Sufjan Stevens Announces New Album, The Age of Adz, and Releases First Single

This has been a glorious week.  First Sufjan released an EP (8 songs, and a full 60 minutes of new music) last week and today even more good news.  On October 12th Sufjan Stevens will release his first full length studio album since 2005.  It will be titled The Age of Adz (pronounced odds) and the album is largely introspective in nature.  Gone is the folk narrative and historic tales.  Here Sufjan will turn the lens upon himself and let his musical imagination trip out on whatever he finds entertaining.  Just listen to the first track.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – I Walked

That, quite decidedly, does not sound like standard Sufjan Stevens music.  It also, quite decidedly, has me very interested in what the rest of the album will sound like.  Head over to Sufjan’s bandcamp website to preorder the album and get a digital copy two weeks in advance of the street date.

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Sufjan Stevens new album All Delighted People EP

From somewhere beyond the poetic grave Sufjan has seen fit to grace us all with a brand new EP.  There are only eight tracks on the album but it totals just a shade under a full hour of newly recorded music.  For the impatient types amongst you, fear not, you can buy or stream the entire album at Sufjan’s website.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Heirloom

The album starts off with a track that Sufjan was experimenting with last year on his brief (much too brief) tour of the midwest.  It’s long, it rambles, but it does appear as if his tour helped him understand this title track much better than when it was a sprawling mess of sounds a year ago.  To be sure it is still a massive song experiment, but it has become much more worthy of the Sufjan brand as it has matured.

Following the title track (all 11+ minutes of it) are a trio of tracks which I will affectionately label the bread and butter of Sufjan.  There is finger picking, there are multiple floating vocals, and each song is an affectionate story told by one of the masters of the singer/songwriter genre.  If you loved Sufjan Stevens on his trip through Michigan or Illinois or even if you first found him around Christmas these three songs will feel immediately recognizable.

The fifth track is a song that Sufjan has long been playing in a live setting.  It has, in the past, been labeled Barn Owl Night Killer, but now as it receives a proper studio recording it too receives a proper studio name; The Owl And The Tanager.  The harmonies on the vocals are chilling on this studio version.  After hearing the live version recorded at PENultimate Lit from a few years back I wasn’t sure that this song would ever need to changed.  On this studio track Sufjan proves me wrong.

The sixth track is a repeat of the title track, All Delighted People, but it is played it what Sufjan deems a “classic rock version.”  Surely the phrase “classic rock” means something different to Sufjan than it does to me, because this sounds a lot less like Queen (my go to classic rock act) and a lot more like Simon and Garfunkel.

The final Sufjan Standard (TM) on the album is track seven Arnika.  It’s a sparse song that has ultimately depressing lyrics “I’m tired of life / I’m tired of waiting for someone / I’m tired of prices / I’m tired of waiting for something.”  Sufjan proves yet again that he is the master of taking the melancholy detritus of life and transforming it into a musical delight.

The last song on the album, a 17 minute rambling guitar jam called Djorhariah, is the only oddball in an otherwise solid new album by the artist we’ve come to know and love as Sufjan.  And even as this track starts off in a different direction form what our ears have gotten used to over the previous seven tracks there are still Sufjan Stevens fingerprints littered throughout this sprawling mess of sounds.

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Sufjan Stevens Apparently Not as Dead as His Musical Career – Lends Some Help to The National

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.

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Anders Ponders album Nodes of Overtones

What would you get if you blended together the compositional sounds of Sufjan Stevens with modern day sing song pop folk and then poured that topping over a cake made out of Final Fantasy?  (And I guess I should clarify here; this Final Fantasy cake is the live version of Owen Pallet’s shows, not the quasi lame studio albums he continually puts out).  Stumped?  Well you won’t be for long.  What you get is Anders Ponders (and coincidentally one great album that I simply didn’t get to listen to last year.  It might have wormed its way into my best of 2009 list if I had just given it a listen last year.  Sigh).

mp3 : Anders Ponders – The Discus Incident
mp3 : Anders Ponders – Slowest Motion Miracle

From the start of the album, 2009’s Nodes of Overtones (amazon) (itunes), the similarities to Final Fantasy should be evident.  Every track contains ample amounts of violin (or possibly viola, never could tell them apart), a depth of arrangements, and the lyrics on each song tell a catchy story.  The one main deviation from the parallel comes in the content of those lyrics.  Where Final Fantasy sings songs about random events, (such as on He Poos Clouds), Anders Ponders tells short vignettes about Icarus (track 4) or his favorite fruit, Pomegranate (track 2).  In his own words he describes his sound as “A Fairy Home Companion” and I would definitely agree with that.

The allusion to Sufjan Stevens becomes more and more apparent the longer you listen to the album and culminates on the last track, Slowest Motion Miracle, where if you weren’t listening closely you could easily mistake it as a Sufjan song.

The bottom line is that Anders Ponders has created an infectious debut album that all readers of The World Forgot should listen to as soon as they can.

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Sufjan Stevens Apparently Not Dead and Still Somewhat Interested in Music : I Think

So a few weeks after I wrote a rambling letter imploring Sufjan Stevens to return to his fans and release a new album he has sorta, kinda, maybe responded by teasing us a little bit.  On his blog {which is really just a slice of his label’s website, Asthmatic Kitty}, he occasionally drops a stream of consciousness post about his past.  On August 24th he talked about his name, how he tried to change it when he was young, and how as an  undergrad at university he wrote an entire album about names.  Apparently the other day he stumbled upon some old recordings and he graciously decided to allow us to hear a track he penned about Sofia Coppola.  Although it’s not technically new music from Sufjan it is new to all of us.  Enjoy.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Sofia’s Song

And who knows, maybe if I keep writing open letters on the internet we might see a new album before 2012.  Which would be good, because that’s when the world ends.

