Sufjan Stevens - The Ascension
Critic Score
Based on 32 reviews
2020 Ratings: #111 / 685
User Score
Based on 680 ratings
2020 Ratings: #77
Liked by 40 people
September 25, 2020 / Release Date
LP / Format
Asthmatic Kitty / Label
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music.sufjan.com / Website
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CRITIC REVIEWS

100
Record Collector

A joyous blend of dumb fun and sonic smarts with the talent that Stevens has been peddling for nearly 20 years to glue them together, this feels a fresh start in a career that didn’t exactly need one. Somehow, a wonderful surprise. Wow.

100
The Arts Desk

The richness and depth of the album calls for repeated and careful listening. Sufjan Stevens is a master of sound who makes its creative manipulation appear so easy.

100
Exclaim!

It may very well be his most challenging and ambitious undertaking to date as well as a sign of the new era of Stevens to come.

100
The Independent

Though some might find the odd track a bit noodly, I was rendered wonderfully weightless by a journey that delivered whole galaxies of nuance in a universal context.

91
Consequence of Sound

The Ascension is one of Sufjan Stevens’ grandest, most ambitious works yet, and that’s quite the feat considering he’s one of the most ambitious musicians in his genre.

90
musicOMH

The Ascension sees him lay down new paths while very much corroborating his special, loved status.

90
God Is in the TV

On this album he is sharing a more obscure, richly detailed approach which does an awful lot with a small, focused collection of sounds

90
Spill Magazine

The Ascension demonstrates a great deal of growth, expansion, and experimentation in Sufjan Stevens’ work.  Not only is it one of his best album–if not his best–it is clearly a contender for Album Of The Year.

90
DIY
The record provides an expansive canvas for Sufjan to critique the flaws of humanity, at the same time finding room for the inward focus that made his previous offering so compelling.
85
Under The Radar

The Ascension harks back to the heavy electronics of 2010’s Age of Adz but with adroit focus on the themes of existential dread and the quest for meaning with a bounty of angry yet hopeful songs that satisfy melodically and metaphysically.

80
FLOOD Magazine

The Ascension is almost too anxious to bear, but always draws you into its gravitational pull. In short, it’s a 2020 album about self-healing and the wounds that are still fresh.

80
Clash

There’s a stunning candour to the lyrics, though it gets a little stodgy in the mid-section and, at 80+ minutes, is a little more verbiage than the typical album. Yet we’re dealing with an untypical songwriter, and the last two tracks are among the best he’s ever written.

80
NME
As the horror show that is 2020 continues to rumble on, ‘The Ascension’ is yet another ample soundtrack to rage-dance to.
80
Paste

A sonic sibling to 2010’s electro-pop Age of Adz and a direct follow-up to 2015’s autobiographical, folk-orchestral Carrie and Lowell, The Ascension looks outward.

80
Crack Magazine

These are grand themes and, throughout, the record cosmically fuses together the epic and intimate.

80
Northern Transmissions
Stevens has said that this is his more pessimistic record yet but with him crafting this album, one with so much thoughtfulness to it, shows that ultimately while he is upset with how things are in the current climate, he cares enough to air his grievances in this intriguing, beautiful and quite sprawling way.
80
The Observer

The Ascension’s maximalist reckoning finds his horror at national affairs mirroring his own inner turbulence.

80
No Ripcord
Stevens doesn’t feel the need to defend himself; he trusts that, this time, we know he’s not fucking around, delivering a confident album that runs through with hooks and synthesized textures that reach sky-high and often get there.
80
AllMusic

The Ascension ranks with Carrie & Lowell as his most personal and affecting work to date.

75
The Line of Best Fit

Both lyrically and musically, The Ascension appears to be driven by feeling rather than intense intellectualism. Here Stevens’ lyrics are suggestive, initiating a slow-burn response from the listener rather than the immediate dagger-to-the-heart specificity of Carrie & Lowell.

75
A.V. Club

A bloated and often beautiful portrait of political and emotional anxiety that longs for nothing more than to break away from the systems that brought us to this current moment.

75
Spectrum Culture

Certainly The Ascension is by no means perfect. Yet, Sufjan Stevens has created a work that deserves to heard. The more one listens, the more once begins to appreciate the density of this work and its ability to transform expectations.

72
Beats Per Minute

There are undoubtedly some breathtaking songs on The Ascension, but its weaker moments instill a nagging feeling that the 80-minute album tends to overstay its welcome.

