Alex Worsnip 03/11/2006
What can one can say about Sufjan Stevens? There is no-one in the world doing what he is doing - reinventing the craft of the singer-songwriter as grand orchestrator and simulatenously creating some of the most gorgeously emotional, otherworldly music you'll encounter, ever. Stevens' world is one where imagination is king; where it doesn't matter how far stories go off into the unbelievable, because disbelief is suspended: his between-song tales have a wonderful quality of gradually building in absurdity. His voice is as clear and pure as it is on record: enchanting, intimate and stunningly beautiful. The horn section that accompanies him creates a wonderful sound at full tilt (especially on 'Chicago' and 'Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head'), but it's still when the music is stripped down and bare that his magic really works its wonders: 'John Wayne Gacy Jr' and 'Casimir Pulaski Day' are both, in particular, literally tearjerking in their lyrical pathos and simple melodic ache.
Older material from 'Seven Swans' sits happily along side new song 'Majesty Snowbird', which is just that - majestic - in its almost dark orchestral sweep which eventually breaks, enormously improbably, into a wah-wah-tastic Santana-esque guitar solo. The camaraderie Stevens has with his backing band is highly admirable, and makes for an incredible atmosphere of simple love, enhanced by the music. This is once in a lifetime stuff; you feel you are experiencing something special and unique; awe and wonder that makes you consider how incredible the phenomenon of music as a whole, this sound that humans can create, is. And ultimately the problem with describing it is how hard such a thing is to put into words. Fuck reviewing; it dilutes the purity. Just make sure you see (and hear) this before you die.