best, if not only, ways to discover the true feeling of Christmas, even if that feeling is pretty creepy sometimes. So much holiday music is treacle, but not this. Some of Sufjan's originals in this ample set are brilliant, like "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever," "Did I Make You Cry On Christmas (Well, You Deserved It!)," and "Star of Wonder"--briliiant--but equally special are his unique, and tasteful, renditions of classic English and French hymns and carols, like "Come Though Fount of Every Blessing," "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" and "Holy, Holy, Holy." This will be a joy to get out again and again, each year (I've listened so much this season I'm nearly overdosing on it)--and maybe even during the middle of the year to have "Christmas in July."
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 26, 2013
This collection is something else, truly. The cardboard gift-box opens up to reveal: a folded-up Christmas poster that has a comic strip on the other side; a sheet of stickers; a thick booklet that contains three essays, the song credits, some song lyrics with chords, and scattered illustrations; and, each In its own illustrated cardboard sleeve, five Christmas CDs, one for each of the five years in which Sufjan recorded them. The songs are many beloved Christmas songs, and many that Sufjan wrote himself. The exuberance of the packaging makes the music even more fun altogether.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Customers also viewed these items

$37.98
$18.99

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.