Every year it's an issue: how does one stomach the onset of holiday music? With an endless stream of overplayed pop stars stirring what Sufjan Stevens calls "That Creepy Christmas Feeling," how does one navigate the sound of the season? Back in 2001, Stevens began making annual EPs of traditional carols and songs mixed with his own holiday-themed tunes. With 2006 and Volume 5, he's compiled a perfect gift for the Christmas-inclined indie rockster: all five EPs in one box, separately slipcased, plus a booklet filled with lyric sheets, chord charts, a Rick Moody essay, and more.
Hits of Shakin' Stevens is a detailed single disc featuring 16 tracks the rock & roll revivalist recorded for Epic in the '80s. Anyone looking for a comprehensive collection of his best recordings should pick this up as it features the original versions of "This Ole House," "You Drive Me Crazy," "Oh Julie," and the Dave Alvin penned "Marie Marie".
Bassist Ron Carter varies the personnel often enough to keep one's interest throughout this CD. Carter, who contributed six of the ten compositions (which alternate with four familiar standards) takes his share of bass solos but also showcases pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba (who is pretty restrained throughout) on the opening "Mr. Bow-Tie" and allocates a generous amount of solo space on some selections to trumpeter Edwin Russell (inspired by Miles Davis but possessing his own fire) and Javon Jackson, who often sounds like a close relative of Joe Henderson.
Sufjan Stevens’ new full-length mixtape The Greatest Gift—Outtakes, Remixes, & Demos from Carrie & Lowell is out on November 24. The new tape features the “Dungeons and Dragons”-referencing song “Wallowa Lake Monster,” and follows Stevens’ two other releases this year: Carrie & Lowell Live and Planetarium, his collaborative project with the National’s Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and drummer James McAlister. The new mixtape is a companion piece to his 2015 studio album Carrie & Lowell.