Sufjan Stevens is one of the most mysterious and talented singer-songwriter of our generation. What makes him so special?
Chicago, and the 50 states project
‘Chicago’ is probably Sufjan Steven‘s most famous song. And it is well deserved. For me, it is one of the best songs of all-time, period. The track is from the album Illinois. At his beginnings, Sufjan was very ambitious and imagined the “50 states project”, one album for each US state. He has done one for Michigan as well (where he was born), but that was it. He admitted later that the project was a bit of a joke, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he pulls a third one at some point.
Carrie & Lowell
Carrie & Lowell is one of the best releases of 2015. An amazing album fuelled by travels (Sufjan‘s youth in Oregon) and grief (his mother’s death 3 years prior). You can feel both emotions throughout the 11-tracks opus. If I had to choose one song, it would be ‘Should Have Known Better‘, a masterpiece on its own. Two years later, Sufjan releases The Greatest Gift mixtape, a collection of outtakes, remixes and demos from Carrie & Lowell. A shame that ‘Wallowa Lake Monster‘ didn’t make it to the album, one of his best songs ever.
Call Me By Your Name
Sufjan Stevens was at his peak with the critics and the fans with Carrie and Lowell. Two years later, he managed to appeal to a more mainstream audience without losing his magical touch, through two magnificient songs that were part of the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack. ‘Mystery of Love‘ and ‘Visions of Gideon’ were perfect tracks for a great movie.
One thing that Sufjan Stevens does well: collaborations. His last album is actually a duo with his stepfather, Lowell. Aporia had some good moments but wasn’t career-defining like Carrie & Lowell. Sufjan also collaborated a lot with the guys from The National. First, he gave his vocals on ‘Afraid of Everyone’ from their album High Violet. He also did the Planetarium project with James McAlister, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly. This album gave us gems like ‘Jupiter‘, ‘Mercury’ and ‘Saturn‘.
On June 29, Sufjan announced The Ascension, to be released on September 25. The first single, ‘America’, is released on July 3. An epic 12 min track reminiscent of his Age of Adz era, which will be discussed in the more advanced guide.