Song of the Day: Sufjan Stevens - Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past

photo by Brittany Brassell

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. This week we have some special holiday treats for you! Today’s selection is one of the many Christmas offerings we got this year from Sufjan Stevens. “Lumberjack Christmas” comes from his new Christmas record, Silver & Gold, out now on Asthmatic Kitty Records.

Sufjan Stevens - Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past (MP3)

Sufjan Stevens’ new Christmas record hosts 58 new holiday tunes covering all ranges of lyrical topics, sounds, and styles. It’s easy to get lost somewhere in the middle of all the ruckus around the 2 hour mark, but overall, the collection is very true to the weirdness of Stevens’ music and will be a delight for any fan of Christmas music. Gloria!, the first of five volumes collected on Silver & Gold starts things off right with a collaboration between Sufjan and the Dessner Brothers of The National.

After a beautiful rendition of traditional Christmas classic “Silent Night”, “Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past” comes in with a delightfully upbeat alt-country feel. Sufjan paints the picture of Christmastime in the backwoods of the midwest, where below freezing temperatures and tough living (the life of a lumberjack, perhaps) might make Christmas not the most looked forward to holiday ever. But, just like Christmas anywhere else, the holiday is rescued by its own totally awkward tendencies. Forced interaction with extended family and in laws and singing carols together when no one can sing a lick are redeemed by warm houses packed full of loved ones and chestnuts roasting on the fire and food cooking in the kitchen. As with all of Sufjan’s stories of the winter season, this one is completely delightful.

But after a minute and a half of cheery cheese, the mood turns more somber as quiet voices sing “No one can save you from Christmases past - you’ll have to love it or leave it at last”. It’s true... sometimes the holidays aren’t the happiest times. Remembering good times had with relatives who have since passed away or recalling a time when you were much closer to those you loved - all of these things come up whether you want them to or not. But the tinsel and light wouldn’t shine half as bright if there weren’t a bit of darkness to give it contrast, and Stevens remembers to give us a balanced look at a holiday that musicians oftentimes make much too sugary. All in all, “Lumberjack Christmas” is an excellent example of Stevens’ unique Christmas vision and a great tune for your holiday playlists.

Silver & Gold is out now. If you feel like you need more convincing to give it a listen, check out the album’s awesome infomercial below after you watch the official video for today’s featured:

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