Asthmatic Kitty Records

Sufjan Stevens

Songs For Christmas

Catalog: AKR028
Release date: November 21, 2006
  • CD $30
  • MP3 $15.00 Buy

Forget the 50 States. Christmas is a bigger concept. As some of you may or may not know, for the past few years, as a holiday tradition, Sufjan has embarked on an extraordinary experiment to record an annual Christmas EP. It started in 2001, the year of Epiphanies, and continued onward (skipping only 2004), culminating into an odd and idiosyncratic catalog of music that has only existed in the Asthmatic Kitty archives (and on a number of file sharing sites). The recording process took place every December, for one week, usually at home, provoking collaborations with friends, roommates, and musical peers. Armed with a Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook (and a mug of hot cider) Sufjan & friends concocted a musical fruit cake year after year, implementing every musical instrument they could find lying around the house: banjo, oboe, Casiotone, wood flute, a buzzy guitar, hand claps, sleigh bells, Hammond organ, and some tree tinsel. Did we mention sleigh bells? It doesn’t take much to capture that Creepy Christmas Feeling, does it? Recorded, mixed and mastered at home, the EPs themselves were often assembled in the kitchen, stapled together, and sent out with stickers and stamps to loved ones across the globe, year after year, with little Christmas cards that read: “Merry Christmas. You are something special. Santa Claus loves you. And so do I.” And then, one day, some of these songs showed up online. Curious little web zines and fan sites posted mp3s. People started asking questions. What is this I hear about Sufjan doing the boogey to the elf dance? Where can I get these Christmas goodies? Well, not wanting to be the Grinch, we decided to deck the halls, if you know what I mean.

But let’s back up a bit. Having an inherent aversion to the standard Christmas carol, Sufjan indulged in the project initially as an exercise to make himself “appreciate” Christmas more. It was a tough childhood, but you can’t be a Christmas Curmudgeon forever, can you? What he discovered, for better or for worse, was a fascinating canon of Yuletide hits, some emotionally rewarding, some painfully cliché. Jingle Bells. Silent Night. We Three Kings. The whole nine yards. The musical undertaking led Sufjan (and his coterie of friends) to reckon with a holiday that celebrates, above all things, the spirit of excess–Santa Claus, popcorn balls, mistletoe, and Kmart blue light specials, to name a few. What does it all add up to? A headache, a hangover, and sentimental ruminations of Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and all those animals in the manger. Is there any other holiday that so seamlessly mixes the sacred and the profane?

Recording traditional favorites alongside unique originals, Sufjan has, over the course of five years, constructed an odd, impressive, and compelling collection of Christmas hits (and some misses) that will either warm your heart or make you throw up eggnog all over the bath mat (depending on your constitution). Asthmatic Kitty Records is preparing to release ALL of the material (newly mixed and mastered) in one generous box set, due in stores November 21, just in time for the holiday shopping craze. The box set (titled “Songs for Christmas”) will be chock full of surprises, including the following novelty items (if you don’t mind us ruining the surprise):

• Five individually packaged CD EPs!
• Five Christmas stickers!
• Extensive liner notes and short stories by Sufjan Stevens!
• An original Christmas essay by Rick Moody!
• An animated music video and comic strip by Tom Eaton!
• A Christmas Songbook with lyric sheets and chord charts–so you can sing along too!
• An original Christmas Family Portrait painting of Santa Sufjan (with wife and kids!) by Jacques Bredy!

Wow! It’s the stocking stuffer of the century! Which isn’t saying much, considering the century is still so young!