Tag Archives: Sufjan Stevens

morning bell

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes

And it came to me then that every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself
That I’d already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds

And I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

Cause theres no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round and everyone lift their heads
But Im thinking of what Sarah said
That love is watching someone die

So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?

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rose hip november

as is probably obvious from my blog, it’s rare that i stray outside of the general world of electronic music. so last sunday i dusted off my (figurative) folk hate and my (literal) sufjan stevens tee and wandered to whelan’s for the homelights festival. it had an extensive lineup, but, speaking honestly, i was just there for vashti bunyan. i’ve been a fan for a few years, and i revel in telling people a) that just another diamond day was the first album i ever listened to straight through twice in a row, it was that good, and b) that it was largely written by bunyan as she travelled from london to the isle of skye by horse and cart. that’s, like, so not me! omg! without thinking, as soon as i heard she was playing dublin, i bought my ticket. as it happens, sunday was horrible. the flooding that has destroyed half this island finally hit dublin (at least western parts of it), but that wasn’t going to deter me.

vashti as preceded by an unassuming man, who came out on stage with a bouzuki and a harmonica and sang songs of love, war, friendship and humour. i was blown away by andy irvine, founding member of planxty, whose honest and sometimes brutal songs, and simple yet in no ways simplistic style spoke directly and plainly to everyone in the room.

and then vashti came out. flanked by a guitarist and a multi-instrumentalist (who played keyboard, flute and omnichord among others), she spoke in hushed tones about her songs and the inspiration that led to their creation. it was a delight to learn, for example, that just another diamond day was born on a train in belgium, that winter is blue and i’d like to walk around in your mind were written by the same person, that she thought she’d never play jog along bess again but that her guitarist used to just fall into it during lulls in rehearsal time, that this was the first time she’d ever performed rose hip november in november… it was magical. i don’t often say that about gigs, but this really was something special. the afore-mentioned omnichord gave new and beautiful life to glow worms, imbuing it with a dark undertone of foreboding, which seemed to mirror vashti’s disillusionment with both her own bucolic ideals and the music industry itself… i don’t think i’ll ever see her like again.

luckier

nations

i read yesterday about sufjan stevens‘ latest venture – as p4k’s head put it, Sufjan Makes Instrumental Album With Stepdad and National’s Bryce Dessner. it’s part of asthmatic kitty‘s library catalog music series, the aim of which is to make what is essentially background music. on one level this could be seen as a perverted, introspective approach, making music that isn’t meant to be listened to but simply heard, not unlike the sound of the rain or of passing traffic, but the more i think about it i think it’s a delightfully novel approach which goes against everything i think is wrong with music right now. this is what the site says about the project:

Asthmatic Kitty’s Library Catalog Music is a series of instrumental albums designed for possible use in films and television, background sounds for home or office, or personal needs, such as relaxation, stimulation, meditation, concentration, or elevation. For your listening pleasure, we asked a select group of talented artists to create a unique recording for this collection. Specific uses for the music is this series may include accompaniment to cooking, eating, sculpting, exercising, high stakes poker, soaking, panoramic landscapes, cuddling, car chases, drawing, knitting, bandaging, romance, playing chess, or planning the rest of your life, of which this is the first day.

now i’m trying to apply this logic to club music. the library catalog wouldn’t ever work in a club (well i guess it wouldn’t, from the blurb above) but i think that it raises questions about people’s intentions when they make music. when kids are first learning to make music in their bedroom, they’re going to look to their idols – and right now those idols are people like boys noize, crookers, justice etc – most of whom are known for their peak-time bangers. no-one starting out is going to want to make a track that a dj will play to an empty floor as soon as the doors open. but the dj has to play something. so when does a producer make the transition, from making, as i call them, peak-time bangers, to tracks that just sound good at any time?

listening to chromeo’s dj-kicks i was really taken aback by the contribution from perth’s shazam. the guy’s already made a name for himself with that awesome remix of dance wiv me, as well as the unstoppable pool party 2009 (i swear i heard that in arnotts last week and thought it was late 90s french house – it’s that good), and now this track shows his abilities range far beyond late night fare. this slow-burning disco track fits in beautifully to the chromeo mix, in that it’s got that cheesy 80s sound – you know, that dancing organ sound, the soft warm synths, the seinfeld bass – it’s all there. this guy is, what, 19? i think more producers need to take a leaf out of his book. go hard in what you do, yes, but you don’t always have to go hard.

