Friday, March 20, 2015

The Essential Sufjan Stevens Tracks

At month's end, we'll once again be graced with a Sufjan Stevens album. As Sufjan is at once one of the best and most prolific modern artists, I thought it would be fun to go through just a few of the tracks I consider the best across his career. 

"Romulus" from the album Greetings from Michigan (2003)

Early Sufjan was simpler musically, but the lyrics were always wounded and impactful. 

"To Be Alone With You" from the album Seven Swans (2004)

Sufjan's success in the indie community and status as perhaps the only do-no-wrong consensus critical darling next to Radiohead is unique in that Sufjan's lyrics are often unabashedly Christian. Just when you assume this track is about a lover, he turns the tables: "You went up on a tree/to be alone with me/you went up on the tree/I'll never know the man who loved me".

"Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois" from the album Illinois (2005)

One of the most purely beautiful songs I've ever heard. 

"Casimir Pulaski Day" from the album Illinois (2005)

I've told people before that I consider this the saddest song I've ever heard. The story of losing a childhood friend to cancer is heartbreaking, especially when delivered like this. All the more relatable--to me personally at least--is the similarities in the upbringings, what with the Bible studies and 4H crowd. It's a story of loss and unanswered prayer. It's a tough listen.

"Futile Devices" from the album Age of Adz (2010)

Five years from one of the greatest album of all time, Sufjan goes abruptly electronic on Age of Adz, but not before "Futile Devices" emerges as perhaps the best ode to platonic love.

"Justice Delivers Its Death" from the album Silver & Gold (2012)

The second-to-last track on a 59 song Christmas album is a wonder. 

"Should've Known Better" from the album Carrie & Lowell (2015)

Hopefully a preview of what's to come. The first great track from his new album, coming up in just a couple weeks.

Those are my favorites. Obviously I'm a sucker for the softies. What are yours?


  1. I agree Futile Devices is beautiful. Have you listened to The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album? I stumbled upon it on "Butch Vig's List of Music You Should Hear". "Pittsfield" and "Chicago (acoustic version)" are on that and two of my favorites by Sufjan Stevens.

  2. "Pittsfield" is definitely one of my favorites!