Sufjan Stevens Returns: Stream ‘America,’ His New 12-and-a-Half-Minute Single


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Rock Cellar Magazine
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Just in time for the 4th of July holiday weekend, acclaimed indie/experimental singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens has premiered a new song titled “America.”

It’s the first song released from Stevens’ upcoming album, The Ascension, which was announced earlier this week and will be released on Sept. 25, via Asthmatic Kitty Records.

In typically unpredictable Sufjan Stevens fashion, “America” spans more than 12 minutes. The song’s featured a drawn-out closing segment that is atmospheric and haunting, very much what Stevens was setting out to accomplish with the recording (more on that below).

“America” seems very much a reactionary song to the world around us. Take these lyrics for example:

I have loved you, I have grieved
I am ashamed to admit I no longer believe
I have loved you, I received
I have traded my life for a picture of the scenery

Don’t do to me what you did to America
Don’t do to me what you did to America

However, Stevens explained in a statement that the song was actually written six years ago, back when he was working on his previous album:

“I was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote it,” Sufjan says. “Because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie & Lowell. So I shelved it.

“But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next.”

More on “America” and The Ascension, per a news release:

“America,” and in turn The Ascension, is an indictment of a world crumbling around us—and a roadmap out of here.

Sufjan says the foundations of the album are “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.” And its first single stands as “a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular.”

Now, most artists wouldn’t dare release a single anywhere near twelve-and-a-half minutes in length, but Sufjan Stevens isn’t most artists. The scope and grandiosity that has come to exemplify the work of Stevens over the years has gone a long way toward establishing his singular reputation in the business. Take “Impossible Soul” for example, the 25-minute track that closed out Stevens’ heralded 2010 album The Age of Adz:

The Ascension follows Stevens’ recent collaborative album Aporia, an experimental/new age effort with his stepfather, Lowell Brams. That LP was released back in late March.

The Ascension, though, is considered the follow-up to Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens’ 2015 record that was met with universal acclaim.

Said Stevens of the new album:

“My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you. Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”

Here’s the track listing for The Ascension, which is available for pre-order at this link.

  1. Make Me An Offer I Cannot Refuse (5:19)
  2. Run Away With Me (4:07)
  3. Video Game (4:16)
  4. Lamentations (3:42)
  5. Tell Me You Love Me (4:22)
  6. Die Happy (5:47)
  7. Ativan (6:32)
  8. Ursa Major (3:43)
  9. Landslide (5:04)
  10. Gilgamesh (3:50)
  11. Death Star (4:04)
  12. Goodbye To All That (3:48)
  13. Sugar (7:37)
  14. The Ascension (5:56)
  15. America (12:30)


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