“I just wanted to be near you”
February 16, 2015 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Sufjan Stevens has released a new track, "No Shade In The Shadow of the Cross", from his forthcoming album Carrie & Lowell. The album is named for Stephens's mother and stepfather, and the musician recently spoke with Ryan Dombal at Pitchfork about his past and the album's origins.
posted by Going To Maine (26 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love Sufjan Stevens. They played Casimir Pulaski Day on the radio not that long ago and I literally cried at my desk. Thanks for this, it's lovely.

Also, related.
posted by billiebee at 12:26 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Great new song. He's in TO in the spring, and I'm very tempted to pull some money together and go!
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:28 PM on February 16, 2015


Casimir Pulaski day is one of the saddest songs around. I love it.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:40 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know it's lazy of me as a music fan, but I sure am glad that he's making music like this again. Age of Adz was really cool but kind of a lot of effort to listen to. (I think he did a hip-hop thing too but I skipped that)
posted by selfnoise at 12:54 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I probably like Seven Swans the best of all his albums, so I'm also rather excited for some intimate, bedroom music.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:58 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 1:09 PM on February 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'm glad he left the whole states thing behind. Seven Swans is easily my favorite Sufjan album and Age of Adz and now this seem like a return to that idea.
posted by downtohisturtles at 1:17 PM on February 16, 2015


Sufjan is coming to Portland, ME in April. I bought tickets immediately. I'm so stoked. He's one of my favourite artists of all time and I've never gotten to see him perform in person.

He's gotten me through some hard times in my life; but you can also listen to his music in the best of times and just get this amazing appreciation for the beauty of life and being. He's truly marvelous.
posted by mayonnaises at 1:25 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad he seems to be ditching the electronics and getting back to what he does best. Count me in for Seven Swans - it's the underappreciated, understated masterpiece of his catalog. (Even two states in, I could sense he was being creatively confined by that project. Best to let it go.)
posted by naju at 2:06 PM on February 16, 2015


You know what's super rad and doesn't get enough love? The arrangement and production on Illinois. Some of the songs, like "Jacksonville" or "They Are Night Zombies" have like a bajillion layers going on but the mix separates everything so well. Illinois has always been a careful listening headphones album for me because of this.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:27 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I listened to this song multiple times this morning. So happy.

I'm still really enjoying All Delighted People. This song reminded me a LOT of Enchanting Ghost off that EP.
posted by liquorice at 2:32 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, that Pitchfork interview is intense. I've always loved and been moved by the song "Romulus" but I thought the narrator abandoned by his mother was fictional. To find out it's about his own mom... The line that kills me is the simplest:

We touched her hair.
We touched her hair.
We touched her hair.
We touched her hair.
posted by msalt at 4:33 PM on February 16, 2015


You know what's super rad and doesn't get enough love? The arrangement and production on Illinois. Some of the songs, like "Jacksonville" or "They Are Night Zombies" have like a bajillion layers going on but the mix separates everything so well. Illinois has always been a careful listening headphones album for me because of this.

Man, I dunno. Illinois is one of the best-reviewed albums ever, and Sufjan was on at least one "best musician of the aughts" list (can't remember which) thanks to it. I am kind of surprised that people don't think about it anymore, but it's been.... ten years? Oh, cripes. Wow.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:17 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh no I totally think the album as a whole gets enough well-deserved love, it's just that particular aspect of it that I think pushes it to the next level and isn't really singled out enough. Basically I just wanted to gush about it a bit because it's not an easy trick he pulled off, getting a sound that's often very dense but still comprised of parts that are crystal clear with a wide soundstage and tons of separation, especially considering this bit from the wiki article on the album:
Stevens employed low-fidelity recording equipment, which allowed him to retain creative control and keep costs low on recording Illinois. Typically, his process involved recording to 32 kHz 8-track tape using inexpensive microphones such as the Shure SM57 and AKG C1000. He then employed Pro Tools for mixing and other production tasks.
The list of albums that don't sound a quarter as good as Illinois after using equipment that blows that stuff out of the water is a looooong list indeed.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:41 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Sufjan Stevens. They played Casimir Pulaski Day on the radio not that long ago and I literally cried at my desk.

