Sufjan Stevens Seven Swans

[Sounds Familyre; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: folk-rock, folk-pop
Others: The Danielson Famile, Stereolab, Badly Drawn Boy, Califone

Sufjan Stevens took many music lovers by surprise in the later months of 2003 with the release of Greetings from Michigan, building an exceptionally strong following that placed his record on many year-end lists. Michigan was soaked with imaginative balladry and subtle, unsuspected grandeur that elevated to tremendous heights and soared to unbelievable beauty. Recorded in homage to the great state of Michigan, Sufjan Stevens had begun his astonishing journey into composing a record for each individual state for the remainder of his confidently long and undoubtedly prosperous career.

Seven Swans is Sufjan Stevens' follow-up record, just nine short months after the release of Michigan. The record, however, is not based on a different state of choice, but is a collection of recordings that were created before the Michigan sessions. Often described as tidbits or extras, this collection of songs is exemplary to many of the premium songs found on Michigan. Furthermore, Seven Swans stands closely to its predecessor, illustrating the same splendor and attractiveness that has fabricated many to believe in the immense, underestimated talent of Sufjan Stevens as a performer. The record may not be linked to any state, but it does sound fashionably familiar to an area just north of the beloved Lake Michigan and Michigan State. The conjured images and subtleness is representative of the neighboring Canada, specifically Northern Ontario, a vast land of warm and fruitful summers or cold and vacant winters.

Many of the songs continue to showcase Stevens' avid and passionate banjo-plucking, accompanied by similar harmonized vocals that resonate with beauty and commitment. "The Dress Looks Nice On You" is an early indication of Stevens' commitment to gorgeous and evocative songwriting and is perhaps the highlight of the entire record. Another gem is the evangelistic "He Woke Me Up Again," with its compelling vocal delivery with accompanied harmonies that fill the musical experience with joy and exhilaration. And as you continue through the record, no single recorded song falls short of the standards and expectations that Sufjan Stevens has carved for himself.

Seven Swans should not be considered a b-side record. Although all of these songs did not complete the near-perfect Michigan, they showcase the wonderful, fulfilling strength in Sufjan Stevens' songwriting and performance. As we patiently wait for the next state to be recorded as an album, I'll single-handedly declare Seven Swans Canada's contribution into Sufjan Stevens' musical journey through the United States of America.

1. All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands
2. The Dress Looks Nice On You
3. In The Devil's Territory
4. To Be Alone With You
5. Abraham
6. Sister
7. Size Too Small
8. We Won't Need Legs To Stand
9. A Good Man Is Hard To Find
10. He Woke Me Up Again
11. Seven Swans
12. The Transfiguration

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