Tag Archives: Sufjan Stevens

Shuffle Lessons, Vol. 12

You can find the previous Shuffle Lessons here.

1. “Stuck In The Middle” – Mika, Life In Cartoon Motion

A fantastic hook is on display in this tune, one of many fantastic hooks on a really strong debut album from Freddie Mercury’s pop heir apparent, Mika. Granted, Mika hasn’t had the steadiest consistency in album qualities, but his debut is his best work; absolutely worth checking out if you need a smile in your life.

Lyrically, I’m reading this song as a dig at a strained parental relationship. Interesting how he dresses a heavy subject in such colorful clothes. There are several songs on the album where this is done, so if you don’t pay close attention, it’s just an overtly positive sounding album, but with a third or fourth listen, you start hearing the lyrical layers he’s created.

Musically, this tune is a really great representation of where Mika excels. It is built on an insanely catchy little piano riff. One of the best things about this song (and the album in general) is how well orchestrated Mika’s tunes are. Everything is added to that riff and it creates a lot of great kinetic energy.

It’s the little things like the rhythm guitar in the chorus or in the second verse, Mika’s fabulous at doing these instrumental flourishes that build the song out so well and create a very colorful tableau. The scat part at the song’s conclusion highlights this really well.

2. “Losing My Way” – Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds

Now that I’m thinking about it, this is the only solo song JT’s ever recorded that tackles an “issue,” unless you consider dressing fly and being a ladies man an issue. JT’s singing about the dangers of drug abuse from the perspective of a husband/father from a lower socioeconomic class.

Surprisingly, I like this song a lot (surprising because “issue” songs are often very trite; a four minute pop song isn’t really the best place to try and dissect a social issue). As far as song quality goes, it’s good enough that I’m surprised JT’s never attempted an issue song since.

Musically, this is a really subdued tune from Timbaland, with the usual Timbo touches gone, replaced here only with a “ba-dum-bah” refrain that underlays the entire song. Granted, the song ends with a gospel choir in the background, but in the context of the song, they fit perfectly and add a very soulful prayer-like flavor to the song. As this is a black sheep song in the Justin Timberlake catalog, it makes me think JT and Timbo could write more songs like this, especially to fill the space on the second half of The 20/20 Experience where it sounded like they were taking songs left over from *NSYNC days (I’m referring specifically to the last 11 minutes of the album, completely superfluous).

3. “Veridis Quo” – Daft Punk, Discovery

One of the things I love about writing these posts is that it forces me to give a really focused listen to songs I wouldn’t normally, or songs I’m surprised are even in my Top 1000. This is a perfect example, a song that was on an album I absolutely loved and listened to a lot, but for some reason, continually got forgotten about as I listened through it.

When I think about Daft Punk’s Discovery, “Digital Love” and “One More Time” are obviously the stand-out tracks, but there are tunes like “Veridis Quo” that are very unique and interesting in their own way.

This is an atmosphere track. No lyrics, just instrumentals of various kinds. It absolutely belongs in an outer space travel scene in an anime show (oh wait, they already did that).

What gives it this ephemeral, spacey quality is the fact that the synth upon which the whole melody is built never actually breaks. You know how with the guitar or a trumpet or a piano, to change notes you actually have to either let your finger off the fret, or take a new breath, or put your finger on a new key? With this synth melody, they’ve managed to connect it all in a way that sounds like an eternal instrumental loop. It creates a sound that just washes over you like the remnants of a supernova.

While it’s definitely not my favorite song off of Discovery, as far as the instrumentals go, it’s a very pretty song to listen to. My biggest complaint with this album in general is actually songs like this one, because with too many of them, you lose the listen-ability factor because the average music listener doesn’t want an album full of atmospheric synth instrumentals (this is the biggest problems with their albums pre- and post-Discovery, Homework and Human After All).

That’s not to say this song is bad though, especially considering it is a five minute long synth instrumental. I’d say it’s a little repetitive, but I don’t think Daft Punk care about repetition when they make their music. I’d almost say it’s one of their strong suits.

4. “The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” – Sufjan Stevens, Illinois

Sufjan. Possibly the most complex and unique songwriter under the age of 40 that graces my iTunes library. This guy is incredibly intelligent, and each song off of his Illinois album sounds like it is the result of a graduate thesis. Or at least each song could be the subject of a graduate thesis.

Sufjan is hands down one of the most literary songwriters I’ve ever heard. This song can be read several different ways, with so many of his lyrics being just vague enough to encourage interpretation.

