Monday, February 06, 2006

All Things Go

Sufjan Stevens (pronounced SOOF-yan) has recorded some of the best music in the last decade. Intimate and charming, sometimes veering dangerously close to cutesy territory, his music is easy to fall in love with. Sufjan is hard to classify; his instrumentation is acoustic - pianos, banjos, and guitars - but often an oboe, flute, or orchestra will carry the countermelody. It's far from minimalistic, but his melodies and song structures remind me of the repetitition of Phillip Glass' music. His lyrics are hopelessly corny and nostalgic, yet poingient and unexpectedly religious.

Sufjan has undertaken the ambitious task of recording an album for every US state. So far, he's done Michigan and Illinois, with Rhode Island rumored to be on the way.

This song, from his CD "Greetings from Michigan" is one of my very favorites: "Romulus"

If Sufjan had a single, "Chicago" would be it. It's his most popular song, and though it's no longer one of my favorites, I think that's more because I listened to it every day for three weeks in my dance class than anything else.

The song "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!", from his little-known Christmas CD, is the best example of Sufjan's unique style. It's all there: the banjo, the waltz time, the lilting chords, the cute yet affecting lyrics, the christian imagery.

John Wayne Gacy, Jr., from the album Illinois, is one of the most beautiful and disturbing songs I've ever heard. Wikipedia John Wayne Gacy, Jr. if you don't know anything about him before you download the song.

The next song is great, but Sufjan has this thing with song titles; they're either perfectly normal or so long as to be beyond ridiculous. Example: "The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders: Part I: The Great Frontier/Part II: Come To Me Only With Playthings Now", and if you think that's long, it's nuttin' compared to this one: "The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue To Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!'" It takes longer to scroll through the title on my iPod than it does to play the song.

I think we'll see Sufjan again on this blog, but that's all for now, folks.


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