Articles tagged with Sufjan Stevens

There’s too much riding on that

Trying to hide his soul patch
You know the drill: Sufjan Stevens releases a song, everybody goes crazy. This one’s worth the hype. It’s called “Too Much,” and it’s an electro-infused update on this previous live song (which was already pretty electro to begin with). The chorus is catchy enough to be a pop radio hit, but Sufjan messes it up (in a good way) with his squiggly electro freakouts. This is easily Sufjan’s most successful attempt to break out of his baroque folk box.

It comes from his upcoming LP, The Age of Adz. Go to Exclaim! to read the article I wrote when it was first announced.

MP3: “Too Much”
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Sufjan’s latest experiment

Sufjan Stevens
Ever since releasing his masterpiece Illinois in 2005, Sufjan Stevens has been attempting to distance himself from his signature baroque folk sound. From the robotic electro ballads of Songs for Christmas Vol. VIII to the mangled, glitchy epic “You Are the Blood” (released on the charity compilation Dark Was the Night), the singer-songwriter refuses to cave to popular demand and record new material along the lines of “Chicago” or “Casimir Pulaski Day.”

This October, Sufjan will be continuing the trend with two new symphonic instrumental albums: The BQE is a orchestral ode to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, while Run Rabbit Run is a reworking of his 2001 disc Enjoy Your Rabbit, arranged by a collection of New York composers.

The most recent in Stevens’s outlandish stylistic forays is “There’s Too Much Love,” an electro-epic performed at a recent gig in Ithaca, New York. With a bouncy hip-hop beat, tricky rhythmic hiccups and glorious bubblegum chorus, it bears a vague similarity to Dirty Projectors‘ latest, Bitte Orca. Halfway through, it descends into a tuneless noise rock cacophony that gradually transforms into squiggly free jazz with dueling trombone and trumpet solos. The weirdness feels a little forced, but the radio-friendly dance pop of the first half is perhaps the most natural-sounding of any of Stevens’s recent endeavors.

The only recording currently available is a fan-shot video, although it’s a surprisingly high quality clip: the sound is clear, and the camera is steady.

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Sufjan Stevens opens the vault

Of the seven major releases of Sufjan Stevens‘s career, only the first one (2000′s A Sun Came) lacks an overarching thematic focus; his other albums have been devoted to the Chinese zodiac, Michigan, God, Illinois (twice), and Christmas. But as a new post on Asthmatic Kitty‘s website reveals, these official releases are only the tip of a very weird iceberg. Prior to the (apparently aborted) 50 states concept, a college-age Sufjan Stevens sat in his dorm room, churning out songs about first names, planets, days of the week, the Apostles, and who knows what else. Many of these songs were recorded on a four track tape recorder, with “pillows and cushions stuffed in the air vents so no one would hear.”

At the bottom of the post, Sufjan is offering one of the songs as a free sample (thus proving that these crazy song series actually do exist). It’s called “Sofia’s Song,” and comes from the series about names. Apparently it’s about Sofia Copolla, although this is not clear from the lyrics alone. The style recalls Devendra Banhart‘s home demos (as documented on 2002s Oh Me Oh My…), with layered vocals and haphazard fingerpicking. It’s a simple folk song that falls well short of the two-minute mark, but it’s touching nonetheless, especially when accompanied by Sufjan’s intimate account of the recordings: “The world of youth was where I tried on new ideas, new outfits, new names, and new rhyme schemes—-a world where the banjo was my journal, where Sofia Coppola was my imaginary confidant, and where singing out of tune was perfectly OK!”

Perhaps, buried in this nostalgia, there is a subliminal explanation for why Sufjan still has not released an official follow-up to his 2005 masterpiece, Illinois. By glorifying the freedom of obscurity, when no one was listening and he was able to experiment without consequence, he hints at the pressure he now feels as one of the most prominent names in indie music.

The song is well worth a listen, and the accompanying post is equally interesting. Click here to check them out.
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