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SUFJAN STEVENS

Sufjan Stevens

Fourth Of July

    On July 1, his birthday, Sufjan Stevens is releasing two alternate versions of his song, “Fourth of July.” Both versions were recorded around 2014: “Fourth of July (April Base Version)” was recorded in Eau Claire, WI at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio, and “Fourth of July (DUMBO Version)” was recorded in Sufjan’s old studio in Brooklyn, NY.

    The original version of “Fourth of July” appeared on Sufjan’s 2015 album, Carrie & Lowell. As is (and was) his custom, Sufjan would often rework different versions of his songs while recording an album, and “Fourth of July” was no exception. (Other versions & remixes of the song were released on “The Greatest Gift” mixtape and on the “Exploding Whale” 7” single.)

    These two latest versions were recently found on old harddrives. The refrain of the song, “We’re all gonna die,” invokes a meditation on human mortality and fragility, even as it acts as an anchor of stoic hope. Its solemnity invites listeners to feel comfort, connection — even joy — wrought from great pain and loss.

    The song has recently had a resurgence with listeners — which may speak to a deep national grief and sense of loss.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A
    Fourth Of July (April Base Version)

    SIDE B
    Fourth Of July (DUMBO Version)

    Sufjan Stevens

    Convocations

      Convocations, the new instrumental album from Sufjan Stevens, moves like a two-and-a-half-hour electronic/ambient mass for our present age of anxiety and dread; its 49 tracks work through the stages of grief and gladness with emotional mood music that is dreamy, dissonant, vertiginous, rhythmic, repetitive, urgent, and calm—that is, all the things we undergo when we inevitably live through isolation, uncertainty, and loss. Its five sonic cycles (Meditations, Lamentations, Revelations, Celebrations, and Incantations) replicate different stages of mourning, healing and catharsis, working both to soothe our unease while savoring a renewed sense of awe and wonder for being alive in these unprecedented times.

      Stevens initiated Convocations in response to (and as an homage to) the life and death of his father, who died in September last year, two days following the release of The Ascension. It is, then, ultimately an album about death, and an album that reflects a year in which we have all lost so much. That said, this is not a personal record, but a universal one. Convocations is built on a shared experience that seeks to be honest about how complicated grief can be in these difficult times—the pain and separation, the anxiety, the unknown, the absolute joy of memory. This is also an album made in lockdown, when we were all cloistered in whatever space we had. Convocations arrives just as we begin to emerge from a year whose losses we will calculate for a lifetime.

      It is, then, right on time, as we begin to process our grief and try to carry on with it.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: This latest outing from the endlessly talented Stevens truly is an epic and sees him turn his hand to the world of ambient music in a 6LP collection. it's wonderfully tender and beautifully accomplished, further proving Sufjan can turn his hand to anything, no matter the genre.

      TRACK LISTING

      Volume 1: Meditations
      SIDE A
      Meditation I 3:39
      Meditation II 2:26
      Meditation III 4:04
      Meditation IV 2:09
      Meditation V 2:10
      SIDE B
      Meditation VI 2:16
      Meditation VII 2:33
      Meditation VIII 1:48
      Meditation IX 2:11
      Meditation X 3:40

      Volume 2: Lamentations
      SIDE C
      Lamentation I 3:48
      Lamentation II 2:24
      Lamentation III 3:17
      Lamentation IV 1:59
      Lamentation V 4:10
      SIDE D
      Lamentation VI 4:42
      Lamentation VII 1:51
      Lamentation VIII 3:34
      Lamentation IX 3:29
      Lamentation X 1:58

      Volume 3: Revelations
      SIDE E
      Revelation I 3:20
      Revelation II 2:53
      Revelation III 2:01
      Revelation IV 4:09
      Revelation V 2:52
      SIDE F
      Revelation VII 4:03
      Revelation VIII 2:51
      Revelation IX 4:38
      Revelation X 4:17

      Volume 4: Celebrations
      Celebration I 2:19
      Celebration II 5:55
      Celebration III 3:10
      Celebration IV 3:22
      Celebration V 2:59
      Celebration VI 4:01
      Celebration VII 3:41
      Celebration VIII 3:25
      Celebration IX 1:35
      Celebration X 4:10

      Volume 5: Incantations
      Incantation I 2:17
      Incantation II 1:58
      Incantation III 1:36
      Incantation IV 2:10
      Incantation V 3:14
      Incantation VI 1:49
      Incantation VII 1:53
      Incantation VIII 2:56
      Incantation IX 4:28

      Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine

      A Beginner's Mind

        A Beginner’s Mind began when the two musicians and Asthmatic Kitty labelmates decamped to a friend’s cabin in upstate New York for a monthlong songwriting sabbatical. Watching a movie to unwind after each day’s work, they soon found their songs reflecting the films and began investigating this connection in earnest.

