Ah remember the days when Sufjan Stevens set out to record an album for each American state? Bringing out two pretty impeccable records, before ditching the idea. Well here he has cut corners and written a song for the entire country instead. A 12 minute epic. The lead single to his new record, ‘The Ascension’.
The track is the strangest contrast between Stevens’s ‘Age Of Adz’ electronic stuff and his heartbreaking ‘Carrie and Lowell’. Pounding drums and snares join with ethereal synths, but the lyrics are as bleak as can be and the vocal delivery is fragile. They feel very anti 4th July, which has been passing on the weekend of release. No doubt a deliberate choice. ‘Don’t do to me what you did to America’ repeats Stevens in a repetitive, but not annoying, and still earwormy chorus. Shaking American’s, telling them to stop being so stupid. Though no events are explicitly stated, bible images are thrown left right and centre in it’s verses, giving me the impression that other ideas earlier in the new LP will foreshadow them. And with that, I feel like it’s a strange lead single choice, being the final track on a new record of 80 minutes.
Many interesting experiments line the second half of this track, making for an epic finale. It goes out with a bang, sounding like the soundscape to a depressing war movie or something. Whether that is with the reversed guitars or ambient passages. Which i’ll note have some beautifully placed piano work in the midst of. Stevens proves he can, in fact, do ambient well. The last E.P. may have been somewhat questionable when it came to that. But this is a return to form. Yes, I feel it could be cut down a little bit. And Yes, I think it’s a bizzarre lead single choice. But I’m certainly excited for this one.