I’ve been listening to an advance copy of The National’s upcoming album High Violet and let me first say, before digressing into a boring diatribe, that it is a masterpiece. Quite simply it is brilliant and will feature prominently in almost all best of 2010 lists. That being said let the wild rant commence.
Sufjan Stevens could be dead for all we know. He hasn’t served up a proper album since his Illinois themed masterpiece went on sale in July of 2005. That’s almost five full years without even so much as a hint that a new album is coming. Now sure, you can argue that he gave us The Avalanche in 2006 (but that’s just extra material and b sides for Come on Feel the Illinoise) or his Songs for Christmas box set (but that’s mostly old recordings and group material that was officially put in a set) or his latest incarnation The BQE (but that’s hardly a Sufjan album by any stretch of the imagination). In the general scheme of things our dear Sufjan has largely disappeared.
Occasionally he surfaces to play a small string of live shows, but those are few and very far between and serve mostly to push a new band his label, Asthmatic Kitty, has signed. And let’s be honest, no band on Asthmatic Kitty comes close to living up to the guy who signs their checks. Granted he’s randomly dropped a few new songs (or rather song ideas) during some of these shows, but not a single one has been properly recorded to date.
A year ago I posted an open letter to Sufjan Stevens here on TWF. I never received a reply, a hint, or even a rumour that things were moving forward. I did, however, receive a small gift. Later that year Sufjan went on a mini tour in US and I was able to attend a show. He played for us a few new songs scattered amongst a solid set and then promptly disappeared into the night. Today, again, we get rare proof that Sufjan Stevens is not dead. On the upcoming album from The National, High Violet (amazon), Sufjan lends his haunting vocals and harmonies to
mp3 : The National – Afraid of Everyone
The track is gorgeous, dark, and layered in a way that fits perfectly with The National. And yet in the background there is the cathartic and haunting vocal track provided by our elusive hero. Is this enough to sate Sufjan fans? Probably not. But at least we can rest assured that he’s still alive and still interested enough in quality music to lend a helping hand to his friends.
+ Sufjan Stevens @ twf hype elbows site asthmatic kitty amazonmp3 itunes
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4 thoughts on “Sufjan Stevens Apparently Not as Dead as His Musical Career – Lends Some Help to The National”
Really enjoying this blog. I haven’t heard much Sufjan Stevens before but already having a listen to his Illinois album now on Spotify. I’m already a big fan of The National and that track has got more even more excited about their new album! Really like the whole mood of it and the unique guitar bits.
Sufjan doesn’t need to release anything. He, based on what everyone else is writing, could pretty much return from the planet he came from, because really, what is left for the kid to do? His back collection and B-Sides all blow every major artist completly out of the water. He has nothing to prove and someone clearly missed the point here. One also must realize, Sufjan’s “career” isn’t dead out of some inability to write. It is clear that Sufjan makes choices about his life based on what HE values not the rest of society- its rare- he is rare- the music is rare- and with all that I have said- Sufjan is still underrated by a long long long stretch.
SJ Stevens, as I for some reason call him in my head, is incredible. But other than guesting at a National show I went to at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where he played piano on two songs, I’ve never seen him live. That’s about all I need at this point though. Franky Beans makes a good point about the b-sides – the Avalanche has more great songs on it than most artists write in a lifetime (henney buggy band, no man’s land, springfield, mistress witch from mcclure…) and it’s extras. And the few songs he’s semi-released – like You are the Blood and the only live-as-of-yet Majesty Snowbird – are pretty darn badass.
I’m a very big fan of the National – they’re a really good band. Sufjan is on another level, though. And I’m pretty sure the National (who adore him) agree, and think it’s very cool that they were able to get him to participate in their work.
To keep pumping out work like he did 2003-2006 is completely impossible and totally unsustainable. That said, I do still hold out hope that he’s struck by some lightning bolt of creative energy that requires major studio time and many more full album releases. But if he doesn’t… thanks for the great music SJ.
1 – Sufjan is rumoured to be working on a new album in the studios owned by The national
2 – Sufjan live is a captivating experience and i would recommend it to everyone