Archive for the ‘Sufjan Stevens’ Category

Photo credit goes to the Washington Post.

Photo credit goes to the Washington Post.

If you asked me 7 years ago who Sufjan Stevens is, I would’ve probably given you a weird look and said, “Uhh… I dunno? Is this a trick question?” I was still firmly rooted in the world of Genesis and music done by the many members of Genesis. Not to diss on Genesis at all – their work is amazing! But my world was also very small.

It wasn’t until November 2008 that my friend (who wound up becoming my husband) told me about this amazing musician named Sufjan. He played a few songs from the Illinois(e) album in his car, most specifically “Chicago” and “The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders.” He showed me “Chicago” because he figured I’d dig the groove, and he gleefully showed me “The Tallest Man” specifically because of the time signature. I had admitted it was cool, but I wasn’t ready to open up my little world yet.

“Here. I’m giving this to you. Give it a chance, okay?” he said.

A few weeks later, I drove myself to school (I was a teacher then) with that CD in my car. Slowly crunching through the snow, I wondered which track that one song I liked was. I searched and searched, forgetting what the intro sounded like, and found it just as I pulled into the parking lot (it was a very short drive – less than a mile). There was something about that song that wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to keep listening to it and had to dissect the layers of vocals and instrumentation. Even when I visited Chicago with a few friends that December, I couldn’t help thinking about that song and humming the chorus as we trudged in snow toward the Field Museum. To this day, that song conjures up images of the beautiful Windy City blanketed in snow.

I wouldn’t realize the profound effect that Sufjan and his music would have on my life, but he slowly crept more and more into my life. After Illinois(e), I was exposed to Seven Swans, specifically “Seven Swans” and “The Transfiguration.” Then in the summer, I was given a burned copy of Michigan. I would find myself saying, “I’m gonna put that one Suf-jam guy on, I think,” and would start listening to his music. “Dear Mr. Supercomputer” would play when I raced to the gym in wintertime. “Decatur” came on when I drove to visit my best friend when he lived in Champaign (I actually wound up blaring that song with the windows down when I went through Decatur, which was a huge mistake because that city was… well, stinky.). “The Mistress Witch of McClure” would play in between class times as I waited for my next class to come in and take their seats. Slowly, this wonderfully talented musician began to permeate my life, and I wasn’t even entirely aware of it.

Since then, my love for Sufjan and his music has only grown deeper. I’ve found solace and energy (depending on my day) in “Too Much.” I wouldn’t stop replaying “All The Trees In the Field Will Clap Their Hands” when I drove 2 hours to my student’s funeral. “Djohariah” became a song to cocoon myself in to help me be creative or contemplative. I learned more about Sufjan and dug more deeply into the lyrics. I felt a connection to the spirit he projects in his music. He’s actually the reason I’ve become so interested in the state of Michigan and the Great Lakes. His words and music have made me challenge myself to become a better writer and artist. Being opened to his material because of my husband has opened my world in such a profound way.

Fast forward to April 2015 – Sufjan was in St. Louis, and I was lucky enough to get to go this time around. I was so excited and nervous – I had waited 6 years to see him play live, and I wasn’t sure what to expect (aside from awesomeness). The tickets I wound up scoring back in January put us up on the left mezzanine, which wouldn’t bother most people; however, I’m terrified of heights, and the seating was… well, high and steep.

But once Sufjan walked on stage, sat down at his piano, and began playing “Redford” and then “Death With Dignity,” the world stopped spinning. I promised I wouldn’t cry, but I couldn’t help it. The music was so beautiful, and it was so surreal to be listening to my favorite musician sing and perform in front of me. I was just overwhelmed with beauty and a spirit of gratitude.

I originally had wanted to write out my whole experience about the concert, but I honestly never got around to it. I did, however, write one thing about the concert the day after. It was oddly enough about one of my least favorite songs, but the effect was so powerful that I had to write it down. Here’s what I had written:

“Then came “Blue Bucket of Gold,” which, before the concert, was probably my least favorite track on the new album. Ethereal chords echoed all around us as cerulean lights lit up the venue, focusing on the large dome in the ceiling and creating a calming, rippling effect. Immediately, my mind was transported to Lake Superior with its dazzling diamond-like sparkles and clean, clear blue waters. Then the opening chords came in, and Sufjan began to sing as the background lit up of a happy young boy playing and running at the beach and in the ocean. This naturally subdued song came to life each time after Sufjan sang, “Or raise your red flag, just when I want you in my life” with thundering percussion that commands your attention like a springtime thunderstorm.

