Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension (New Album) | Page 23 | The Popjustice Forum

Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension (New Album)

Discussion in 'Pop & Justice' started by Consideration, Oct 20, 2016.

  1. I've managed to find time to have one play through of the album this afternoon. I'll put my thoughts behind the spoiler to avoid giving anything away and not to take up your screens with all my rambling.
    The reviews - positive and negative - are fair, and I think my own reaction is somewhere in the middle though favourable.

    The majority of the songs do feel incredibly dense with little room for them to breathe, and most of them lack space to give the listener respite from the sensory overload (which has been a common thread through the reviews) though this is probably intentional given the overall theme of the album and something you'd expect from Sufjan doing this kind of music based on Age of Adz and his other experiments with electronic music in the past. For us it probably won't be surprising or too difficult to enjoy.

    It occupies the same lane as Age of Adz within context of his discography so far, but this is a more mature approach to those sounds and ideas, and a little less frantic/bombastic with more than a touch of Aporia in terms of how "new-age" and experimental it is at times.

    I don't think any of the songs overstay their welcome despite some of the track lengths, but a few of them do come across a little monotonous in their repetition especially in the few moments where it feels they aren't building up to anything particularly well.

    Death Star transitioning smoothly into Goodbye To All That is probably my favourite moment on the album, and for anyone who is new to Sufjan based on Carrie & Lowell or the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack, or looking for something more in-line with those projects, Goodbye To All That and The Ascension will probably be the highlights for you.

    My initial highlights:

    Video Game
    Tell Me You Love Me
    Die Happy
    Death Star
    Goodbye To All That
    The Ascension
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  2. I lowkey hate everything from this era so far nn. Age of Adz is my least favorite album of his, so I guess it makes sense.
  3. This is nothing like anything he's ever done before; it's only real similarity to Adz is the electronic nature of the music. Some are going to LOVE this and others are going to be very disappointed. I am still in awe at how someone can reinvent their sound on this level.
    godspeed and andru like this.
  4. I love Age of Adz but nn @HeartSwells you’re wrong, Carrie is his masterpiece.
  5. I absolutely adore this on first listen. I was working while doing it, but Landslide and The Ascension that stopped me in my tracks while listening. Can’t wait to dive into this more.
    andru likes this.
  6. Having only recently purchased Carrie on vinyl and re-discovered the album, this is a totally different sound for him that didn't click with me at first listen.
  7. I love it! It gives some Age of Adz vibes - the electronic elements and the song lengths...but it's totally different at the same time.
    Especially Tell me you Love me - it's an instant Sufjan classic for me.
    Trouble in Paradise and andru like this.
  8. I get the Adz comparisons but this feels like a new beast. I’m in love with it on first listen but can tell it’s going to be a massive grower. Immense in its scope but (and maybe this is a minor critique) equally dense, I feel like I’m going to be picking out musical flourishes and symbolism I didn’t notice before for months.

    My main takeaway on first listen is how deceptively genius the single run is. Video Game and Sugar being the most pop-y songs on the record. But this is not a pop album. This is an album which uses pop as a weapon.

    Sensory overload is a fair critique but I also think it’s the intention to some extent. The lyrics are so personal and grip with some deep reflection and re-evaluation of religious and political values that shine in the existential ennui we’re all going through now. So being musically challenging makes total sense as part of that. At times it is such an intense experience it sounds like Sufjan is picking a fight with the concept of music itself. Just as much as he is grappling everything else.

    tl;dr? The Ascension good.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
  9. “Run Away with Me” is gorgeous. He’s done it again, girls!
  10. Umm same. I felt I was listening to the same song for 30 minutes and also thought the album was done when it was only on track 7 or so, at the same time. A bit of a slog to be honest. Maybe will work stoned and on headphones!

    maikos87 likes this.
  11. I have to add I loved the prerelease tracks. And Carrie & Lowell IS his masterpiece ddd.
    maikos87 likes this.
  12. “Ativan” knocks. Shit your pants indeed, Soof.
  13. The Janet Jackson/Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis "it's his pop record!!!!" nonsense in the pre-release writeup was just baiting, wasn't it? There's nothing here production wise that he hasn't really touched on before.

    I liked it on first listen and there's some great flourishes, but it simply didn't need to be 80 minutes long and as suspected from the pre-release singles she really just needs to be way smarter with the editing. It's a really great distillation of all the soundscapes covered on the previous albums, though.
  14. I would like to know the thought process behind making all his electronic-ish albums so absurdly long. He's not exactly known for brevity, but it seems like the floodgates open whenever he gets near a synth.
    RUNAWAY, He, Burzum and 1 other person like this.
  15. I like this. Some of it just kind of stays in the background for me but there are some real highlights. Currently, after just one listen, my favorites are:

    Make Me an Offer I Cannot Refuse
    Run Away With Me
    Video Game
    Tell Me You Love Me (might be my favorite)
    j267 likes this.
  16. This!!!
  17. The problem with this for me, on my first couple of spins, is that it's all very dense & same-y sonically. The beats kind of shadow the melodies. So I'm sort of just skipping around, getting my feet wet. A big mistake I think was trying to listen to it for the first time while driving last night. Something like this requires headphones & focus, dddd.

    Run Away With Me is gorgeous, though - I know that. Everything else... I'll let you know in a few weeks?
    VitaminBee, andru and aux like this.
  18. It is a slog, I came away not that excited to play it again which was a bit worrying but think that’s just because it’s a monolithic 80 minutes that doesn’t do much outside of it’s comfort zone... yet I still came away enjoying it and looking forward to picking out my favourite moments in the future?

    My biggest complaint is the majority of the vocals honestly, he’s seems to have brought with him the layered whispers from Carrie & Lowell, which worked well there but within The Ascension they have a habit of fading into the background. The standout moments on the album are when he just goes for it. The ending of Tell Me You Love Me, the opening track, the chorus of Landslide, etc.

    One of my favourite things about Adz is the rollercoaster of sounds, it went from 0 to 100 then back down to 0 again. Here it feels like it’s consistently stuck at 50 - it’s not a bad but you do wonder what could have been with either a bit more variation or editing.

    nn this is all a bit of a first reaction anyway, and I can already feel it creeping into one of my favourite releases of the year with a bit more time.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.