The Return Of Sufjan Stevens

The Return Of Sufjan Stevens

AFTER A BRIEF HIATUS, ELUSIVE FOLK SINGER SUFJAN STEVENS RESURFACED IN THE MUSIC STRATOSPHERE THIS YEAR WITH A NEW ALBUM

AFTER A BRIEF HIATUS, ELUSIVE FOLK SINGER SUFJAN STEVENS RESURFACED IN THE MUSIC STRATOSPHERE THIS YEAR WITH A NEW ALBUM

Text: William Defebaugh

This weekend, indie music legend Sufjan Stevens played two consecutive emotional shows at the iconic Kings Theater in Brooklyn, New York—just a few blocks from where the singer lived for years on Flatbush Avenue. Stevens still calls Brooklyn his home.

In typical Stevens-style, the songwriter played every track from his new album, Carrie & Lowell, straight through and in chronological order (minus one, saved for the end) before saying a single word to the audience. While he alternated between keyboard and various guitars and ukuleles, a fractured crystalline screen showed a series of video, ranging from scenic coastline views to footage from Stevens’s own childhood.

Both the set and new album felt very much like an integration of the various sides of the folk legend that we have seen throughout the years. The new material shows an undeniable (and much welcomed) return to his acoustic folk sound, similar to the first few albums, which gave him his strong underground following (A Sun Came in 2000 and Enjoy Your Rabbit in 2001).

“I have been meditating quite a lot on death lately,” he said to the audience, referring to the recent passing of his mother, who, along with Stevens’s stepfather, was the central focus of the album. This was apparent in many of the tracks, including two of its best numbers: “Death with Dignity” and “The Only Thing."

Given the familial theme, many songs contained more Stevens folklore, harkening back to 2003’s deeply personal Greetings From Michigan! which found the singer writing about his home state for his “Fifty States Project” (for which he planned to pen an album for every State in America). One anecdote in particular felt poignantly representative: His parents kept a veritable zoo of wounded and stray animals in their home, each of which was named for the historical figure they once were in a past life.

Of course, 2010’s Age of Adz was not completely forgotten: the show’s finale, “Blue Bucket of Gold,” ended with a ten-minute light and sound show that recalled the apocalyptic flavor of Stevens’ experimental electronic album.

The encore had Stevens returning to the stage to play his more famous numbers, including a modern take on his beloved “Chicago,” which he introduced with a cheeky statement referencing his oft misunderstood first name: “This is the story of Sufjam Stevens.”

UP NEXT

Watches