Here goes: I think the opening verse introduces us to the narrator, who is either in a lucid-dream state, not sleeping in the middle of the night, or just falling to sleep, as he sees something in his bedroom that reminds him of a childhood memory. The song then transports the narrator and the listener back to his childhood, to a time at a summer camp where he and his brother and/or friend came upon what they thought was a giant mutant wasp monster.

What I love about this song is how Sufjan takes a seemingly unrelated subject and turns it into a reflection on human nature and how we respond to the world around us. I read this song as a humble prayer to God about his Creation, the beautiful and terrible parts of it (i.e. the “great sights” of the land and the “terrible sting” of the predatory wasp). Sufjan is singing an ode to the beauty of God’s creation through the lens of the imagination and innocence of childhood.

Or he could be singing about a crush he had on a friend at summer camp. It doesn’t really matter, but it does display what depth Sufjan writes into his songs.

I haven’t even gotten to the music yet. This song starts with a very simple acoustic guitar pattern with some kind of woodwinds played on top. The finger-picked chords of the first verse are a perfect testament to how Sufjan can take something familiar and make it sound fresh.

The next addition is the very soft background vocals, which will come into play later in the song. And then we get into the first refrain, where Sufjan teases at the orchestration that’s to come. I hear a mix of accordion-sounding woodwinds (the accordion is not a woodwind but I can’t describe it any other way, maybe a glockenspiel?) over some piano chords and a tambourine. The blend is gorgeous.

Then right at 2:10, this horn comes in for a bar and is then followed up by another horn doing harmony. As gorgeous as the orchestration becomes just after these two bars and at the end of the song, this might be my favorite musical moment of the song. It’s so simple and so refined; you hear each element with so much clarity. This sound so perfectly encapsulates what Illinois sounds like as an album and why Sufjan excels as a musician. He’s able to create these sonic landscapes with a lot or a little, and he knows exactly where to add and where to abstain.

If you haven’t listened to this album, go check out this song. It’s a great representation of how dense Sufjan makes his music.

5. “Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson, Bad

If you are just about 30 years old, and didn’t listen to pop radio in the ‘80s, it is very likely that your first introduction to this song was a cover by a band named Alien Ant Farm in 2001. As I recall, it was a pretty huge hit (at least in Iowa, I remember hearing it on the radio all the time). And I remember thinking it was a pretty hard rockin’ tune.

Oddly enough, the main difference between it and MJ’s original is the metal-sounding guitars in the cover. Take those away, and you’ve almost got the original song.

Which is for the best, because obviously the original is the best. MJ somehow took a song about a breaking-and-entering/assault and turned it into a pretty intense club banger. It is a pretty dark tune, considering the hook that everyone knows is “Annie, are you O.K.?” when clearly she’s not.

But that doesn’t take away from how rockin’ MJ and Quincy made this tune sound. It all really comes to a head during the bridge, when a public service announcer’s voice tells everybody to “Clear the area, right now!” as a siren blares in the background. The song then launches into the bridge, which features an in-your-face mix of blazing synthesizer, a pan-flute-like rhythmic section, and of course MJ’s patented hee-hees.

The other thing that struck me as I listened to this one is how cinematic it sounds. From the beginning four-second intro before the song really hits to the atmospheric sound effects in the bridge, it’s really clear that MJ was moving toward a more cinematic expression in his music and art.

This is evident 100% in the music video, which I’ve linked above. While the song is about four minutes long, the video is a full five minutes past that, clocking in at over nine minutes. The whole thing is like a short film, and MJ uses one of the coolest effects in all of his videos, the anti-gravity lean. Be sure to check it out. The dude could dance like nobody else.

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Songs For Christmas: Volumes I-X Ranked

A little context before launching into this list. Between 2001 and 2005, Sufjan Stevens would personally record a short collection of Christmas tunes (lots of original songs, lots of reworked carols, etc.) and give it to friends as a gift. In 2005, he collected these and released them publicly as Songs For Christmas.

songsforchristmas

Then he did it again in 2012 with Silver & Gold.

silverandgold

So we’ve got ten volumes of the most eclectic mix of songs and sounds. I am ranking them here in order of my least to most favorite. Thanks to Owen for the list idea.