“I wondered how long the haunting ending section would build as we neared the end of the lyrical portion, and to be honest, it went a different way than I thought it would. In the album, it’s quiet repetition, like a prayer. That night, though, my mind was blown. The lights vanished only to be replaced by large, rotating, blinking disco-like lights, making it look like the sun dancing on deep dark waters. The ending chords played on beautifully as the lights rotated in different directions. Soon, more sounds and instruments slowly worked their ways in until the percussion began to pitter-patter in the background, as if testing its welcome. It began to crescendo, and the lights came on, shining and blinking in radiant colors in every which way until the entire stage and even the background were flashing neurotically with color and light. I squinted toward the stage as the melody carried on and the cymbals crashed, thinking, “Surely, this is what it must feel like to die.” Maybe a dying person sees flashes of light and color, noises and voices of their loved ones, the last chords of a peaceful song playing in their mind as the percussion of light bounces about and begins to take them away slowly.

“Just when I thought my brain couldn’t take in anymore, the song pulled back and drifted slowly away until there was only Sufjan playing subdued chords on his keyboard. All of Peabody Opera House erupted in cheers and applause as the lights went down and we hoped for an encore (which, thankfully, we got!).”

Anyway, this post was way longer than I intended it to be. Sufjan, I don’t know if you’re ever going to read this, and it’s okay if you don’t, but I hope you have an amazing day, and thank you from the deepest regions of my heart for sharing your talent with the world. You have changed my world, given me new experiences, and given me so much courage to face my fears. For that, I am eternally grateful.

And with that, IggyNapster is back. 🙂

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Sufjan at MusicNOW“All that I dreamed, where do you run? Where do you run to?”

When I hear the melody and the lyrics to this part of one of my favorite Sufjan songs, I can’t help relaxing, letting the steady rhythm, rich trombone tones, and mesmerizing strings and piano steal me away from my worries.

“Mercury,” which is a song from a collaborative collection of astral songs called “The Planetarium,” is without a doubt my favorite tune on the track list. It is also the first song that I heard from the set a little over a year ago by pure happenstance (and, ironically, the last track in the set). I heard a relatively rough, echo-y version of the song that someone uploaded from a concert Sufjan Stevens and his compadres Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly performed in Cincinatti, Ohio last year in an event called MusicNOW 2012. While the video simply depicts the trio and their team of violinists and trombonists playing the song, the audio is what truly grasps me.

Even though it is echo-y and you really can’t make out too much (as opposed to the more crisp and clean live versions), the song brings me so much peace, perhaps even more than the “proper” live version itself (though it, too, is beautiful). I find my muscles relaxing and my eyes fluttering closed in warm, achy memories. I can picture myself swimming in a lane all by myself in a somewhat secluded pool, the windows to my side as the sun peaks benevolently through clouds. I am also taken back to the day I swam happily and peacefully in Lake Michigan for the very first time, watching a storm roll in from the west as the waters changed subtly from teal to navy and back again. The waves had lapped over my shoulders and carried me gently back toward the shore and I lackadaisically dog-paddled back and forth, enraptured by the carefree atmosphere.

Whenever I find myself stressed, tense, anxious, angry, frustrated, or apprehensive, I will make a beeline for this song. As soon as I hear it, especially the gorgeous chorus, I feel all the poison and uncertainties that had clung so tightly to me slide right off, and I am taken back to that pool or that wonderful, magnanimous lake once more.

See for yourself!

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On my way to work the other day, I decided to put in one of my favorite discs, Greetings From Michigan, The Great Lakes State! by Sufjan Stevens. It’s one of those discs that when played, especially in nice weather, it takes me back to that wonderful place in time in which my husband and I visited the beautiful state of Michigan. One song particularly took me back to two of my favorite locations in Michigan – “Sleeping Bear, Sault Ste. Marie.”

I really feel as if Sufjan does a fantastic job capturing these two fantastic locations, places that I can never forget for many reasons. Since listening to the song, I long to stand on the warm, soft sands of Sleeping Bear, west of Traverse City. I desire to stand on one of those beautiful sand dunes to see the glorious Lake Michigan below me. I’d give about anything to slip silently into the lake once more and allow it to gently jostle and move me around in its undulating waves.