70
Uncut
On this sometimes obstinate, sometimes sublime record, Stevens shows he contains multitudes.
70
Loud and Quiet
The Ascension may become something of a white elephant in Stevens’ discography: an album of lavish assembly, clearly of immense importance to its creator, and, during its best moments, impressively riveting, but also, you suspect, one that few will revisit in its presented form – a record that only the most devoted of Sufjan stans will be able to swallow whole.
70
Pitchfork
Exhaustive, dense, and detailed, Sufjan Stevens’ electro-opus is another huge artistic leap that speaks plainly to complicated emotions and attempts to rebuild his sound from the ground up.
70
The Sydney Morning Herald
On his eighth album, Stevens has gone back to the future to soundtrack the current moment, sitting alone at his computer and thinking about the way the world is going (hint: to hell in a handcart) and how he could address that. Answer: English synth-pop from the early '80s. But instead of just using it as window dressing, he subsumes that sound and tries to repurpose it for 2020.
60
Slant Magazine

While Stevens often reaches great heights on The Ascension, he almost as often seems to get lost in his big ideas.

60
Mojo

Both beguiling and frustrating, The Ascension is complex, bold and oddly lovable.

60
American Songwriter

Ultimately, it’s those ethereal effects that color this album and give it its feel overall. You might  find yourself scratching your head repeatedly, but in the end, you’ll feel like you’ve been strangely seduced.

60
The Needle Drop

Though generally not lacking in beauty or scale, The Ascension has a handful of somewhat grating moments that make it harder to love as a holistic experience.

50
Sputnikmusic

The various depressive quips throughout Ascension feel more like self-parody than self-affirmation. On the upside, there is plenty of instrumental variety, though the lack of focus seems more the result of meandering at-home synth exploration than innovation.

MasterCrackfox
92
Sufjan Stevens is a very different person than he was in his late twenties. Starting with his breakout indie-folk record Michigan which started the brief idea he would release an album representing each state in the US, the stellar and similarly bright Illinois being the only follow-up to that concept, Stevens had a period of time where he was the poster-boy for positivity in the indie scene; a carefree and whimsical songwriter. Seven Swans, which came in between those two releases, was a ... read more
JacksonLerner
90
the complexity of ‘the ascension’ is perfectionism; the mixing is insane, so congrats to suf for that. this is the most direct mr. Stevens has ever been, and the honesty shines through.

this first “major” release in five years is nOTHING that i expected, for even after hearing ‘aporia’ and all of his extremely experimental electronic projects, this is shockingly different

“make me an offer i can not refuse” begins with a showcase of dreamy, ... read more
TheTourist90
85
"I shit my pants and wet the bed"

Man, I’ve been so excited for this album, it was honestly my most anticipated album of the year. And so after listening to it, I can say… That the hyped lived on to this album! Though let me get something straight, This is much different album than something like Carrie & Lowell and Illinois, because Sufjan Stevens dropped the whole folk genre and go for more experimental electronic sounds, I think some fans will be disappointed, and ... read more
TreyLikesBands
76
When a God Returns At the End (or, Virtuoso Thoughts in D Minor)

Sufjan Stevens is heralded as one of the most influential musical acts of the 21st century.
So, what’s his take on 21st century culture? Meet “The Ascension”.

Stevens surrounds himself in the harsh, desolate world of electronics on his newest venture, more so than on “The Age of Adz” (previously his most computerized eccentricity). The highlights here are the gratifyingly jagged instrumentals, which ... read more
N0stalgia
77
2020 MUST HEAR ALBUM #38

If Sufjan Stevens' recent work has been anything to go by, I was really expecting a low-key and slow burning album coming into this without having heard any of the singles. Well, let's just say that 'The Ascension' took all the expectations I had, and threw them out the window, off a twelve storey building.

No more half-assed dabbling with undercooked ideas like on 'Aporia', THIS is an album well worthy of Sufjan's discography and an exciting new direction for the ... read more
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Track List

  1. Make Me An Offer I Cannot Refuse
  2. Run Away With Me
  3. Video Game
  4. Lamentations
  5. Tell Me You Love Me
  6. Die Happy
  7. Ativan
  8. Ursa Major
  9. Landslide
  10. Gilgamesh
  11. Death Star
  12. Goodbye To All That
  13. Sugar
  14. The Ascension
  15. America
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Added on: June 30, 2020