Shazam – Luckier

5am

two summers ago i was lucky enough to perform at wasbe 2007, and at the end of it we celebrated it as all good musicians do – by staying at the bar till it closed at some ridiculous hour and then retreating to someone’s place and chilling. i was in a happy but dreary state at the time, and the playlist i made that night reflected the mood and hour. it’s one of the few playlists i’ve ever kept.

Bright Eyes – Middleman
Death Cab For Cutie – A Lack of Color
Wilco – Radio Cure
Sufjan Stevens – Jacksonville

Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)
Arcade Fire – Ocean of Noise
Feist – My Moon My Man
Thom Yorke – Black Swan
Wilco – Impossible Germany

Panda Bear – Take Pills
Röyksopp – What Else Is There?
Cat Power – Where Is My Love

i’m not one to regret

bqe

i have many memories which involve the music of sufjan stevens. most notable i suppose is a bizarre eight weeks spent in chicago in 2006, where i listened to come on feel the illinoise and the avalanche many times. for example i can recall trying to catch a final glimpse of the sears tower (sorry, willis tower) as i listened to the album while i made my way to o’hare. furthermore, casimir pulaski day is loaded heavily with emotion for me, given its subject matter (the loss of a loved one to cancer and the difficulty in accepting the Lord’s will). his is the kind of music that can simultaneously evoke tears of pain and joy. but in the last three years his output has been minimal. i know he released songs for christmas in 2006, and he had a song on the dark was the night compilation, and even a song about sofia coppola… but what happened to the 50 states?

well he’s finally releasing something substantial, so i guess we should all be excited by the prospect of the bqe, a cinematic suite composed by stevens and first performed in 2007. inspired by the brooklyn-queens expressway in new york, it appears to be some sort of exploration on the place of architecture, transport and humanity in modern life. or maybe i’m making that up – sufjan may be a genius, but i’m not going to be the one to explain away his idiosyncracies. there’s a trailer here. it’s coming out in october and it sounds like a colossal package for the collectors out there. there’s more detailed info here, but i guess the important stuff is that it’s out on october 20, and:

The BQE is available as a double-disc format (CD/DVD), which includes the original 16mm/8mm film (in widescreen “triptych” display), the original motion picture soundtrack, a 40-page booklet (with extensive liner notes and photographs), and the stereoscopic image reel (playable in all View-Master® viewers).

wow. it certainly sounds like an epic achievement. whether or not it’s as good as it sounds remains to be seen. also out in october is run rabbit run, a re-imagining of sufjan’s second album. some sort of quip about buses might be appropriate. right now, we can see both buses coming but they’re not quite here yet. but hey, after three years, what’s a few more months?

Sufjan Stevens – Christmas In July

a ticket to nothingness

the back page of the ticket, the irish times‘ weekly entertainment supplement, always makes for interesting reading. this week is no different. brian boyd quotes steve van zandt ahead as he analyses the failures of modern music, ahead of van zandt’s appearance in tower records on sunday.

…the music media is supposed to offer up a welcoming pair of arms to “new music” in all its forms. But a scene that celebrates itself (and sets up forums to do so) does nobody any favours. “We need to develop bands” is the catch-cry. Really? The Beatles developed by going to Hamburg and playing five shows a day seven days a week until they felt ready to approach a record label.

meanwhile the music charts show an awful trend that has only grown in recent years. the death of the king of pop has seen his albums fly off the shelves in the past fortnight. however, which albums sit on the top of the charts? the essential michael jackson, number ones, and king of pop all fill the top three positions in the irish album charts. thriller gets a look in at number 5, but the fact is, people are going out and buying collections of his supposed greatest hits rather than listening to his albums in the format in which they were intended to be heard.

i’ve shouted down “death of the album” rants in my time, listing recent albums by the likes of wilco, panda bear, death cab for cutie and sufjan stevens as proof that people out there are still making great albums. fact is, people don’t seem to be buying them. blah blah disposable nature of pop, blah blah itunes downloads, blah blah see above piece from brian boyd. it’s a vicious circle, and i think it will only come to a halt when something truly major happens – if and when that happens, we’ll see the next chapter unfold. for now, go download man in the mirror and forget “the album” ever existed.