Back in 2006, I remember walking into Record Time in Ferndale with my friend browsing their selection of music and movies. He picked up an album that said “Greetings From Michigan” on the cover, and our eyes scanned the tracklist, which contained names of familiar local cities in Michigan. We had to buy it, and for the rest of that cold, snowy night, we sat in his basement listening to the entire album while pointing out the cities each song was named after on a map that sprawled across his floor.
This artist we stumbled upon that memorable night was none other than Sufjan Stevens, who has held a special place in both my soul and my CD case ever since. I still find myself driving around to “For The Widows In Paradise; For the Fatherless In Ypsilanti” on the snowiest of evenings every year, and listening to “Chicago” while driving on every road trip, even if I’m not traveling to Chicago.
So imagine my reaction when I found out he was dropping a new album and coming to Michigan this October.
Stevens is an indie/folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Detroit. He moved to Petoskey when he was nine, and started his music career in a folk band from Holland, Michigan called Marzuki. He plays banjo, guitar, English horn, oboe, drums piano and many other instruments.
He wrote and recorded his first solo album, A Sun Came, in 2000. Stevens released the album under the independent record label he and his stepdad Lowell Brams created together, called Asthmatic Kitty Records.
Stevens has released a slew of albums since, including Enjoy Your Rabbit (2001), Michigan (2003), Seven Swans (2004), Illinois (2005), The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album (2006), Songs for Christmas (2006), and The BQE (2009).
The albums Michigan and Illinois were originally part of The Fifty States Project, which was an idea where Stevens would record an album that is representative of each of the 50 states in the U.S. After Illinois was released, fans speculated which state would be next. Although The BQE is about New York City’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the album is not apart of The Fifty States Project. Eventually, in an interview with The Guardian in 2009, Stevens said, “I have no qualms about admitting it was a promotional gimmick.”
Throughout 2010, Stevens has stayed busy writing two new additions to his discography. The first, All Delighted People EP, is an eight-song EP that was released on August 20, 2010 by Asthmatic Kitty Records. It was released as a digital download online first, and jumped to #27 on the Billboard 200 one week later.
The second release of this year will be his full-length album The Age of Adz, which will be released on October 12, 2010 and feature 11 brand new songs. The title of the album reference’s schizophrenic artist Royal Robertson’s apocalyptic artwork, and will be Stevens’ first “song-based, full-length album” he has made in five years. Asthmatic Kitty Records’ noted that the new album will feature the use of electronics and “heavy orchestration.” For a taste of the new album, visit NPR’s website where the entire album is available to listen to for free.
Accompanying the new EP and full-length album is a tour through the U.S. and Canada that spans the fall months. More specifically (and more importantly), Stevens will be in Royal Oak, Michigan on October 14. He will perform at the Royal Oak Music Theatre at 7:00pm, and the cost of tickets are $30.
I can tell you firsthand, from seeing Sufjan perform in Pontiac last year, that he is an excellent live act. I love that he plays smaller venues, where it feels like a more intimate performance, but at the same time, he squeezes as many people as it takes onstage to create an orchestral feel that booms throughout the room as heavy and touching as it does when it booms through the speakers in your car blasting “Year of the Ox” or even slower, more heart-warming tunes like “To Be Alone with You.”
I hope to see you all at Sufjan’s show on October 14, of course after having heard the new album, which will be out two days before that!