They?

(Oh, and I went to college with his brother, Marzuki.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:57 PM on February 16, 2015


Ugh I love Sufjan's music so much that like is there even more room in my heart for another album?! Super excited to see him play this spring, even if it cost an objectively large amount of money.
posted by threeants at 7:05 PM on February 16, 2015


Agree 100%, jason_steakums. There's a 2009 Tape Op article on Sufjan (scans: 1, 2, 3, 4) that completely blew my mind and changed how I thought about recording. Tape Op are notoriously snobby about recording equipment and technique, and they just didn't even know how to handle his "whatever works" amateur approach to making Illinois and how amazing it sounds regardless.
posted by naju at 7:06 PM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ha, that article was great! Used 32kHz because he didn't know better, it was just a switch he could flip that doubled the space on his computer, used the SM57 on everything possible including vocals because it was easier and didn't require phantom power, everything was done on headphones because he didn't own monitors. Considered himself to still be struggling as a songwriter and afraid to take his songs to an established producer, and this was after Michigan, Seven Swans and Illinois.

I read that article and I'm like, what the hell is my excuse?
posted by jason_steakums at 7:37 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


That was a great interview. I liked this quote:

I'm being explicit about really horrifying experiences in my life, but my hope has always been to be responsible as an artist and to avoid indulging in my misery, or to come off as an exhibitionist. I don't want to make the listener complicit in my vulnerable prose poem of depression, I just want to honor the experience. I'm not the victim here, and I'm not seeking other peoples' sympathy.

Count me as yet another person who loves Seven Swans. It's just so, so lovely. I really love all of Sufjan's more explicitly Christian music, actually, despite not being Christian or very religious at all myself. Partly, I think, because he writes very compellingly about Christianity both in terms of myth/story and personal faith. There's not a lot of Christian-identified music that strikes that balance. But Sufjan is just such a gifted storyteller, whether that story is from religion or real life or made up.
posted by yasaman at 8:06 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just got around to reading the Pitchfork article and it left me incredibly emotional. I've been a huge fan of Sufjan's work for around ten years now (wow, time has flown), so my entire "young adulthood" has had his music woven through it. I've also had the honour of getting to see him perform twice and being blown away each time. Still, with all that, I knew little about the man himself, bar what I could glean from his songs.

For all its briefness in length, this interview has revealed a satisfying amount of depth and emotion to both Sufjan and his work and makes me even more eager to listen to the new album knowing that it comes from a very particular place that I also identify with.

I don't think I could love this man more, right now.

(Also, my favourite song of his, hands down, will always be Casmir Pulaski Day. Love love love.)

and he takes and he takes and he takes
posted by liquorice at 9:12 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


They?

Uh, yeah? You know - the people what work on the radio show. (In this case Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 6 Music.) Is that a weird turn of phrase?
posted by billiebee at 12:19 AM on February 17, 2015


Haha okay, my bad--I thought Casmir Polanski Day was a song...couldn't find an antecedent...grammar pedant...

Apologies, billiebee.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:01 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I adore a lot of his Christmas songs, and his version of the hymn Holy Holy Holy absolutely takes my breath away. Thanks for posting this.
posted by kitcat at 3:12 PM on February 17, 2015


Thank you so much for that wonderful Tape Op interview Naju! As a long-time Sufjan obsessive and home-recording hobbyist, that has been blowing my mind all day.

It's also rather hilarious to see the last page after the interview. 4 pages of Sufjan shattering ideas about the gear you "have" to use to get a good sound followed by ads for pricey gear and studios :P
posted by AAALASTAIR at 8:06 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sufjan has just shared single number two: Should Have Known Better
posted by Going To Maine at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2015


From All Songs Considered: All Songs at 15: On Hearing Sufjan Stevens for the First Time
posted by Going To Maine at 6:55 AM on March 12, 2015


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