Tag Archives: Sufjan Stevens

“Place To Be”

Nick Drake
Pink Moon, 1972

It’s been a downbeat week here, musically if not emotionally. For whatever reason, yesterday’s Sufjan selection put me in mind of Pink Moon, a record I play regularly for comfort and relaxation. Believe me, this one works wonders on an unquiet mind. Despite Nick Drake’s relentlessly moody songwriting, I can’t help but smile when I hear “Place To Be” or “Which Will” or (obviously) “Pink Moon.” The way recorded music ages — grows in reputation or diminishes in stature through the years — is endlessly fascinating to me. Never forget that this man died alone, penniless and near-forgotten. Or that with the passage of time, his small catalogue (and this album in particular) has taken its place among the most beloved and influential in singer-songwriter history. Such a triumphant outcome for a master of small gestures.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/02%20Place%20To%20Be.mp3]


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“No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”

Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell, 2015

After 10 years spent avoiding Sufjan Stevens like a plague (and the previous five in unhealthy admiration), here’s one that finally got me again. Everything I used to love about his music is still in evidence here. It’s a sad song, overly literate, with pretty finger-picky guitar and dramatic vocals — aesthetically, this is no sea change. But he’s not singing about saints, or states, or someone else this time. He’s singing about himself, and it’s a rawer, more honest presentation than we’ve heard before. Sufjan Stevens has sex? Sufjan Stevens does drugs? I wouldn’t have guessed either back in the days of Illinois or Seven Swans. There’s a vulnerability in this new work that helps make up for the old affectations. And Christ is still in there somewhere too, just like you knew he would be, harder to find than ever.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/10%20No%20Shade%20in%20the%20Shadow%20of%20The%20Cross.m4a]


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“Nobody’s Perfect”

David Bazan
Bazan Monthly Volume 2, 2014

Dave Bazan may have given up on Jesus, but that doesn’t mean he’s ever going to stop singing about him. As the erstwhile Pedro the Lion, Bazan was Sufjan Stevens back when the decimal-rating system was just a gleam in Pitchfork’s haughty eye — a Christian indie rocker it was okay to like because he openly wrestled with his faith instead of extolling it. Then, after years of intimation, Bazan did the honest thing and ditched his nom de plume. The religion soon followed, but not the struggle. “The crew have killed the captain, but they still can hear his voice,” he confessed on 2009’s Curse Your Branches. “All this lethal drinking is to hopefully forget about you.” Five years later, his feelings may be settled but the subject is the same. The character in question this time is the Lord himself, who sheepishly admits that hey, maybe he was overreacting with that whole don’t-eat-from-the-tree thing … take Him back? Believers current and former will find a lot of meat on these ribs; atheists may continue to wonder why all the fuss.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/03%20Nobody’s%20Perfect.mp3]


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