Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister album The Planetarium

I can’t quite figure out if I like the collaborative album that Sufjan, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and James McAlister put out.  It wanders and soars and contains a few standout tracks, but in large it seems to be an exercise in musical exploration that doesn’t truly hold my attention.

A quick breakdown on the group.

Bryce Dessner is the lead guitarist for The National – and has collaborated with Sufjan before (Suf has done background vocals for The National and Dessner has done studio guitar work and compositions with Suf)

As near as I can suss out; essentially in 2011 a concert hall in the Netherlands commissioned Nico Muhly (composer) to write a piece about the Solar System.  He reached out to Sufjan and Dessner who helped assist with that composition which debuted in 2012 (Sufjan has also composed music for his own short film The BQE and Dessner writes/composes music for film frequently).

So this album is essentially an evolution of that group of buddies now writing pop/synth/folk together about the planets and associated mythologies.

And in true Beatles format – “And James McAlister is the drummer”

One thing is clear – It’s amazing to me that Sufjan Stevens can still sing so effortlessly. The new group album isn’t for everyone, but there are amazing moments throughout if you’re willing to give it a listen.  Here’s my favorite track (probably because it sounds the most like a natural Sufjan song).

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