Everyone has an album, maybe an artist, that you naturally gravitate back to once or twice a year. For me it’s Sufjan Stevens. His soft, shy, whispery voice beckons me in. I’m like a soldier returning from war, welcomed by his joyous wife. I’ve battled in the trenches, listening to the devilish riffs of stoner metal; fuzzed out bass of blues rock; and the crisp break beats of hip hop. Now I’m welcomed home by the gentle strum of a banjo, the lush fan-flare of trumpets and the hauntingly calm voice of Sufjan Stevens. Now I’m home.
I stay for the winter. His voice the perfect accompaniment to bitter mornings sheltered under a blanket. Or huddled in the corner of the couch with a pulp novel. Or sited next to a fire — staring as its flickers warm you. His whisper vocals conjure a coldness, yet he breathes warmth, like he’s melting the surrounding icicles.
He speaks of beauty and heartbreak. Of tragic loss and rebirth. And it nurtures you.
There’s humble innocence to his voice, it’s so soft I could break it.
His compositions are mature and rich, ranging from delicately strum ballads to orchestral wonders. Sleigh bells jingle, flutes fly and banjos twang. Amongst other things.
Illinois was the first Sufjan album I listened to. From the opener Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois, I was mesmerised. It’s what I fell in love with.