10. Let It Snow: Vol. IX

letitsnow

Volume IX kicks off this list at the bottom as the most confusing volume in the collection. There are a lot of originals, but then some very odd takes on classic carols, like “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” It feels like a lot of missteps to me. I commend Sufjan for going out on a limb, even with the traditional tunes he chooses, but these are just a little too left of center for me to really get into them.

Stand-outs:

  1. “Sleigh Ride”
  2. “X-mas Spirit Catcher”
  3. “Christmas Face”

9. Christmas Infinity Voyage: Vol. VIII

christmasinfinity

Sufjan also uses a great deal of electronic instrumentation on this volume, but to slightly better effect than Volume IX. I like some of it, but a lot of it is unnecessary and kind of indulgent. Do we need a 15-minute original tune to close this volume out? Not particularly. More than half this volume is heavily electronic, and it makes for a unique listen or two, but I don’t want to hear “Do You Hear What I Hear?” or “Good King Wenceslas” through such a binary filter. Regardless, Sufjan still gets points for creativity here, throwing in a Prince cover with “Alphabet St.” It’s bizarre, and I have no idea why it got stuck on this Christmas collection, but it’s cool. And “Christmas In The Room” is a beautiful acoustic song among all the blips and bloops of the electronic stuff. And that 15-minute original I was talking about? The first five minutes of it are fantastic, like Sufjan’s take on a country/western song.

Stand-outs:

  1. “Christmas In The Room”
  2. “Alphabet St.”
  3. “Angels We Have Heard On High”

8. Noel: Vol. I

noel

This is at number eight mainly due to the lack of traditional Christmas songs. There are really only two vocal, traditional carols on this one, and the rest is instrumental, original, and then “Amazing Grace,” which sticks out like a slightly bruised thumb. I love the instrumental “Silent Night” on this one, but it’s only 45 seconds long which is kind of a bummer. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is nice, but a little heavy on the combination of banjo and lute (or whatever woodwind instrument is playing in the intro) for my liking.

Stand-outs:

  1. “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming”
  2. “Silent Night”
  3. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

7. Ding! Dong!: Vol. III

dingdong

Sufjan goes for some more old school tunes on this one. He’s also got a very interesting pair of original songs, “Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance!” and “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!” The first is a pretty lightweight tune and I can imagine kids enjoying singing along, while the latter is a much more melancholy song, reminding me very much of something off of Seven Swans. This volume also has an absolutely stunning version of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” but it is tragically short. The rest of this volume is easily skippable for me. “We Three Kings” is a snooze fest, and while “O Holy Night” is one of my very favorite Christmas songs, the instrumentation of this version just doesn’t do anything for me, and robs the song of a lot of its emotional punch because of it.

Stand-outs:

  1. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
  2. “That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!”
  3. “The Friendly Beasts”

6. I Am Santa’s Helper: Vol. VII

santashelper

I initially had this lower on the list, but there are a few really powerful songs. This volume is almost solely with originals and old songs. I’m talking old songs, like traditional vocal compositions, songs sung by madrigal choirs in the olden days. Listening to this reminds me much less of decorating Christmas trees and more of attending midnight mass (I assume they do only old songs at midnight mass, I’ve never actually been). That being said, the old stuff can have some weightiest, most meaningful lyrics that are really affecting. For example, “How Shall I Fitly Meet Thee?” is not only a gorgeous vocal arrangement, but the words communicate this beautiful prayer towards Christ’s arrival that is deeper than most carols. Then you hit the opposite thematic end with “Ah Holy Jesus,” a German song written in the early 1600s. The song in full is a very penitent prayer to God and the admittance that Jesus suffered on our behalf and the only real response to that truth is to follow him. However, Sufjan notably chooses to sing only the first and fourth verses, creating a very melancholy tune that is rarely heard during this season. Incredibly powerful.

What’s odd about this volume is hearing songs like that against the lo-fi, gritty, crunchy originals like “Happy Family Christmas” and “Mr. Frosty Man.” These aren’t my favorite Sufjan songs strictly because I dislike the dissonance he plays with, so often coupled with lots of guitar feedback. These tunes keep this volume from really soaring.

