Sufjan Stevens – “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” (SONG REVIEW)

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After a relatively quiet past four or five years, Sufjan Stevens is about ready to emerge back into the musical spotlight. His new album, Carrie & Lowell, is set for a March 31st release, and a bevy of North American tour dates are on tap for the spring and summer seasons. And if the album’s first single, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross,” is any indication, Stevens has moved away from the electronic-tinged song-craft of 2010’s The Age Of Adz, instead hearkening back to the gently lilting, folk-inflected stylings of his masterworks, Illinois and Michigan.

The new song is short in length, but sweet in spirit, with breathy and whispered vocals singing over a softly strummed finger-picked acoustic guitar. He is again addressing something personally cryptic with a set of haunting lyrics that contain a little religious imagery thrown in the mix, as well. There’s a prevalent hiss buzzing underneath it all (according to Stevens, it’s his air conditioner blasting on high), which gives the song an almost demo-like feel. Similarly, it’s very easy to picture Stevens perched atop a stool running through this new track to an unexpected gathering of coffee-house dwellers. While The Age of Adz was pleasantly reviewed, it mystified some of his long time fans. Judging from the current vibe here, it looks like some of those fans may be pleased with his return direction.

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3 Responses

  1. It seemed harrowing, ugly to me. Not sweet at all. I don’t result think it’s a return to his earlier style, it almost feels style-less, as if we are hearing him without artifice for the first time.

  2. Thank you Paul. I agree completely. It sounds nothing like his older stuff, and saying it sounds sweet is just lazy writing. Were you even listening? This is a different sufjan we’re hearing. He sounds older, and a little bit broken.

  3. I agree with you guys, there’s nothing sweet about it. He’s obviously going through a major good vs. evil struggle. I find his wearing of two hats interesting in this way. He seems to have lost the innocence that made him so sweet and set him apart from everybody else. He seemed pretty grounded until he started trying to blend in with everybody else. Now he’s lost himself and with this new album it just looks like he’s pretending. I hope he truly finds his way back. Sadly, people will just hear his whispery voice and chalk it up to sweet.

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