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Archive for the ‘Sufjan Stevens’ Category

Sufjan's "Mercury" live

“All that I dream – where do you run? Where do you run to?”

I was a bit late to the party and didn’t know that this happened until this afternoon, but OH, MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS, Sufjan Stevens and his buddies, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister, performed my very favorite track off their new album on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night. And it was glorious!

There was much squealing. Or at least, I was trying very, very, very hard not to squeal with delight at my desk when I saw it on Asthmatic Kitty’s Facebook page.

Promoting their new album, Planetarium, Sufjan and crew brought out the gentle yet powerful tune called “Mercury,” my absolute favorite off the entire album. It was a more abbreviated version than both the album version and other previous live renditions, but it was still just as beautiful. Sufjan sounded a little nervous, but the song can prove difficult to sing, and he still did such a wonderful job, especially on the last portion of the song: “All that I dream/Where do you run?/Where do you run to?”

Oh, my heart.

Hearing this song felt as if someone took all of my worries in their arms and wrapped a warm, fresh blanket around my shoulders. I particularly appreciated the harmonizing in the song and the reemergence of the brass in the 2nd half as the planet Mercury danced on the television screens behind the band.

Check out their latest rendition of “Mercury” here and see for yourself! 🙂 It’s, ahem, out of this world! (…I’ll be here all night… okay, I’ll show myself out.)

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Sufjan quoteToday is July 1st, which means one thing to me – it’s Sufjan’s birthday! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Sufjan is one of my very favorite musicians and has been an important part of my life for… my goodness, almost 10 years. His music has served as inspiration for my crazy ideas and drawings, has given me a cozy place to curl up and retreat from the world, and has allowed me to express my elation, my sorrow, my frustration. It has transported me back in time to experience happy or awkward memories. It has given me courage to face the demons in my life, to be my eccentric self more boldly, and to say “I love you” to the ones I cherish. It’s pointless to say it, but you know me – I’m gonna say it anyway: my life would have a bit of a void without Sufjan’s music and words.

In celebration of Sufjan’s birthday, I’ve come up with a list of my 15 favorite songs of his. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. I could easily give you 50 or more, and for different reasons. But nonetheless, here are my top 15: (more…)

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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.

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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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