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Saturday, December 20, 2008

From The Dorks' Soundtrack: Sufjan Stevens

Music from Episode #46

Artist - Sufjan Stevens
Album - Songs for Christmas Vol. 1: Noel
Song - It's Christmas! Let's Be Glad!

When it came time to pick a song for this week's episode the Holiday spirit got the better of me. I am not a particularly religions person and haven't been for a very long time but there is something about a well put together Christmas song that will always do it for me. And when I think of great Christmas songs I don't think of the classics, I always think of the pop versions, the more secular songs. Even though Sufjan Stevens is quite clearly a very religious man he still manages to make some really fantastic universal holiday songs.

Stevens' Songs for Christmas is a 5 disc set of really great songs for the Holidays. Each of the 5 discs were originally released on their own throughout the beginning of Stevens' career but after his critically acclaimed album Illinois new fans clamored for older material by the incredible artist who crafts very dense, very intricate songs that make for amazing listening and re-listening.

Stevens began his musical career as a member of Marzuki, a folk-rock band from Holland, Michigan. He also played (and continues to play) various instruments for Danielson Famile. While in school at Hope College, Stevens wrote and recorded his debut solo album, A Sun Came, which he released on Asthmatic Kitty Records, a record label he founded with his stepfather. He later moved to New York City, where he was enrolled in a writing program at the New School for Social Research.

Beginning with Michigan, Stevens announced an intent to write an album for each of the 50 U.S. states, although in interviews he wavers between utter sincerity and self-deprecating irony when describing the idea.

Stevens spent the second half of 2004 researching and writing material for the second of these projects, this time focusing his efforts on Illinois. As with Michigan, Stevens used the state of Illinois as a leaping-off point for his more personal explorations of faith, family, love, and location. Though slated for general release on July 5, 2005, the album was briefly delayed by legal issues regarding the use of Superman in the original album cover artwork. In the double vinyl release, a balloon sticker has been placed over Superman on the cover art of the first 5,000 copies. The next printings had an empty space where the Superman image was, as with the CD release.

The widely acclaimed Illinois was the highest-rated album of 2005 on the Metacritic review aggregator site, based on glowing reviews from Pitchfork, The Onion A/V Club, Spin, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, KEXP, and The Guardian. The 2006 PLUG Independent Music Awards awarded Stevens with the Album Of The Year, Best Album Art/Packaging, and Male Artist Of The Year. Pitchfork Media, No Ripcord, and Paste Magazine named Illinois as the editors' choice for best album of 2005 and Stevens received the 2005 Pantheon prize, awarded to noteworthy albums selling fewer than 500,000 copies, for Illinois. In April 2006, Stevens announced that 21 pieces of music he had culled from the Illinois recording sessions would be incorporated into a new album, called The Avalanche, which was released on July 11, 2006.

"Sufjan Stevens is not going to write a record for each of the 50 states after all" was the original text included on the online liner notes for their Mews Too: An Asthmatic Kitty Compilation disc released on February 7, 2006. This statement was possibly included as a joke, as the text has since been removed and the current liner notes related to Stevens reads, "18. Sufjan Stevens can fold a fitted-sheet (he once worked as a professional folder in a commercial laundromat)."

In an article published on February 24, 2008 in New York Magazine, Stevens implied that New Jersey could be the target of his next state project. After he gave a brief quote about the New Jersey Turnpike, he was asked, "So is this the next musical project?" Sufjan joked, "New Jersey, the musical—an ode to the turnpike."

... So ... I may or may not have cribbed some of that from Wikipedia ... so ... whatever ...


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