At a first glance, there may not seem to be much to the Songs For Christmas version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” Unlike the Silver and Gold cover of the song, this version is completely instrumental and clocks in at a whopping 45 seconds. Usually, people are attracted to Sufjan Stevens’ music for… factors other than the instrumentals. Angelic voice, thematic excellence, and overall ability to slap in the whip are generally what people espouse when they talk about a Sufjan song they like. But a 45-second instrumental interlude? That's no “Impossible Soul!” What else are music boards gonna post about when discussing “underrated hidden gem” songs? However, I can’t precisely put my finger on the exact reason this arrangement brings such tangible feelings of warm nostalgia and closeness, but to me, it embodies the spirit of Sufjan’s holiday music.
Personally, I go way back with this song. I got into Sufjan’s holiday music around the time I was 13 or 14. Remember when we all used to get on the bus and fire up our iPod Touch to listen to music through the horrid quality default Apple earbuds? Me too, and this is what I was listening to for the entire month of December. I hope the 14-year-old next to me enjoyed hearing it through the headphones at 6:45 AM. Either way, on top of having an early start with the Sufjan holiday music, “Hark The Herald Angels” is probably my favorite Christmas Carol of all time. I mean, all respect to “Sleigh Ride,” but it's a song about a choir of angels that routinely sounds like its sung by a choir of angels. Honestly, who couldn't love that?
Now, what makes this particular cover of this particular carol great is a strange mixture of a warped, yet primal childhood nostalgia and just the abject beauty of the song itself. Sure, it’s only 45 seconds, but those are a REALLY GOOD 45 seconds. From the onset to the conclusion, auditory senses are flooded with the soothing bell choir of Sufjan’s inner machinations. 45 seconds and they’re all beautiful.
Follow me on twitter @tedcruzcontrol