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Sufjan Stevens?!? (update: interesting review)

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So... has anyone else on here heard of this guy?!? What with all of the acclaim this guy's been receiving over the past year or so for his last album, Michigan (one of my faves of last year), someone else has got to know about him.

I just got his new album (Seven Swans) in the mail this week, and it's one of the best things I've heard so far this year. A good deal more stripped down and sparse than Michigan, but still absolutely breathtaking.

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Here's a review that puts it at the top of my MUST-HEAR list. Sounds like an album we should check out and discuss

Interesting, the way that The Passion debate is working its way into dominating reviews of OTHER works... in OTHER art forms...

user posted image

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I hope to post my review of Seven Swans in the next few days, and yes, there is a Passion reference in it... though it's made in a more personal context than Pitchfork's. I first listened to the album shortly after I saw the movie, and there were definitely some parallels for me as several songs on the album grapple directly with Christ's sacrifice.

BTW, you can download a track from Seven Swans here, though it's one of the album's weakest and most atypical tracks.

You can also download a track from Sufjan's previous album Michigan (which is also well worth picking up). It's interesting to listen to this track after having listened to Seven Swans so much lately; its elaborate arrangements and layering stand in marked contrast to the sparseness of Seven Swans.

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from All-Music Guide:

After completing the first installment of his planned series of 50 records

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Here's another review on a friend's site.

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And here's my review. (Includes some MP3 clips.)

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I picked up Michigan today at the local record store. Seven Swans was sold out. I'm falling in love with that album. But man, as a musician, I'm jealous that he plays so many instruments!!!

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I interviewed him a few years ago and asked him about his musical background. He started out as a classically-trained oboist, got bored, and just started teaching himself new instruments when the interest took hold (piano, guitar, etc.). I think he plays something like 20+ instruments.

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I've not listened to Stevens yet, but I'm wondering how he compares to Josh Ritter. Anyone know both artists?

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Crikey. I just picked up Greetings from Michigan on y'all's recommendation -- and on my hearting all things Danielson -- and man, forget Ohio, this is the best "Christian" album of last year. Good job, recommendation dudes.

I'll work my way through Seven Swans in the next few days.

Dale

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Glad to have you aboard, man! biggrin.gif

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And here's another review...

Singer-songwriter Sufjan (\"Soof-yahn\") Stevens probably never dreamed that last year's unassuming Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State would become a word-of-mouth and underground-press sensation: The album

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The only possible stumble on an otherwise softly engaging album may be the lyrics, as Stevens takes the potentially alienating route of interpolating Christian imagery into his songs.... - Josh Modell

Christian imagery in art is "potentially alientating", and therefore a "possible stumble"? Oh, my...

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There's a review of Seven Swans in the latest issue of Rolling Stone (the one with Quentin and Uma on the cover). It was 4 out of 5 stars, IIRC.

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Hey Jeffrey... I was just perusing your site and saw your link to my review of Seven Swans. Thanks much! I'm flattered.

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biggrin.gif

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Oh wow. Seven Swans is just as good as Michigan; in fact, I dare say it's the best banjo-driven album in the history of banjo-driven albums. (Further, "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" is the most natural 5/4 song in the history of 5/4 songs.) I heart Sufjan Stevens.

Dale

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I went to the store to pick up the Kill Bill 2 soundtrack today and instead came home with "Seven Swans," which was on sale. I don't know what came over me.

You guys... you're the peer pressure my mother warned me about.

sad.gif

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So how do you like it, Jeffrey?

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I like it a lot. He's stronger when he's simple, less strong when he tries to get elaborate. The last song doesn't work for me at all, at least on the first few listens, but there is some really great stuff here. I love the first track, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the "To Be Alone With You" song.

This is, perhaps, an arbitrary call, but I'm going to make it anyway:

THE WALL HAS COME DOWN.

Here we have an independent artist, a Christian, writing great non-propagandistic stuff, stuff that deals explicitly in themes of faith, stuff that owns up to the Christian perspective of its source, produced outside the bounds of the Christian music industry, accepted and even praised by mainstream critics (the famous but ridiculous Rolling Stone included).

The wall is down.

There is no more reason for the Christian music industry to exist. Christians have discovered that they can cross that line and the water is fine. And here is the first instance I've seen where there hasn't been some big hubbub about it. The issue is ceasing to be an issue.

We live in the world I wanted to live in a decade ago, where Over the Rhine, Pedro the Lion, and Sufjan Stevens demonstrate that Christians can be serious artists doing work that requires no qualification, and they can do so without keeping their faith on the hush-hush. This guy has not gone through the "crossover" trials that were necessary even a few years ago.

It's done.

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: I like it a lot. He's stronger when he's simple, less strong when he tries to get

: elaborate.

Then for your own sanity stay far away from Michigan, which is a good deal more complex, productionwise.

: The last song doesn't work for me at all, at least on the first few listens...

You are wrong. "The Transfiguration" works for everyone. "Sister" is the song you think should have been left off.

: THE WALL HAS COME DOWN.

The wall will never come down.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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The wall will never come down.

Maybe not completely, but artists like those Jeffrey mentioned give me hope that it's slowly becoming overgrown with ivy, crumbling, and full of cracks and gaps.

But I have to agree that you're probably wrong about "The Transfiguration". It's "Sister" that sticks out like a sore thumb. wink.gif

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The latest issue of Spin magazine (Morrissey is on the cover) had a mini-review of Seven Swans:

This gifted singer/songwriter follow 2003's melancholy Midwestern scrapbook, Greetings From Michigan, with a batch of elegantly spare spiritual sonnets.  Daniel Smith's production floats every banjo pluck on its own serene pond, and Stevens' sweet tenor invokes Christian faith with a soothing passion.
Edited by Clint M

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Like Elliott Smith after ten years of Sunday school.

Heh. Bingo.

Oh, what a melancholy thought. If only, if only...

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I still haven't heard one single note from this fellow but plan on picking it up purely on the basis of the recommendations from ya'all.

He's in concert tonight here in Chicago, but i'm home studying. I feel so grown up! tongue.gif

-s.

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