Review: Ascend into a hypnotic album from Sufjan Stevens

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Image: Mo Baldwin

On Sept. 25, Sufjan Stevens released his eighth studio album, “The Ascension.” This album uses Stevens’s beautiful vocals as another instrument that adds another level to the album to make it mesmerizing. 

Each track adds another level to the hypnotic feeling this record gives off. The album is incredibly dense, instrumentally and lyrically.

“Make Me an Offer I Cannot Refuse”

The record starts off incredibly strong with “Make Me an Offer I Cannot Refuse.” This track begins with calm instrumentals and vocals that feel like a dream. Stevens uses his vocals to mesh into a synthesizer sound just after the end of the first minute of this five minute song. 

The track features lyrics that strike the heart with every listen such as “Shall you abuse me? / Show me the grace of a natural king / Lord, I need deliverance.” Although these lyrics come across initially as religious, they can also be attributed to other life experiences.

Society is meant to guide people along even if that means abusing them and exploiting them. Stevens is then asking to be set free of this cycle of abuse, which many ask for in their own lives in their own ways.

“Landslide”

The next track that stands out to me is “Landslide.” This five minute track is so quiet and calm instrumentally, which goes against the nature of the title. A landslide is a major natural disaster, yet Stevens uses this title for a song that feels so small and so big all at once.

This song seems to be about a type of love that is almost forced. This relationship is evident in the lyric “I saw your body and I saw what I liked.” Instead of liking their body as is, he focuses only on the parts of their body that he did like.

He also refers to this love as a “second chance,” which implies that this is something that he has done or seen before. He is familiar with this idea of a forced or fake love.

“Sugar”

“Sugar” stood out mostly for the instrumentals. This song begins the journey to the next dimension that the following track, “The Ascension,” delivers the listener to. The first few minutes of the song have no vocals, yet it feels like there is a story within it.

Although this track continues the lyrical density of the rest of the album, this song completely encapsulates the idea of his voice as an instrument of its own. His vocals drive the song at times and others it is brought along by the beat. The lyric “come on, baby, give me some sugar” is pulled by the beat. While lyrics such as “stand up straight, now, stand real tall” and “is that the weight of the world on your back?” both move the song forward.

In order to fully experience “The Ascension,” it is imperative to listen to the album in full in order. This album is one that is able to be listened to for hours on end.