        The resulting album is 14 songs (loosely) based on (mostly) popular films—highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between. They wrote in tandem—one person writing a verse, the other a chorus, churning out chord progressions and lyrics willy-nilly, often finishing each other’s sentences in the process. Rigorous editing and rewriting ensued. The results are less a “cinematic exegesis” and more a “rambling philosophical inquiry” that allows the songs to free-associate at will. Plot-points, scene summaries, and leading characters are often displaced by esoteric interpolations that ask the bigger question: what does it mean to be human in a broken world?

        Stevens and De Augustine wrote everything with a deliberate sense of shoshin—the Zen Buddhist concept for which the record is named and an idea that empowered the pair to look for and write about unlikely inspiration without preconceived notions of what a film had to say (The I-Ching and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies also served as incentives along the way). The movies became rhetorical prompts, with the songwriters letting their distinct reactions and creative instincts govern their process. The underlying objective was empathy and openness, absent of judgment: to observe with the eyes of a child.

        The album’s artwork comes courtesy of Ghanaian artist Daniel Anum Jasper. In Ghana during the late ’80s, a novel “mobile cinema” culture emerged when enterprising film fans screened Hollywood blockbusters in the backs of pick-up trucks using portable generators. To advertise the movies, artists painted alternate posters inspired only by the scant information they had about each film. Sufjan and Angelo commissioned a pioneer of this form—Jasper—to paint a series of new works for A Beginner’s Mind (including covers for three 7-inch singles). Information about the project was deliberately kept vague so that Mr. Jasper could work without restraint.

        Sufjan Stevens is an artist, songwriter and composer living in New York. He has released nine widely lauded studio albums and a number of collaborations with fellow musicians, choreographers and visual artists from the New York City Ballet and the celebrated director Luca Guadagnino to his stepfather Lowell Brams and noted dancer Jalaiah Harmon.

        Angelo De Augustine is an artist and songwriter living in Thousand Oaks, California—a suburb north of Los Angeles, where he grew up. He has released three albums including his self-released debut, Spirals of Silence (2014), and two for Asthmatic Kitty Records, Swim Inside The Moon (2017) and Tomb (2019).

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Darryl says: Beautifully combining the distinct voices and instrumental styles of both performers into an intoxicating juxtaposition of folk and tenderly plucked indie balladry. It's haunting in parts, and elsewhere wonderfully melodic, a perfect outing for both performers.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Reach Out 3:43
        2. Lady Macbeth In Chains 3:42
        3. Back To Oz 4:25
        4. The Pillar Of Souls 4:04
        5. You Give Death A Bad Name 5:11
        6. Beginner’s Mind 2:36
        7. Olympus 3:07
        8. Murder And Crime 3:43
        9. (This Is) The Thing 3:13
        10. It’s Your Own Body And Mind 2:27
        11. Lost In The World 3:20
        12. Fictional California 3:03
        13. Cimmerian Shade 5:01
        14. Lacrimae 2:05

        Sufjan Stevens

        The Ascension

          Sufjan returns with the long awaited follow up to Carrie & Lowell, featuring some of his most confident and varied work to date. We kick things off with the unassuming beginnings of 'Make Me An Offer I Cannot Refuse' before launching into a deeply electronic but airy Thom Yorkey vocal workout. It's this sort of rapid switch and thematic flexibility that both characterises the album and leads to the most surprising and satisfying moments of his career. 

          'Video Game' sees some haunting organy synth leading into a deeply rythmic and pop-led verse, showcasing Stevens' iconic voice, and dedication to variety in songcraft.  

          there are some more ambient moments at play, with 'Die Happy' and 'Gilgamesh' trading on the ambient electronic backdrop, but with long tailed reverbs and soaring echoes working their way around the stereo image. 

          Possibly the most satisfying moments on this collection comes as the flow of the album quietens down into the euphoric redux of the latter third of the album. 'Sugar' could easily have been the background to some of the earlier, skittering electronics of Múm or the Rós, while the title track encompasses everything we love about Stevens, but imbued with a mildly melancholic but wholly relaxed atmospherics. 

          It's a beautiful LP, and one that only goes to prove how essential Stevens continues to be on our musical landscape. 

