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Sufjan Stevens
Seven Swans
Sounds Familyre (USA) / Rough Trade (Europa)

Story goes: "Sufjan Stevens was found in a milk crate on the doorstep of Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, in Detroit, MI, on Canada Day, July 1, 1975. He was wrapped in cellophane, and tagged on the wrist with the mysterious note: "I love you." Mr. and Mrs. Stevens had three other children: Jo-Jo, Zukey-Dukey, and Jam-Jam. Mrs. Stevens crocheted afghans for the flea market. Mr. Stevens was the custodian at the hospital. They had very little money, but very big hearts. They decided to keep the baby (using the milk crate to hold their National Geographics). They named him Sufjan Stevens, after Abu Sufjan Muhammad, the great Armenian Sufi warrior who slew ten thousand dragons to save the Fairy Princess. Despite his despondent looks, Sufjan was a good kid. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens did the best they could. They fed him carrots, they read him parts of the Bhagavad Gita, they combed his hair, they sang songs and tap-danced in the living room. Things were looking good!" Oh, yeah, right!?

Just a few months ago I raved about Sufjan's last album, Michigan, and now it's time for his brand new record - Seven Swans. This time multi-instrumentalist Stevens pulls an even more stripped down show. Vocals, guitar, piano and banjo only. Mainly Sufjan's voice and banjo. Only with some additional assistance (beautiful vocal harmonies, drums, ...), from (as last time around) members of the Danielson Famile, where Stevens is one of the associated members. Daniel, head of the D. Famile, is also the producer of the album. The songs on Seven Swans is indeed fragile, naked and tender, unveiling innermost feelings from out of Sufjan Stevens' mind and soul. It's a personal journey through belief and faith. Seven Swans is indeed a sacral piece of work and a religious document - sort of a confession? Musically it could be tagged as something like Nick Drake meets Jim O'Rourke meets Ben Christophers. And others. Folk-pop, twisted and bent. But after hearing Michigan there's a certain Sufjan Stevens signature for sure. Among the best songs (even though the albu works best as a whole) are: the laid-back "The Dress Looks Nice on You", the whispering and extremely beautiful "To Be Alone With You". Then there's the slowly spiralling and comfortably intense "In The Devil's Territory" (which somehow makes me think of Norwegian artist William Hut), as well as the epic "Sister", of which the first half is instrumental (with a guitar running wild), and bearing some of Stevens' very personal and cunning lyrics: "What the water wants is hurricanes / and sailboats to ride its back / What the water wants is sun kiss / and land to run into and back". Not to forget the fabulous title track, the banjo driven "Seven Swans" - a classy tale, and a piece of magic, and the closing "The Transfiguration", which is one of the merrier trcks.

Seven Swans is fascinating and tranquilizing, and recommended if you're up for some quiet pop from the far side. The far side of straight, not crazy that is. Music for mellow mornings or silent nights. Banjo magic. Enjoy.

Distribution in Norway: Tuba!

Copyright © 2004 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Sufjan Stevens articles/reviews: All Delighted People EP, Blue Bucket of Gold (remix), Carrie & Lowell, Come on feel the Illinoise, Greetings From Michigan - The Great Lake State, No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross, Silver & Gold, The Age of Adz, The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album, The BQE.

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