When last we left him, our hero, Mr. Sufjan Stevens of Christmas Cheer V, stopped off after reaching a festive high. After battling through the noggy goodness of lo-fi Christmas sing-alongs and all too brief traditional ditties (all in a noble attempt to re-kindle his own Christmas flame), Surfjam hunkered down and let rip with some of his best attacks to date. Playing “Sister Winter” in the background, he blessed the hearts and heads of a thousand newly baptised children on Christmas day, while “Get Behind Me , Santa!” apparently had the President of the World dancing about in his hexagonal office with his parliamentary chums. “Star of Wonder,” so the story goes, resolved the crisis in the Middle East, and, in a completely unexpected move, inspired the Coca-Cola Company™ to give every Canadian a free milkshake.
But his journey was far from over. As long as Christmas existed, there was a battle to be won, frozen hearts to be melted, and “JOY!™” to be brought. The mainstream media outlets had little to report about Sunny Jam Stephen’s Christmas doings, and the elusive hero only distracted attention away from his plans by releasing bizarre orchestral works about a long, busy, and congested road, and making albums like The Age Of Adz, which enamoured listeners into a dazzled silence. This all gave him time to work, time to consider his plan of attack, time to figure out how to truly destroy/transcend/endorse Christmas once and for all. This is how the story continues.
Chapter 6: I Have A Shed, And You Will Leave Your Band To Come Sing With Me!
It took a surprisingly little amount of persuasion to entice Aaron and Bryce Dessner into a desolate shed in the middle of a middle-class English garden. “Want to come play some music together? I have some egg nog! It’s a few months out of date, but it still packs a kick!,” Sooofjan said, to which the Dessner boys offered no word, but instead magically appeared inside the shed. Little did they know that they were to being held captive, and to this day no word from them has been heard (although some claim you can hear them screaming “HELP!” multiple times on the All Delighted People EP). Everyone else was not worried, though, or least not those who fell victim to the jaunty Christmas country jangle “Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past.” Hearts might have saddened a tad when the near mournful “Coventry Carol,” “Go Nightly Cares,” and “Carol of St. Benjamin The Bearded One” passed by, but spirits were uplifted with a lightly rousing rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” encouraging listeners to just sing their worries away in ninety seconds. If not respected for delivering the Christmas goods once again to a selected few, Susie Stevens was acclaimed as the man who could make The Singing Saw a Christmas instrument (despite Julian Koster’s best attempts). “This is a matter of life,” our hero sings on “Carol of St. Benjamin,” and slowly the world was beginning to realise this once more.
Chapter 7: Don’t Expect Any Of This To Make Sense, or Aha! More Egg Nog!
Determined to keep going, Sly Snake Stephanie decided to go back to his old traditional way of creating his festive masterpieces: by just turning up at his friend’s house with a microphone in one hand and a carton of half-drunk egg nog in the other. The first thing he didn’t count on was that a good chunk of his buddies had noticed their Christmas music maker’s religious followings, and had converted to the Church of solemn hymnody. This didn’t bother Samba Stevens, though he ended up quite pleased with the minute or so long choral hymns that came of it, like the multiple versions of “Ah Holy Jesus,” the school choir-like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and more adult choir-like “Lift Up Your Heads Ye Might Gates.” He also hadn’t counted on his friends now having children, and consequently had to include them on ramshackle renditions of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.” Elsewhere he just got them and their parents to scrape instruments, shake bells, and bash tambourines as he finger-tickled their piano. The end result was something of a throw away, were it not for the alluring deep organ and accordion sighs, and tracks like “Christmas Woman” and “Mr Frosty Man” (where our hero was possessed by the negative, evil “Frosty The Snowman” singing spirit). He came out of the year, troubled and confused, like a war-torn soldier out of a muddy trench.
Chapter 8: Attack Of The Digital Machinery! Oh No! What’s To Be Done, Lord?