          STAFF COMMENTS

          Javi says: From the opening choral glitches to the sea of ambience which sees the album out, ‘The Ascension’ is a patchwork of electronic experimentation, distorted lamentations, and intimate confession.

          Sufjan Stevens has long been a musical chameleon: from the alt-folk expression of ‘Carrie & Lowell’, to the meticulously-researched bombast of ‘Illinois’ and digital catharsis of ‘The Age of Adz’, he’s proven time and time again that whatever the instrumentation or subject matter, he can write rich, personal, spiritual songs like no one else. ‘The Ascension’ draws on all these and more, to create an album as fragile as it is grand, as despairing as it is defiant, and as inspired (if not more so) than anything he’s done before.

          ‘The Ascension’ is a predominantly electronic affair: huge, distorted drums pulse throughout the album, underscoring hordes of ghostly voices and shifting synths. Celestial car alarm effects argue with auto-tuned vocal cries, while album highlight “Landslide” sees Sufjan bow to a guitar solo, of all things, teetering in-between The Durutti Column’s understated beauty and wild math-rock frenzy. Lyrically, Sufjan seems desperate for a response, making demands and pleading with us, the listener, to soothe his anxieties. Faith and certainty are out; desire and anxiety are in. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the penultimate and titular track, which sees Sufjan explore those thoughts he “couldn’t quite confess” to gut-wrenching effect.

          Like Dante’s Inferno reimagined as a tour of purgatory, ‘The Ascension’ is a deeply conflicted, gloriously lost, and tentatively comforting album. It’s Sufjan’s finest hour (and twenty minutes) yet.

          TRACK LISTING

          1. Make Me An Offer I Cannot Refuse (5:19)
          2. Run Away With Me (4:07)
          3. Video Game (4:16)
          4. Lamentations (3:42)
          5. Tell Me You Love Me (4:22)
          6. Die Happy (5:47)
          7. Ativan (6:32)
          8. Ursa Major (3:43)
          9. Landslide (5:04)
          10. Gilgamesh (3:50)
          11. Death Star (4:04)
          12. Goodbye To All That (3:48)
          13. Sugar (7:37)
          14. The Ascension (5:56)
          15. America (12:30)

          Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams

          Aporia

            Aporia is a New Age album from Sufjan Stevens and his step-father and record label co-owner, Lowell Brams. In the spirit of the New Age composers who sanded off the edges of their synths’ sawtooth waves, Aporia approximates a rich soundtrack from an imagined sci-fi epic brimming with moody, hooky, gauzy synthesizer soundscapes. The album may suggest the progeny of a John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos, and Mike Oldfield marriage, but it stands apart from these touchstones and generates a meditative universe all its own. This is no mere curio in the Sufjan Stevens catalog - but a fully realized collaborative musical piece.

            TRACK LISTING

            ` SIDE A

            1.Ousia 2:33
            2.What It Takes 3:23
            3.Disinheritance 1:13
            4.Agathon 3:02
            5.Determined Outcome 2:12
            6.Misology 1:49
            7.Afterworld Alliance 2:47
            8.Palinodes 0:32
            9.Backhanded Cloud 1:26
            10.Glorious You 1:49



            SIDE B

            11.For Raymond Scott 0:34
            12.Matronymic 0:57
            13.The Red Desert 2:54
            14.Conciliation 1:20
            15.Ataraxia 1:12
            16.The Unlimited 2:14
            17.The Runaround 3:35
            18.Climb That Mountain 3:00
            19.Captain Praxis 2:13
            20.Eudaimonia 2:19
            21.The Lydian Ring 1:02

            Sufjan Stevens & Timo Andres

            The Decalogue

              Oscar- and Grammy-nominated composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens releases his acclaimed score for Justin Peck’s ballet The Decalogue via his own label, AKR. Performed by the pianist Timo Andres, the recording is the first time the score, premiered during the New York City Ballet’s 2017 season, is available to the public. 

              The Decalogue is the third collaboration between NYCB Resident Choreographer Peck and Stevens, following 2012’s Year of the Rabbit and 2014’s Everywhere We Go. The piece was widely praised upon its premiere; The New York Times lauded the “beauty and charm” of Peck’s choreography as well as Stevens’ “romantically modernist études.”

