Sufjan Stevens is my new hero.

I liked his Seven Swans album.

Then I grew to love it.

I liked his Illinois album.

These days, I love it more than I can say. The two songs “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” and “Casimir Pulaski Day” are better on their own than any other full album I’ve heard all year.

And now this… NPR has rated Illinois as the album of the year, and says, “Sufjan Stevens new album isn’t just this year’s best album, it’s the best album to come out in several years. In an era when most of the music we hear is derivative of eras past, it’s not just a relief to hear something as fresh as Come on and Feel the Illinoise, it’s downright extraordinary. Sufjan Stevens’ sound is his alone. Add his ambition (the 50 albums for 50 states project is unlike anything in the history of music) to his sincerity and lyrical ingenuity and it’s no wonder he’s produced an entire album’s worth of songs that send shivers up the spines of all different kinds of music lovers around the world.”

And to make things even more stupdenously exciting… get a load of this. It’s the best answer given in any musician interview I’ve read all year (including Bono’s stuff.) (Thanks, Heather, for noticing this and sharing it!)

If you only know one or two things about Sufjan Stevens, chances are the second is that he is a practising Christian who isn’t afraid to let his beliefs impact upon his work. “If someone asked, I would say that I was born again. I would look you right in the eye and say it.”

“I don’t know anything about CCM. I’m not an evangelist. I’m a songwriter and a storyteller. If that story happens to be about Christ, then perhaps, in some odd semantic way, the song could be termed ‘evangelical’. I gladly accept that. I also sing about divorce. And murder. And adultery. I sing about chickens and war and bathrooms. In my mind, the gospel is not something to pander and pawn off like a diet soda drink. There is no product. There is no selling point.”

“This is what it means to be born again: to fully and completely disengage with the preconceptions and preoccupations of the adult world and its religions, to dismantle all laws – of physics and society – and yield yourself to the birth canal, and what comes after, in which everything begins to shake and tremble with all senses fully turned to the centre of the universe, the creator, God the Father, in whose cultivation we begin to know and understand our true selves, our real selves, as a reflection of God’s image, his creation, like newborn babies, full, fresh, suckling, elated and laughing at everything. But honestly, I have no idea how this relates to my music. I hate talking about this stuff.”

“I’d like to spend less time talking about God and more time being in God’s presence. I think that would put an end to this conversation, once and for all.”

[Due to the outdated link, here’s a link to Andy Whitman’s blog.]

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  • LN

    Have you heard Sufjan’s Christmas songs yet? They are pretty fantastic. Everyone I know who loves Sufjan has been overjoyed with his renditions of some old Christmas carol classics. I particularly love his gothic take on “What Child is This?” which he has named “What Child is This, Anyway?” and the renaissance flavor of “Once in Royal David’s City” (This link is only late if you don’t celebrate a liturgical Christmas… ;)

  • Jeff Kolb

    I’m not big on Seven Swans, even after having it for a year or two. Get Michigan or Illinois…they’re both fantastic albums.

  • Matt

    “Seven Swans” is less erratic than the state-based albums. Not as weird, frankly, but good in its own right.

    What a relief to have an artist like this in the open for all to enjoy.

  • The Scrivener

    I just picked up Seven Swans with some Christmas gift money and I’m enjoying it, though I’m not as ecstatic about it as some. I wonder, Jeff, should I pick up Illinois? How does it differ from 7 Swans?

  • Wasp Jerky

    If you like Sufjan, you might also like his labelmate Half-Handed Cloud.

  • Christian

    I put a few Stevens titles on my Christmas list, and ended up with “Seven Swans.” I hope I grow to like it as you did, but I’m not confident. I recall having heard some of the songs a year or two ago, and not being overly impressed at that time. I was hoping a more thorough listening would change my mind, but it didn’t.
    I hate to say this, but I think I’m getting too old to appreciate “innovative” young singer/songwriters, regardless of their faith. Music that’s heralded as the next big thing — Iron and Wine comes to mind — often just strikes me as tedious. It’s sad. I’d always hoped I’d have an open mind.
    It’s similar to watching “SNL” these days and wondering WHAT in the world people find funny about it. Yet when you talk to teenagers, they profess their admiration. Just as I did about the show when I was their age, and an older generation did nothing but complain about the then-new cast.

  • Levi Nunnink

    Wow, that was… beautiful.

    That just made my night.