Brooklyn songman cooks up carols for the discerning indie rocker
Mixing humorously observed originals with carols roasted on an open fire and obscurities dug out of the piano bench, these five EPs (four originally intended as gifts for fans and friends) achieve a shade of pretty just right for a secular holiday with special meaning for adults who grew up associating "The First Noel" with presents. From an early "Amazing Grace" to a new "Holy, Holy, Holy," Stevens' fragile banjo-and-tenor caroling is lovely, and several of his own songs belong in the Xmas canon, notably one called "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance": "Your sister's bangs, she cut them herself" is a December surprise many will recognize. It's just too bad alt-rock's favorite Christian couldn't resist the sin of completism. Piled atop one another, the less-inspired tracks remind us how very much nicer it is to get the one perfect gift you never dreamed of than a lot of crap you don't need.
Rolling Stone, Nov. 30, 2006