              Brooklyn-based composer-pianist Timo Andres is a Nonesuch Records artist, who has written major works for the Boston Symphony, Carnegie Hall, the Barbican, the Takács Quartet, the Concertgebouw, and elsewhere. He performs regularly with Gabriel Kahane, and has frequently appeared with Philip Glass, Becca Stevens, Nadia Sirota, the Kronos Quartet, John Adams, Ted Hearne, and others. As a pianist, Timo has performed at Lincoln Center, for the New York Philharmonic, the LA Phil, at Wigmore Hall, for San Francisco Performances, and at (le) Poisson Rouge. Upcoming highlights include a curated program for the Cincinnati Symphony (featuring Dance Heginbotham and a performance of Andres’s cello concerto, Upstate Obscura), and a solo piano recital for Carnegie Hall. Previous work with Sufjan Stevens includes the orchestration of “Principia” for Justin Peck and the New York City Ballet.

              A singer-songwriter currently living in New York, Sufjan Stevens’ preoccupation with epic concepts has motivated two state records (Michigan and Illinois), a collection of sacred and biblical songs (Seven Swans), an electronic album for the animals of the Chinese zodiac (Enjoy Your Rabbit), an expansive EP in homage to the Apocalypse (All Delighted People), a full length partly inspired by the outsider artist Royal Robertson (The Age of Adz) and two Christmas box sets (Songs for Christmas, vol. 1-5 and Silver & Gold, vol. 6-10). BAM has commissioned two works from Stevens, a programmatic tone poem for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (The BQE) and an instrumental accompaniment to slow-motion rodeo footage (Round-Up). Stevens’ Planetarium, a collaborative album with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister imbued with themes of the cosmos, was released in 2017 to widespread critical praise.

              2015’s highly acclaimed Carrie & Lowell explored his relationship with his mother in the wake of her death; a companion collection of outtakes, remixes and demos, The Greatest Gift Mixtape, was released in 2017. The songs “Love Yourself” and “With My Whole Heart” were released in 2018 in celebration of Pride Month, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, NY and the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit, MI. Stevens also contributed three much-lauded songs to Luca Guadagnino’s critically acclaimed film Call Me By Your Name, including the Oscar-nominated “Mystery of Love.”

              TRACK LISTING

              I
              II
              III
              IV
              V
              VI
              VII
              VIII
              IX
              X

              Carrie & Lowell, the new album from Sufjan Stevens, is released on Stevens’ own Asthmatic Kitty Records. 

              The album - named for Stevens’ mother and stepfather - is a return to Stevens’ folk roots. Thematically the 11 songs address life and death, love and loss, and the artist’s struggle to make sense of the beauty and ugliness of love.

              Carrie & Lowell was recorded by Stevens alongside Casey Foubert, Laura Veirs, Nedelle Torrisi, Sean Carey, Ben Lester and Thomas Bartlett and mixed by Stevens, Bartlett and Pat Dillet.

              TRACK LISTING

              1. Death With Dignity
              2. Should Have Known Better
              3. All Of Me Wants All Of You
              4. Drawn To The Blood
              5. Eugene
              6. Fourth Of July
              7. The Only Thing
              8. Carrie & Lowell
              9. John My Beloved
              10. No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross
              11. Blue Bucket Of Gold

              Sufjan Stevens

              Silver & Gold

                Who can save us from the infidels of Christmas commodity? Look no further, tired shopper, for your hero arrives as the diligent songwriter Sufjan Stevens, army of one, banjo in one hand, drum machine in the other, holed up in his room, surrounded by hymnals, oratorios, music charts, sacred harp books, paperclipped-photo-copied Readers Digest Christmas catalogs, singing his barbaric yawp above the snow-capped rooftops.

                This deluxe 5CD boxset includes 5 CD EPs (‘Gloria’, ‘I Am Santa’s Helper’, ‘Christmas Infinity Voyage’, ‘Let It Snow’ and ‘Christmas Unicorn’), 2. Christmas stickers, temporary tattoos (non-toxic & safe for children), a paper ornament (self-assembly with directions), an apocalyptic pull-out poster, song lyrics and chord charts, hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design (by Sufjan Stevens) and extensive liner notes (essays by Sufjan Stevens and Pastor Vito Aiuto).

