Liked Off the Beaten Tracks: Sufjan Stevens, motherless son | The Conservative Woman (The Conservative Woman)

When Sufjan was nine he and his five siblings moved with their father and stepmother Pat to Petoskey in Lower Michigan, where he attended a Christian high school and an arts academy before gaining a Master of Fine Arts degree from The New School in New York City. After studying piano and oboe, he had decided to learn guitar at the prompting of Lowell, who fed him a constant diet of Nick Drake’s music. He played in a band, Marzukie, and formed his own record label, Asthmatic Kitty, with the ever-faithful Lowell in joint charge. In 1999 it released his first solo album, A Sun Came, a slightly disjointed multi-instrumental tour of world music which has its moments such as the second track A Winner Needs a Wand.

Listened The Ascension, by Sufjan Stevens from Sufjan Stevens

All songs performed, recorded, engineered, arranged, mixed and produced by Sufjan Stevens, with additional contributions (*) recorded and engineered by James McAlister and Casey Foubert at their respective home studios. Contributions by Emil Nikolaisen were recorded at Malabar in Oslo, Norway, engineered by himself. Mastered by TW Walsh. All original album art, layout, design and typography by Sufjan Stevens. © 2020 AKR PO Box 1282, Lander, WY 82520 USA

Sufjan Stevens’ The Ascension feels like it takes a step back to drag the listener in. There are many pop elements within all the synths and beats, however the mix is always held back. Rather than sad bangers, this rage-bangers. In the hustle bustle of lockdown life and political upheaval, the album provides something of a meditation to stop and reconsider. As Grant Sharples suggests, although it may not be the optimistic answer we may be craving for at the moment, it certain captures the current air of contemplation.

Though it’s still an incredible album, The Ascension better suits the cynicism of 2020. It feels banal to say that, but The Ascension isn’t exactly the optimistic salve that people may be looking for in 2020. Fans can find solace in this colossal work, sharing Stevens’ valid sentiment that, simply put, everything sucks right now.

Sam Sodomsky touches on the meditative aspects of the album, comparing it to a big IMAX experience:

The whole thing works best when you approach it like a big-budget IMAX movie set in space with a great leading actor: Don’t get too hung up on the plot—just tilt back your head and watch him float.

Kitty Empire touches on the personal and collective pain at the heart of Stevens’ album:

The Ascension’s maximalist reckoning finds his horror at national affairs mirroring his own inner turbulence.

Hannah Mylrea talks about Stevens’ intent to address an America he could no longer ignore:

Recognising that he “could no longer dismiss ‘America’ as angry and glib”, he instead felt inspired to create a whole record that examined the world he was living in, questioning it when it felt wrong and “exterminating all bullshit“.

Jon Pareles explains that the album is more metaphysical than biographical.

“The Ascension” leaps to an opposite extreme: synthetic and outsized rather than intimately acoustic, metaphysical instead of biographical.

Zan Rowe also interviewed Stevens which touches on faith, social media, and caring less as he grows older.

Place in-between Pan American and Thom Yorke.