Born: In 1975 in Detroit.
Sounds like: The musical equivalent of childhood wonder.
For fans of: Highly conceptualized folk, choirlike vocal richness, unobtrusive biblical references, found sounds, hoarding (of layered sounds and the physical material they’re packaged in), live show choreography.
Latest release: The five-album, 57-song box set Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10.
Why you care: A songwriting and stylistic chameleon who shot into the limelight thanks largely to his brilliant 2005 release, Illinois, Sufjan Stevens embraces colossal thematic projects with the energy and effervescence of a Dr. Seuss character. His newest box set—a treasure chest of Christmas classics and festive original material—alternates between the playful and the pristine. Albeit lengthy and at times cacophonous, Silver & Gold unwraps Stevens’ peculiar process as much as his well-established musical prowess. Arguably one of the brightest musical minds of the 21st century, Stevens has not only re-emphasized the importance of the concept album, but has done so while, admirably, calling his own shots throughout. Sure, the dude really, really appreciates Christmas—the set list for this current tour, conducted under the name “Surfjohn Stevens,” consists entirely of his holiday songs—but even Stevens’ guilty pleasures boast his signature and obsessive sonic perfectionism. He’s telling you a dazzling secret with every song, cupping his hands around your ears and unleashing painfully imaginative stories that range from travelogues to nostalgic memories to ruminations on solitude, all constructed around an intricate, mega-melodic backbone and keenly observational lyricism.
SEE IT: The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Holiday Sing-a-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice is at the Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukee Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 6. 8 pm. Sold out. Under 21 permitted with legal guardian.