                Sufjan Stevens

                The Avalanche

                  Sufjan's last album, "Illinois" was originally conceived as a double album, culminating in a musical collage of nearly 50 songs. But as the project began to develop into an unwieldy epic, common sense weighed in – as did the opinions of others – and the project was cut in half. But as 2005 came to a close, Sufjan returned to the old, forsaken songs on his 8-track like a grandfather remembering his youth. Sufjan gleaned 21 useable tracks from the abandoned material, including three alternate versions of "Chicago". Some songs were in finished form, others were merely outlines, gesture drawings, or musical scribbles mumbled on a hand-held tape recorder. Most of the material required substantial editing, new arrangements or vocals. Much of the work was done at the end of 2005 or in January the following year. Sufjan invited many of the original Illinoisemakers to fill in the edges: drums, trumpet, a choir of singers. The centrepiece, of course, was the title track – "The Avalanche" – a song intended for the leading role on the "Illinois" album but eventually cut and placed as a bonus track on the vinyl release.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  The Avalanche
                  Super Computer
                  Adlai
                  Vivian
                  Chicago Acoustic
                  Henney Buggy
                  Saul Bellow
                  Carlyle
                  Springfield
                  Mistress
                  Kaskaskia River
                  Chicago AC
                  Inaugural Music
                  Your Land
                  Tornado
                  Pick Up
                  Perpetual Self
                  Pluto
                  Chicago OCD
                  Pittsfield
                  Undivided Self

                  Sufjan Stevens

                  Illinoise

                    Sufjan Stevens scales dusty prairies, steel factories, and two hundred years of history to produce his newest album "Illinois" on Rough Trade. Invoking the muse of poet Carl Sandburg (and the musical flourishes of Rodgers and Hammerstein), "Illinois" ushers in trumpets on parade, string quartets, female choruses and ambient piano scales arranged around Stevens' emerging falsetto. Whereas 2003s "Michigan" (the inaugural album of 'The 50 States' project) was rooted in memory, and 2004s "Seven Swans" was rooted in the spirit, "Illinois" is rooted in 'the world, in society, invention, civilisation, in disease, in death, in education, in business', says Stevens. And unlike "Seven Swans", Stevens surmounted the heights of "Illinois" solo, employing guest musicians but recording, engineering, and producing the album entirely on his own.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
                    The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You’re Going To Have To Leave Now, Or, “I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight Them Till They Are Off Our Lands!”
                    Come On! Feel The Illinoise! / Part I: The World’s Columbian Exposition / Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream
                    John Wayne Gacy, Jr
                    Jacksonville
                    A Short Reprise For Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But For Very Good  Reasons
                    Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Step-Mother!
                    One Last “Whoo-Hoo!” For The Pullman
                    Chicago
                    Casimir Pulaski Day
                    To The Workers Of The Rock River Valley Region, I have An Idea Concerning Your Predicament, And It Involves An Inner Tube, Bath Mats, And 21 Able-Bodied Men
                    The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
                    Prairie Fire That Wanders About
                    A Conjunction Of Drones Simulating The Way In Which Sufjan Stevens Has An Existential Crisis In The Great Godfrey Maze
                    The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us
                    They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!
                    Let’s Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don’t Think They Heard It All The Way Out In Bushnell 
                    In This Temple As In The Hearts Of Man For Whom He Saved The Earth
                    The Seer’s Tower
                    The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders / Part I: The Great Frontier / Part II: Come To Me Only With Playthings Now
                    Riffs And Variations On A Single Note For Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, And The King Of Swing, To Name A Few
                    Out Of Egypt, Into The Great Laugh Of Mankind, And I Shake The Dirt From My  Sandals As I Run

                    Sufjan Stevens

                    Seven Swans

                      THE PICCADILLY RECORDS ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2004

                      This is wonderful! Sufjan has created another stunning album, by blending pastoral folk songs, with a whole host of unusual instrumentation, including electric piano, xylophone and glockenspiel that at times are reminiscent of Philip Glass, occasional bursts of frantic but melodic banjo, and various brass and woodwind instruments and the whole thing is held together through out by some stunningly simple acoustic guitar and fragile, half whispered vocals.

                      Sufjan Stevens

                      Presents Greetings From Michigan

                        Sufjan's homage to his home state is a beautiful mix of Stereolab meets Philip Glass meets indie-folk - a delicate vocal with intricate instrumentation. 

                        Although he plays all the instruments on the album himself, he enlists the help of fellow Danielson Famile members  Megan, Elin, and Daniel Smith on vocal duties.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid)
                        All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!
                        For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti
                        Say Yes! To M!ch!gan!
                        The Upper Peninsula
                        Tahquamenon Falls
                        Holland
                        Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
                        Romulus
                        Alanson, Crooked River
                        Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie
                        They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For The Homeless In Muskegon)
                        Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)
                        Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
                        Vito’s Ordination Song


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