Stand-outs:

  1. “How Shall I Fitly Meet Thee?”
  2. “Ah Holy Jesus”
  3. “Christ The Lord Is Born”

5. Hark!: Vol. II

hark

Hark! is a good volume that wants to be great. There are some very good songs here, but overall nothing that I find stellar, save for the non-Christmas song, ironically enough. “What Child Is This Anyway?” is just a tad indulgent, clocking in at just under 7 minutes, and both “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” are awesome, but both are instrumentals that end before the 1 minute mark. Then you’ve got three old Christmas tunes, and I love when Sufjan does old hymns that sound like Reformation-era tunes, but “I Saw Three Ships” suffers from the Renaissance Fair treatment like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” from Noel: Vol. I and “Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” is a very lo-fi, stripped down version, and it would’ve been great to hear Sufjan instrumentalize it a bit more. And then you’ve got “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing,” which doesn’t technically fall under the Christmas carol umbrella, but Sufjan knocks this one out of the park. On top of being one of my favorite hymns, Sufjan’s ever-so-slightly wavering voice suits it perfectly. This tune is a great example of banjo used against type, and the result is this gorgeous blend of instruments that challenges what good Christian music can sound like and doesn’t just end up a bluegrass tune. Major props to Sufjan for recording the original tune also, featuring the “Here I raise my ebenezer” line, one of the most affecting and worshipful lines I’ve ever heard in all of Christian music.

Stand-outs:

  1. “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”
  2. “Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella”
  3. “Angels We Have Heard On High” / “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” (these could essentially be the same song)

4. Christmas Unicorn: Vol. X

christmasunicorn

This is a weird one and I’m kind of surprised it landed in the Top 5. But as I listen through it, I can’t help but love a lot of these songs. “Christmas Unicorn” is one of the stranger lyrically themed songs I’ve ever heard but (aside from the length) it totally gets me. This volume has just enough electronica that I don’t want to skip all the songs, and most of album consists of very original takes on common tunes that it warrants many repeat listens. “Up On The Housetop” is the perfect example of how thoroughly Sufjan can flip a song on its head and make it sound like you’re listening to a completely original song of his. Chords aren’t the same, melodies aren’t the same, and you’re left with something that might not hit that nostalgic Christmas, but something that’s definitely worth listening to again.

Special mention to “Silver And Gold.” Some of this tune is actually borrowed from a song taken from an old Rankin/Bass TV special, but Sufjan has reappropriated it into something truly powerful. A sharply-edged tune about material possessions and their dominance of this season, this isn’t an outright bashing of American consumerism, but a more general plea for a spirit of humility towards how much we are blessed with and how little we truly value the one True Gift. And it’s major throw-back Sufjan, musically. A beautiful marriage of finger picked acoustic guitar and gentle, melancholy piano chords. One of my very favorite songs off the entire collection.

Stand-outs:

  1. “Silver And Gold”
  2. “Christmas Unicorn”
  3. “We Need A Little Christmas” 

3. Joy: Vol. IV

joy

This makes the Top 3 of this list because of what Sufjan does with some pretty generic carols. He manages to make listenable one of my least favorite carols, “Little Drummer Boy,” by eschewing the classic marching drum beat that is so ubiquitous in renditions of this tune. He replaces it with a light acoustic guitar strum and adds a good blend of instrumentation on top of it. It’s so easy for this song to become the most repetitive thing and Sufjan avoids that completely. Also notable in this volume is “Away In A Manger,” which features an absolutely gorgeous bridge that is never heard in common renditions of the song. It elevates this lullaby-sounding song into a legitimate prayer to Christ, a plea for closeness and relationship with the human incarnation of God’s glory. Very awesome. Sufjan also has two originals on this volume, one being the so-so “It’s Christmas Time!” and the other being the somber and beautiful “Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)” This is easily one of my very favorite original tunes on all 10 volumes.

Stand-outs:

  1. “Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)”
  2. “Away In A Manger”
  3. “The Little Drummer Boy”

2. Gloria: Vol. VI

gloria

It makes sense this is the first volume of the second half of Sufjan’s Christmas volumes, as it is definitely the most thematically like the first five volumes, all of which stick pretty closely to the musical motif of Sufjan’s state-based albums. If you listen to the volumes chronologically, you won’t be thrown off by this album because it flows so well with the first five volumes. What I love is that it’s a gorgeous blend of his old and new styles. Acoustic foundations with the slightest hints of the electronica he’s adopted in the last few years. I also love the mix of songs he does on this one, going way back with “Coventry Carol” but staying fresh with his own composition “Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past”and “Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree).”