Perplexed by the previous year’s singing experience, Slippy Sandcrawler Stavings took some time to himself, spending most of his days staring at a computer screen full of images of tattooed kittens. One day he found himself the victim of a computational merging, becoming one with the machine. His voice became digitalized (“Auto Tune Syndrome”, as it is more commonly known), and with no ability to pluck his strings and bang on tambourine skins, he resorted to stuttering drum machines for percussion and swelling fizzes of noises for melody. Before his transformation into a Transformer/Gundam Wing thing was fully complete, Song Man Stidgens managed to complete what was to be his best version of “Angels We Have Heard On High,” making it his own with new lyrics and affecting crescendos, but from thereon in it was a dark, lonesome world. A nine-minute version of “Do You See What I See?” was created, in all its esoteric, cumbersome call and response glory along with a crude version “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” complete with the computer mockingly wishing the listener “Merry Christmas.” This world of electrodes and resistors took our hero to strange places, most notably down “Alphabet St” where he tried to embody Prince’s mind but came off like Kevin Barnes, and then onto to destroying the last two-thirds of his quietly majestic opus “The Child With A Star On Its Head” (years before, when he was known as simply as “Sufjan Stevens”, he slipped out a version of this CD, where he came off like the handmade robotic world inhabiting modest fellow, whereas now he was one with the machines). All looked to be lost, but just before Christmas Infinity Voyage was released to the world, he managed to hurry out a likeable and charming version of “Christmas In The Room,” which audiences applauded for its strong lyrical focus. Phew, that was close!
Chapter 9: I’m Not Fucking Around (This Christmas)!
Not taking any risks, Success Sullen Stevens decided to go back to making big, joyous Christmas songs. The crowd went wild for his exuberant versions of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and Chairman Mao proclaimed that his rendition of “Sleigh Ride” is probably the most likeable version you’ll hear for some time, despite its 80’s drum machine freak outs (a few wires and machine parts were still working their way out of our hero’s system). Admittedly many were perplexed and depressed by his downtrodden and ghostly interpretation of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and by chilly cuts like “Ave Maria” and “The Sleigh In The Moon,” but when SixTen Stevvens was producing original tracks like “X-Mas Spirit Catcher,” they weren’t about to complain. “Our Saviour of Christmas has returned!” is what the parades of people said on the streets on December 25th.
Chapter 10: Celebrations, Revelations, And Christmas Unicorns(!)
Our hero returned next year–at the bottom of chimneys, on rooftops, atop Christmas trees, over the moon–stronger than ever, taking the evils of Christmas and swirling them around his head like party flags. He swept into the world’s living rooms with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” complete with shrill choirs, jingle bells aplenty, and the enthusiasm of every child on Christmas Eve. But this year Sally Stefans wanted to do something all encompassing. He returned to his roots from years back before the Dessner kidnapping, and peppered instrumental ditties around the disc, hammering out wonderful joy-inducing hits like “We Need A Little Christmas,” along with re-kindling his electronic flame (a phase he admits he was troubled by, but enjoyed in some regards) and making a track like “Happy Karma Christmas,” which some claimed was merely a festive version of his chart-topping Christmas-unrelated song “I Walked.” Most surprising of all, though, was when he decided to reveal the consumerist horror of Christmas with “Justice Delivers It Death,” where he called upon forces greater than himself to purge the world. On “Christmas Unicorn” he announced that “Love will tear us apart” and that we should seek out the mythical creature in the title. Audiences were perplexed for a moment, but then continued to dance again, to the music of their Christmas Master, their Christmas Leader, their own Christmas Unicorn!
It was a tumultuous few years in the making, but Suffering For Eternity Stevens came out of the whole experience a better man. More tuned to the endless possibilities of what Christmas music could be, and how it could be used to solve problems around the world, he took his message into small temporary Christmas Churches, playing his zany versions to hypnotized folk, complete with a scrappy band of music-making players, and a 30 Ft Wheel of Judgement (and Christmas). Even though he was saddened that no one took his message of Unicorn salvation seriously, he decided to hold his head up high, and thunder on. “After all,” Sufjan Stevens pondered, “I’ve still to record a version of ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.’”