Stuff Aesthetic Fascists Like: Of all the singers populating my ears over the years, none has provided more habitual companionship than Sufjan Stevens. His music is a soundtrack to my life, which has a certain fittingness because we were both born in the same year. It is never easy to articulate why one singer becomes a resonant voice over another. But his voice has persisted for me when others have faded or disappeared altogether. For the sake of practicing aesthetic asceticism (try saying that phrase repeatedly), I will feature one of my favorite songs from each of the albums that I return to over and over again. Other songs could be highlighted, but self-denial has to begin somewhere.
Sufjan Stevens, Asthmatic Kitty, and Soundsfamilyre announce Sufjan’s third full-length album, a collection of songs for his birth-state, MICHIGAN (2003), “The Great Lake State.” Composed as a geographical tone poem, MICHIGAN follows a metaphysical expedition through the idiosyncrasies of middle America. Drawing from personal anecdote, regional history, and state heritage, Stevens mixes social and political grievances with songs about snowmobiles, Henry Ford, the Detroit race riots, and love.
MICHIGAN’s songs resonate with a range of sources-Vince Guaraldi, Terry Riley, and Nick Drake as accompanied by Stereolab and The Sea & Cake-in executing Stevens’ peculiar palette that is simultaneously rock and blue-grass, jazz and pop, a style The Village Voice appraises as “Arthur Lee meets the Book of Psalms.”
In MICHIGAN, Stevens combines intimate, soft-spoken songwriting with the dense compositional complexity displayed on his previous release ENJOY YOUR RABBIT, which XLR8R called “…a transgressive, majestic album conjuring an academic jam session of Stereolab and Luke Vibert conducted by Steve Reich.”
MICHIGAN is the inaugural entry of THE 50 STATES, a cumulative recording project by Sufjan Stevens unparalleled in its panoramic enterprise: a record for each state! You think he’s kidding, don’t you?
For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
I have called you children, I have called you son.
What is there to answer if I’m the only one?
Morning comes in Paradise, morning comes in light.
Still I must obey, still I must invite.
If there’s anything to say, if there’s anything to do,
If there’s any other way, I’ll do anything for you.
I was dressed embarrassment.
I was dressed in wine.
If you had a part of me, will you take you’re time?
Even if I come back, even if I die
Is there some idea to replace my life?
Like a father to impress;
Like a mother’s mourning dress,
If you ever make a mess, I’ll do anything for you
I have called you preacher; I have called you son.
If you have a father or if you haven’t one,
I’ll do anything for you. I did everything for you
Genius: Annotation of “For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti”