Feb 212009

A week or so ago my banjo student gave me a CD of Sufjan Stevens songs so that I could hear his banjo style. I had heard of Stevens, but I had not paid much attention to his music until now. I had always associated him with the crazy Danielson Famile act, with whom he has performed at times. Danielson Famile is a kooky Christian folky crew that I had heard here and there a few times. I like anyone who takes a strange, artful, intentionaly poetic approach, but I found the Famile stuff a little tedious after a minute or two. The vocals I had heard were in a silly falsetto, and the lyrics were too didactic for my taste. I told myself that I would have to come back and give Danielson another try when I felt like putting in some effort.

So I had ignored Sufjan Stevens, associatinghis music with the Famile as silly stuff. But wow, was I wrong. Maybe I’m wrong about Danielson too, we’ll see.

Stevens’s music is child-like, delicate, sweet, and yet epic, stirring, anguished, mesmerizing, beautiful. I have never heard anyone take a lo-fi approach and yet create such beautiful, clean, vast sounds on albums. I have to get shopping to get more of his music in our stereo.

Stevens’s song “Casimir Pulaski Day” is the most touching song I have heard in a long time. I get weepy listening to it. The simple melody, the plunky banjo and soft trumpet, the stark plot in the lyrics. Man, this is good music.

Another time I might write about Stevens’s banjo style here. But for now, I just want to let loose with a big “Hurrah!” for finding fresh, real, beautiful music. And I’ll have to say a few more “thank yous” to the person who pointed him out to me.

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