Monday, December 26, 2011

Song #62 of 9999 - Sister Winter by Sufjan Stevens

Song #62 of 9999

Title: Sister Winter
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Year: 2006
Album: Songs for Christmas

One of the things that makes Sufjan Stevens insufferable at times is his bent toward incorporating his Christian beliefs into his music. On the other hand, it probably makes him the perfect person to release a Christmas album, n'est-ce pas?

What began as an annual tradition of handing out a CD full (well, half-full) of interesting and unique arrangements of Christmas classics coupled with original Christmas-themed songs turned into the 2006 box set Songs for Christmas. The box contains five EPs collected over the course of six years (he took a year off while making Illinoise) that had heretofore only been heard by close friends and family. The set is uneven but there are several gems and one can easily get a sense of the time and care that went into producing these gifts.

"Sister Winter" features a spare arrangement of pulsing piano quarter notes, string glissandi and guitar arpeggios supporting a plaintive vocal. The chorus delivers delicate falsetto harmonies that float above each repetition of the chorus. The gradual crescendo, spread across nearly four minutes, culminates in a very satisfying manner with a brass choir singing in support of Stevens's wish for a happy Christmas. A favorite detail of mine is the final chord ringing in the "wrong" key long after the song has faded away.

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