For each of the past five years, Sufjan Stevens has released an EP of Christmas-themed songs, both traditional carols and originals (now collected in the Songs For Christmas box set). I heard a few of these last year around this time, and was struck by the way that they play up Stevens' central strength (his skill at composing unusual arrangments) while completely sidestepping his central weakness (his tendency towards pretention).
Take, for instance, today's track, "
Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance." Its palpable aura of casual goodwill and all-around lightheartedness are so winning that I find myself preferring it to nearly all of the more (self-consciously?) "important" tracks on [Greetings From] Michigan and [Come On Feel the] Illinois[e].
[Related: I often have a hard time stomaching material by The Decemberists, whose tendency to indulge in twee anachronism is by now so shtick-y that you could essentially make a drinking game out of it (1 shot each time Colin Meloy mentions a European place-name; 1 more each time he mentions an occupation that existed in the 19th century). It is for this reason that my favorite Decemberists song is "
Apology Song," about something as modest as a stolen bike.]
Thanks to Ray and Rich T. (respectively) for gifting me these tracks.