Stand-outs:

  1. “Lumberjack Christmas”
  2. “Silent Night”
  3. “Barcarola (You Could Be A Christmas Tree)”

1. Peace: Vol. V

peace

Even as I put this at the top of my list, I wish this was an easier call to make. The interesting thing about all of Sufjan’s Christmas volumes is how diverse they are, from each other but also from themselves. You’ve got a wide array of styles, instruments, song choices, and originals on any given volume. It’d be far easier for me to just make a “Best Of” collection and call it good, but then I hate Best Ofs and I wouldn’t feel right doing it. So I’m left at the number 1 spot, bestowing it upon Peace

Six(!) originals, three old carols, one modern carol and one non-Christmas related song. Weird variety on this one, but it wins me over on the strength of the old carols and more than half of the originals. “Jupiter Winter,” “Sister Winter” (kind of lazy on the song titles, eh Sufjan?), and “Star Of Wonder” are absolutely beautiful tunes, and minus the Christmas-themed lyrics, these would fit right in on any of Sufjan’s states-based albums.  This “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is my favorite version of all the volumes. It consists of just sparse piano chords, but the cold-winter-night-crisp tone of the instrument coupled with the minor-heavy chord progression Sufjan chooses for the song just rips me to pieces. Sufjan really pulls out all the stops with his originals on this volume and brings the heat with his old carol instrumentals. And to top it off, his version of a non-Christmas hymn stops me in my tracks. While I hate to choose a favorite, this volume is the winner.

Stand-outs:

  1. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
  2. “Star Of Wonder”
  3. “Holy, Holy, Holy”

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Shuffle Lessons, Volume 2

The only note I want to make before I launch into this set of songs is I’m shuffling my Top 1000. Rather than my whole library, I’ve chosen to shuffle just the Top 1000 playlist because I’ll have loads more to say about any of these songs rather than say, “A Horse With No Name” by America. That said, here we go.

1. Take Your Time Feat. Corinne Bailey Rae – Al Green

I believe this is the very first song I ever heard off of Al Green’s Lay It Down, way back in the spring of ’08. I was in Spain and this tune had leaked a few months in advance and I remember thinking, “Whoa. He might have a massive, modern classic on his hands.” That was correct. The whole album is just the densest, richest, lushest music he’s ever made. It’s absolutely as good as his prime albums from the early ‘70s, but with a whole new layer of depth, thanks to master producers ?uestlove and James Poyser. But enough about the album. This tune is just a sweet love song about slowing things down. Corinne Bailey Rae guests on this song, and she adds just a great voice alongside Mr. Green’s. He does his little talk-ish ad-libs and she sings a more straightforward part, but when they combine during the chorus it’s just a fantastic blend that sits perfectly on top of the rest of the tune. And talk about a lesson on incorporating string arrangements into your song. Yowza, the strings float this tune along like a leaf on a crick. There is nothing here that needs to go any faster.

2. The Only One I Know Feat. Robbie Williams – Mark Ronson

This one is one of the more forgettable tracks off of Mark Ronson’s Version, his album of (mostly) covers with guest artists. This particular track is a cover of a song by the UK band The Charlatans, a band I know nothing about. As I’ve never heard the original before, this is the definitive version of this song for me, which means I lose out on any artistic critique due to its nature as a cover song. Most of this album consists of covers out of left field, spun with Ronson’s trademark “‘60s soul with a modern twist” sound. Lots of great horns, addictive rhythms, etc., but while this tune has most of those elements, it just falls flat. The featured artist here is Robbie Williams, another UK singer I know nothing about. He adds little to the song that makes me want to keep playing it. And most often, this tune gets a skip from me.

3. The Cave – Mumford & Sons

I don’t think I’d heard banjo played in such a grand, majestic way before I heard Mumford & Sons, and specifically this song. I was a little behind on the Mumford train, heard them (and this song) for the first time when they played with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers at the 2011 Grammy Awards. The performance was great for a lot of reasons, but this was the song they played, and it made an impression on me. These guys are great. The biggest criticism I’ve read of their album Sigh No More is that it’s lots of the same, which I get, but what they do, they do so well. What’s the problem with having an album that stylistically sounds very similar when that style is awesome? This song especially just has the best hook in the world. Best I’ve heard with a banjo anyway. This album helped me recognize a completely original and unseen (by me) part of folk music. Up until this song I had heard folk as primarily a quiet genre. This song blew that misconception out of the water. Yeah, folk can be quiet and beautiful, or it can be raucous and beautiful. One could almost label this song folk-rauc.

4. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

Keeping in mind the goal of writing succinctly for these Shuffle Lessons, it is unfortunate that iTunes landed on a song by Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan has an incredibly literary form of songwriting that feels at home among Emerson or Thoreau. One could easily write a seminary dissertation on his Seven Swans album. This tune, the Side 1 Track 1 of Illinois, is a perfect example. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes, the song captures the fear and wonder of those involved in an alleged UFO sighting in Highland, Illinois in 2000. If you doubt, listen to the song again. He uses the word “revenant” not four words in. Are you kidding me? What a songwriter. Listen to all of 10 seconds of any Sufjan song and you know the guy is a deeply talented artist. He can write (“John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” is a profoundly dark and beautiful song about the innate horror of our fallen human nature) and he can play. I don’t know how he seems to write music that seems so unheard of. Like when I first heard this song (even more so this whole album), it was like I was hearing a new genre for the first time. Or seven new genres for the first time. He just combines instruments and time signatures and melodies and song structures in such unique ways and creates something wholly his own. This song is just perfect though. Haunting, short, mysterious, affecting, and perplexing. Much like a UFO sighting?…

5. Quiet – John Mayer

This was one of the first JM songs I ever heard, more than 10 years ago. Holy cow that is a long time. But this is originally the kind of music that originally hooked me, super simple guitar yet incredibly melodic, and lyrics that encapsulate feelings I hadn’t heard communicated so well in song before. This song is a perfect example of what a great songwriter JM is, even from the get-go. This whole song is about the Sunday Night Blues, which I had always felt but never really heard discussed in real life. Like Sunday nights always just felt off to me. I felt extra lonely or weird or sad or unmotivated on Sunday nights. It just felt like the world was cold and had nothing to offer that made me feel alive and happy. Kind of the same thing as the feeling I got on Christmas night. But then I heard this song, and I heard this feeling being sung. And played. Like exactly. He paints perfect word pictures here that explain exactly how I was feeling but couldn’t say. “3:02 / the space in this room / has turned on me / all my fears / have cornered me here / me and my TV screen.” He completely captured the Sunday night angst that so many 15-25 year olds (and probably others) feel. He played this song in Iowa City in 2003, and he introduced it by saying, “Sunday nights cannot be trusted.” Feel free to hold whatever opinion about the guy as a person, but damned if he can’t write.

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It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad

when i was a kid, the worst night of the year was christmas night. worst day was by far the 26th of december. they both sucked cause there was no more season left. it was over. people were tired of gifts, tired of eating, tired of family. it was like all joy was sucked out of the holiday and people were ready to move on to new year’s. now that i’m half grown up, it’s sad to think about. the reason people are sad is that the anticipation is over. nobody wants to take down decorations and think about getting a gym membership. nobody is thinking about Jesus on christmas night. and it’s His night! this whole day is about celebrating the birth of Christ Incarnate and people are bummed they don’t get to look forward to anything anymore. it’s a sad thing. i wish my focus was more on Jesus and His birth than on worrying about getting all my gifts wrapped and all the other stuff. this is a special time of year, because of the anticipation, the excitement of being with family, of feeling more love in our society than normal, but especially because of God’s gift to us, and i wish my excitement was a result of that; God’s great gift to us. one of my favorite christmas songs is O Holy Night. favorite line:
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” i want to feel that worth again through christmas, through His birth. such a touching line. i miss real christmas.

running with this christmas theme, sufjan stevens has one of the most incredible christmas albums i’ve ever heard. check it out here. from what i gathered, for like four or five years, he basically made a new mixtape of christmas songs each christmas for his friends and family and gave them away as gifts. how cool is that. a few simple mixtapes that become a terrific (and long) christmas album. he covers mostly classic christmas hymns (joy to the world, hark the herald angels sing, etc.), a few originals (get behind me santa! among others, how clever is that?), and a few non-christmas themed songs (amazing grace, come thou fount of every blessing, etc.). such interesting takes on mostly overdone songs. he makes all these old songs feel new and heartbreaking. so good. it’s absolutely worth the fifteen dollars on itunes.

and this is effectively the end of christmas 2007 for me. i’m going to bed and in the morning i redirect all thoughts and efforts towards getting completely ready for spain. daunting. i have shoes, jeans, umbrella, voltage converter, slippers, and all sorts of other things to buy that i haven’t even thought of yet. i also just realized the fact that tomorrow is the 26th of december is going to make everything less efficient…all of the kansas city metro area will be out returning crappy gifts. that’s a shame.

merry christmas.
-jon

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