After he gave up on the idea of writing an album for every state in America, Sufjan Stevens entered what could be known as the bonkers years. This involved him moving away from his gorgeous folky melodies towards a high concept modern day pop with electronics and celestial choirs. It's a big ask to listen to it all the ways through but you will be rewarded with a rich and complex work.
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Way, way back in the day when Norman Records was in black and white, we huddled round the coal fire listening to a gramophone recording of an album called 'Michigan' by a man we'd never heard of. I recall many a long evening wondering who this man was and why I'd never heard of anyone called 'Sufjan' before. Fast forward into the technicolour digital age, Sufjan is a big player and legions of fans are waiting on which state he's going to pick on next. Instead we get a non concept album which starts in time accustomed way with lovely folky melodies and his extremely tuneful, yearning voice. Yet by track two a drum machine and synths have kicked in and Sufjan sounds more pained, more frustrated. By the title track he's into full on bonkers mode with bizarre heavenly choirs, madcap electronics and clattering drums. But don't fret too much 'I Walked' is a lovely electro pop song that sounds like it would pop up on the next Postal Service album if they could ever be bothered to make one. Similarly 'I Want to be Well' has 'Such Great Heights' drum sound but is seemingly performed by a madman and get this - he swears! The final track 'Impossible Soul' is 25 minutes long, has some brilliant moments alongside an excruciating guitar solo. We are certainly well in the middle of 'Sufjan Stevens- the bonkers years' and this won't appeal to everyone - its interesting, frightening and at times unlistenable. But that's fine - i'm happy with that. It's good to see an artist taking chances and there's tonnes of folky, gentle Sufjan Stevens stuff about that you could always revisit.
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