Out Now: Sufjan Stevens Adds to His Catalog with Sprawling 15-Song Album ‘The Ascension’ (Listen/Buy)

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Rock Cellar Magazine

Listening to an album from Sufjan Stevens can be an emotional experience. The indie-rock/experimental singer/songwriter/producer has built a legacy on unpredictable irreverence and hauntingly beautiful songwriting, and on Friday he returned with The Ascension, his first proper full-length studio album since 2015’s acclaimed Carrie & Lowell.

(Click here to purchase The Ascension from our Rock Cellar Store).

Depending on his creative focus going into an album project, Stevens’ output can veer from hushed, folksy singer/songwriter material to more epic, spaced-out and psychedelic musical adventures. You never know what you’re going to get, so to speak, but you know it’ll be a journey.

The Ascension is very much a journey, spanning 15 songs and almost an hour and a half of new music. Take its opening track, “Make Me an Offer I Cannot Refuse,” as an example:

That’s how this thing kicks off. Pretty wild, isn’t it? It’s followed by “Run Away With Me,” which sounds like a wistful dream:

And I say, love
They will terrorize us
With new confusion
With the fear of life
That seeks to bring despair within
And they will paralyze us
With new illusions
Let the dead revive the beast within

The thematic approach behind The Ascension is one of resistance — “an indictment of a world crumbling around us—and a roadmap out of here,” with Sufjan Stevens saying in a statement that, “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.”

In the build-up to the album’s release, Stevens shared a handful of pre-release tracks, including “Sugar,” which features some powerful acting and even better choreography:

And “Video Game,” which also had a music video choreographed by and starring TikTok star Jalaiah Harmon:

And “America,” a grandiose, 12-minute song that closes out the album with authority:

Sufjan Stevens is a man with a complex musical plan, one he’s carried out for years in a fiercely original way. His methods of expression are unpredictable and, usually, singularly powerful, and that’s very much the case with The Ascension. It’s an album for now, yesterday and tomorrow, all at once.

Stream the record below, via Spotify:


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