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COLUMN: Sufjan Stevens allows listeners to live another life



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Sufjan Stevens performs at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival on Friday, April 15, 2016, in Indio, California. Stevens is an American singer and songwriter. Movie Stills Database Buy Photos

American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens has been in the music game for over 20 years. On Spotify alone, the Michigan native has 15 albums. 

The 42-year-old musician has been releasing solo music since 2000, but he doesn’t just create his own music. He also founded the record label Asthmatic Kitty Records. 

Asthmatic Kitty is home to over 30 artists, including Stevens, who has released all his solo albums with the label. Stevens founded Asthmatic Kitty Records with his stepfather, Lowell Brams, in 1999, the same year Stevens went solo. 

Before creating music on his own, Stevens was a member of a folk-rock band based in Holland, Michigan, called Marzuki. The band released two full-length albums before Stevens departed, according to online music guide allmusic.com.

Stevens has been on my radar since I first heard “To Be Alone With You” from his 2004 album, “Seven Swans,” and he left me stunned by his 2017 album, “The Greatest Gift.” I played the song “Wallowa Lake Monster” from “The Greatest Gift” on repeat for about three months after the album was released, and even now if it comes on at the right time, it puts me right back into my obsession.

It took Stevens a while to gain the traction any musician desires. He tried to do a 50 States Project where he attempted to compose an album for every state, but this fell through after he released “Michigan” in 2003 and “Illinois” in 2005, according to education resource website thoughtco, and decided to pursue other projects.

Music was not Stevens’ first love — it was writing. As a teenager he studied piano and oboe, but he later determined he wanted to be a writer, according to thoughtco. 

He made his way to New York to make this happen but quickly realized writing and music could be combined in beautiful ways.  After this realization, he released his first two albums, “A Sun Came” and “Know Your Rabbit,” which were barely noticed. It was the beginning of his 50 States Project, “Michigan” that got him recognition, according to thoughtco.

Attempting get recognition is a problem of the past for Stevens, who gained plenty of fans after the movie “Call Me By Your Name” came out. “Mystery of Love” accompanied the trailer of the movie, accentuating the love story with gorgeous sounds. To this day, when I hear the sparkly music and the soft tones of Stevens’ “Mystery of Love,” I think of the beautiful duo that is Timotheé Chalamet and Armie Hammer.

“Mystery of Love” gained so much traction after "Call Me By Your Name, Stevens was able to perform the masterpiece at the 2018 Oscars with St. Vincent. If you have not seen the performance yet, I recommend a quick Google search to find it. 

Stevens’ music is hauntingly beautiful. It leaves the listener in a state of euphoria, while also giving them time to be alone with their thoughts. It allows the listener to pretend to live out another life in their head, no matter where they may be.

This week I created a playlist that allows me to check out of reality and see the world through fresh eyes for a while. I titled it “another life.”


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