I’m sad that I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted to in either location. I would’ve scoured the western beaches of Michigan and stolen a few hours away to swim and lounge by the lake. I would’ve dug a bit deeper into the very old history of Sault Ste. Marie, and I definitely would have gotten my passport and traveled for some time into Canada, visiting the “other” Sault Ste. Marie. I would have taken more time to take in all of the smells, the hues of the sky and the lakes, and the feel of the wind blowing my hair in the breezy, mild July weather. I would give anything to go back.

But until I do get the opportunity to journey northward, I must allow myself to bask in the happy memories that I shared with my husband. I will look at the bottles of Lake Superior sand on my desk with great fondness. I will gaze longingly at the photos I took of the beautiful state. And I will listen to this disc again and again and again, especially to this song.

Take a listen to this tune and see what you think!

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Sufjan quoteIt can even come from driving home from work at night, which is what happened to me Friday night.

After listening over and over and over again to Sufjan’s “The Transfiguration” for my hour-long commute, the perfect vision and idea cropped up in my head. I don’t want to really reveal anything yet, but it’s going to take a long time to do, if I get the guts to do it at all.

In the meantime, here is an inspiration quote from Sufjan! 🙂

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Sufjan, will you be my guardian angel? :)

Sufjan, will you be my guardian angel? 🙂

I found this photo the other night and thought I would share it! I really love Sufjan and his music, and I think it’s neat how outside of the box he can be most of the time. One of my favorite things about his quirky personality is probably when he dons angel wings.

Oh, and I’ve been really diggin’ Seven Swans lately, so I’ll probably be writing about that soon, too. And maybe drawing something about it. You have been warned. >=)

Happy Friday! Stay warm out there! 🙂

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Sufjan StevensWhat’s this I hear? Sufjan Stevens, who just got back from going on a Christmas tour, is doing another concert? WHAAAAAAAAAAT???

Of course, after scrounging around for information, I found that he’s only doing one concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles as part of the Brooklyn Festival.

And of course he’s performing with Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly, doing the Planetarium set.

YOU GUYS. This means a few things:

1.) It totally sucks to live in the middle of nowhere far, far away from a coastline that isn’t a Great Lake (and I’m probably 500 or so miles away from the tip of one!).

2.) This gives me some hope that Sufjan could tour some more in the near future doing the Planetarium set.

3.) Maybe Sufjan will release the set on disc/mp3 or something!

The Planetarium is a set about, you guessed it, the planets and the sun and moon. I find it very captivating while maybe others could be turned off by it. My absolute favorite one of the set is “Mercury” – I STILL get goosebumps when I hear the middle section of that song. Check it out here! 🙂

You can read more about the concert here.

PLEEEEEEEAAAAASE, Sufjan, PLEASE come over here so I can see you! If I /have/ to go all the way to Chicago, I will, but St. Louis is preferable!

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Stormy WisconsinAnyone who knows me is well-aware that I am an enormous fan of Sufjan Stevens. No words can truly describe how I feel about the music he writes and what it does to me.

I would’ve passed up this song if I hadn’t heard it again on the way home from Michigan.

My husband put on Sufjan’s first album, A Sun Came!, an album that we really don’t listen to very much, mostly because we’re so enveloped in Sufjan’s other music. My avoidance toward his debut album decreased significantly on the trip. Somehow the serenity of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin really helped me open my eyes and focus on the music, to see how tribunal and magical it really can be.

As we drove by Green Bay, “Wordsworth’s Ridge” came on, and for some reason I didn’t remember ever listening to that song because I was struck with such a strong case of the goosebumps in the 2nd half that I couldn’t stop the sensation. There was something in that chord progression, the way that Sufjan whispers “takes me” over and over again, and the way the melody seemingly glides along that catches my attention and still to this day won’t let me go. Every time I hear it now I can’t help thinking about that wonderful road trip through Michigan and Wisconsin, and it always makes me think of Lake Michigan and the rainbows that kept popping up in the dying Wisconsin light as we traveled through many storm cells to get to our destination.

Check out his song here and see for yourself if you get goosebumps as badly as I did and still do:

Feel free to leave me a comment about how you liked his tune or which songs give you inspiration! 🙂

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