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To Sufjan Stevens : We, Your Faithful Fans Miss You, Please Come Back To Us

Dear Sufjan Stevens,

Every single day that I am at work I find a way to listen to music.  Some days I find myself drifting along to whatever John Richards of KEXP has to offer, other days I browse random websites, myspace pages, and other forms of online media like youtube, and on a few days each month I dive into old albums and songs that I’ve always loved.  I love music and I love to hear random tracks, brilliant live covers, and new music from artists that I genuinely appreciate.

Today at work I received an email that had a link to a youtube video.  It was an artistic piece filled with clips of World War II stock footage and it was set to one of your songs.  I immediately fell in love with the track and began to search, in earnest, for what the track was called and upon what album I could purchase it.  In all honesty this song is quite brilliant.  I went to your website, I visited your label’s website, I spent part of my lunch hour googling your name and reading every abstract blog post containing the words Sufjan or Stevens that I could find.

And I finally found the song.  It was from a performance you did awhile back at PENultimate Lit and the song has never been properly recorded or released.  The bigger issue, though, is where I found the track in question.  You see I found it on my very own blog.  From a post I made almost a full year ago.  It has been so long since I last listened to this random collection of rare Sufjan Steven’s tracks that I literally forgot that I had already posted the song Barn Owl, Night Killer.  It has been this long because you, my friend, have disappeared.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Barn Owl, Night Killer (Live at PENultimate Lit)

You have disappeared and we, your faithful fans, don’t know where to go to find you again.  We miss your voice and your clever storytelling.  We want another album, or even a live show for which we can purchase tickets.  We would even settle for a rumour that you’re again in the studio working on something that might, possibly, become a song.

I was inspired by you five years ago and it is largely your music that first made me interested in blogging.  I remember how torrents and peer to peer file sharing networks didn’t have your music but there were blogs all over the world that were infatuated with your trademark sound.  They trolled through hours of live recordings to find the newest rare Sufjan track and they cleaned it the best they could before releasing it onto the hungry masses.  I remember checking almost daily on hype and elbows to see if there were any new songs of yours that I could listen to; and I remember being rewarded for that persistence.

At one time I believed that you might yet fulfill the dream of releasing a full album for each of the fifty states.  When other people claimed that the Fifty States Project was too much for any one man to handle I promptly and disdainfully retorted “obviously you don’t know how prolific Sufjan really is.”  I mean you’re the man who created Illinoise and then realized you had cut enough amazing material from that already sprawling epic album that you dropped another full album, The Avalanche, that was filled with just your leftover genius.

But where have you gone?  Where have you disappeared to?  I loved the BQE, and I know you were busy composing, recording, performing, and filming that entire process.  I was overjoyed when I heard you were putting a new song on the compilation the boys from The National cobbled together.  But there is only so long a man can sustain himself on mere scraps that fall from the master’s table.

So I ask you this.  Please let us know that you’re working on a new album and that a massive national tour will follow.  We all miss you.  We are your faithful fans.  Please come back to us.

Sincerely,

Billy
www.theworldforgot.com

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Sufjan Stevens – Best Seasonal Song of All Time?

When dear Sufjan will you release something new to win our hearts and awake once again the great creative spirit you once stirred in all of us?  When dear Sufjan will you admit that maybe, possibly, you’ve abandoned the idea that each and every state will eventually be blessed by your musical musings?  When dear Sufjan will we ever hear anything new from you?  Will you even tour again?

I bring you this song today for a multitude of reasons.  The first is that I quite honestly think this track, Sister Winter, might be the best seasonal song ever recorded.  There is a sense of winter, of desolate snow filled afternoons, of cold bitter winds, and the loss or death oft associated with this cold season, that permeates every layer of this song.  In the vocals, in the harmony, in the string section, and the lyrics; winter is there.  In the crescendo of the bridge there is a brief hope for spring and the new year that this blustery affair so casually ushers into our lives.  There is Christmas, happiness, and sleigh bells and yet even they serve as but a brief reprieve in the middle of a long, cold, perfect winter.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Sister Winter

There are three other reasons I’m dropping this song today.  The first is that in all my moving around over the past three weeks I left my external hard drive back where I used to live.  It’s hard to upload tracks and review new albums when they’re all sitting trapped on a drive three hours away {don’t worry, I’ll be getting it this upcoming Christmas}.  The second is that almost all of my free music time {mostly my driving time and some work time} has been devoted to paring down my end of the year list.  As it currently stands I might have found a way to choose a simple ten albums, but I’ve been giving all of the twenty two albums in my short list at least two listens each {and that’s a lot of music}.  The third reason is that I’ve simply been very busy lately and I don’t yet have a place that I can call my own.  I’m still crashing at a mate’s house and looking forward to picking up my own place {hopefully this weekend after my first paycheck is deposited}.

Fret not, TWF will return to a more regularly scheduled broadcast in the near future.  In the meantime wait patiently with great anticipation for my return.  Well, that and listen to Sister Winter on constant repeat for at least an hour.

As usual you can find this track on Sufjan’s peerless Songs For Christmas (itunes).

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