For several years it hasn’t been Christmas without Sufjan Stevens Christmas albums blasting out and welcoming in the season with lots of hip indie folk cheer. But this year he will probably notice a big dip in the number of listens he gets. For Rend Collective have released their much requested Christmas album, Campfire Christmas.
It has the usual carols you would expect, but unusually for a Christian Christmas album there has been some effort put in here. Rend Collective do not just go through the motions – you can hear the passion and soul in these songs. And they are not the standard bland arrangements, these have the feel of Rend collective songs. Extra refrains have been added.
The general sound is best decsribed as contagious joy. I find it hard to listen to this album without wanting to clap or sing along. This is foot stomping revival hymn style music that demands to be joined in with. There is a very folky sound to this album, which similar to the Campfire album is more stripped down and raw than the studio albums. And that helps it capture the feel of being a group of friends joyfully celebrating the birth of Christ rather than being overly polished.
It starts fairly traditionally with Hark the Herald angel, but on Ding Dong Merrily on high we get a real sense that this is not a traditional christmas album with a very speeded up joy infused rendition. Joy to the world gets a new refrain of “You are my joy” which makes it a more personal worship song, and one of my highlights of the album.
O Come all ye faithful again benefits from an added refrain, then we get an Ash cover (Shining Light) which while not written as a worship song to the best of my knowledge works really well, and is a nice nod to the musical heritage of Rend Collective, tipping their hat to another Northern Irish band that went before them.
O holy night and Joyful Joyful we adore thee are both more stripped back songs, before the big finale piece of Merry Christmas Everyone, the Shaking Stevens song that Rend make their own, a real joyous celebration of Christmas with a cool C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S intro.