Oh Boy! How the world seems to be taking to this man – from music snobs to hipsters; musicians to wannabes; Christians to heathens; Heartland Americans to urbanites; punks to emos; creamos to extremeos and club-Goers. Or, to put it simply: Everyone.
Just about anyone with ears has heard this man soothe their iPod right out of the dredges of simplistic Indie Rock and Punk and has had a mini, if not colossal, crush on Sufjan Stevens.
Why not? I mean why the hell not? He has come up with a original sound and possesses the talent to boot. On 2003’s “Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State,” Stevens’ third album, and first to twist panties and jockstraps worldwide has created a sound that we really haven’t heard before. I tend to think of this music as Blissful Prog/Folk.
This original sound I speak of in jest is, in fact, a dynamic force to be reckoned with. Banjo, various types of keyboards, woodwinds, guitars and an eclectic array of percussion find their way onto this unique album. The arrangements that Sufjan creates are complicated yet delicate, rendering the antiquity of a fabrache egg. Somehow he has managed to combine both the “rural” and the “rustic” into a beautiful marriage that moves to an abnormally blissful beat.
Certain tracks define his achievement to a T. These ultra-progressive, beat-heavy anthems include: “All Good NaySayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!,” “They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For The Homeless In Muskegon)” and “Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!).” Each of the aforementioned songs candidly represents Sufjan’s flagship sound on the album, each resonating with a striking familiarity to the others.
One negative element, however, actually exists in the discovery of Sufjan’s new sound: The repetitive rhythms found amongst the tracks mentioned above. The other major criticism lies deeply rooted with the man’s lisp-ridden, wimpy voice. However pleasing it may be, at times it becomes a little too dandelion in character, creating an unsettling feeling of floating through a ticklish sea of peacock feathers (embellishing the reality of experiences for effect can be fun – try it).
An undeniably worthwhile album, born out of a really talented musician, but is it as good as the fanatics and critics say? There’s a legitimate argument either way, and based upon your personal preferences (like your take on complexity, originality, heart-felt valor or disgust for wispy and wimpy dudes), your conclusion will vary.
Important to no end is the strength of this music, and if one listens to the last track, “Vito’s Ordination Song,” one should understand exactly what I mean.