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All Writing the Essay

Exercise 1.3 – Sufjan Stevens Timeline

Sufjan Stevens is a singer, songwriter, & composer—one of the most important of this century, and one of the most private & shrouded in mystery. His music, though paying homage to Elliot Smith & others, is unlike any one other artist’s. He is originally from Michigan (Detroit), but has lived in Kensington, Brooklyn since 2010. He identifies as Christian. This timeline is far from a complete list of his albums & work—there’s an enormous catalog of it.

  1. Debut album, A Sun Came, 1999, on his own “Asthmatic Kitty” label he confounded with his stepfather, Lowell Brams.
  2. Michigan, 2003. Stevens commits in 2002 to writing an album for each of the 50 states (he termed it “The Fifty States Project”).
  3. Seven Swans, 2004. These early albums are well-regarded but not widely known. Touring for this album, he quit his previous daytime job (in children’s books at Time Warner).
  4. Illinois, 2005. 26 songs, 1 hour, 31 minutes runtime. This was his breakthrough album, with much wider recognition, especially the single “Chicago.” This was his second U.S. state album, as well as his last. The highest-rated album of 2005, according to aggregator Metacritic.
  5. The Avalanche, 2006. 21 songs, 1 hour, 16 minutes runtime. I have yet to listen to his albums to this point, except for Illinois. Includes many songs he cut from Illinois. He also did a holiday album in early 2006 & a short film called The BQE in 2007.
  6. The Age of Adz, 2010. 11 songs, 1 hour, 15 minutes runtime. A significant departure from the sound of his earlier albums—instead of mostly instrumental + vocals, he has loud, wild-sounding electronic synths & mechanical sounds. He had various health issues working on the album, which some songs are a response to. Though he doesn’t stick with the sounds in following releases, elements from this style return. It was preceded by the release of his EP All Delighted People, released unexpectedly, with one of its tracks running 17 minutes long. (“Impossible Soul,” on Age of Adz, runs 25 minutes.)
  7. Carrie & Lowell, 2015. 11 songs, 44 minutes runtime. This album is his latest flagship release, and I think by far the best. He wrote it about the passing of his mother, and it’s utterly haunting & mortal. This is one of my main focuses with the essay—the themes of darkness, the way he renders it so beautifully. The album got a score of 90 from Metacritic. He also also released a Live version, & The Greatest Gift, of remixes, demos, & outtakes from Carrie & Lowell. His tour included him performing in “neon, metallics, balloons, and a massive pair of wings.”
  8. Soundtrack for Call Me By Your Name, 2017. Luca Guadagnino’s film starring Timothée Chalamet & Armie Hammer, a coming-of-age romantic drama based on a novel. Stevens contributed three songs, “Futile Devices,” “Mystery of Love,” & “Visions of Gideon.” He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media for “Mystery of Love.” These pieces will be my other focus, exploring Stevens’s complicated relationship to queerness. These songs were my introduction to Stevens.
  9. Aporia, 2020. Upcoming release, coming this March.