Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister - Planetarium
Critic Score
Based on 24 reviews
2017 Ratings: #416 / 719
User Score
Based on 168 ratings
2017 Ratings: #350
June 9, 2017 / Release Date
LP / Format
4AD / Label
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CRITIC REVIEWS

92
GIGsoup
“Planetarium” is much like looking up into the wondrous sky and seeing many beautiful stars, in that it takes a little while for the brain to absorb the surreal effect. Therefore, the more one listens to “Planetarium” play the more enlightened and pleasurable the listening experience becomes.
91
Pretty Much Amazing

Those who are solely fans of the acoustic heartbreak of Carrie and Lowell or the clear storytelling of Illinois will find this record obtuse and abrasive, but those ready to jump into the black hole and see what’s on the other side will find plenty to explore here.

90
Exclaim!

Planetarium does the solar system justice with almost every conceivable sound — from metallic auto-tune to rippling organ, to angelic strings and forceful horns — from four powerful multi-instrumentalists at the top of their respective games.

80
The Independent

Progressive may be the apt term, as the planet-themed Planetarium is the kind of overarching conceptual work once considered de rigueur by prog-rockers like Rush and Yes, albeit effected within a modern sonic vocabulary of programmed beats, synthesised electronics, complex horn and string arrangements, and auto-tuned vocals.

80
The Guardian
It manages to balance ambient force fields, 70s sci-fi synths, chiming guitars, sublime string arrangements, Caribou-like shimmer-pulses and Stevens’s penchant for R&B rhythms to majestic and yet weightless effect, creating an immersive, celestial space opera that’s best enjoyed loud, certainly in a live setting.
80
The 405
The album has clearly been something of a labour of love for its creators, and feels remarkably homogenous for something produced by four highly individual minds via a mixture of live and studio performance over several years.
80
Under The Radar

In its entirety, the ambition and scope of the project is matched by the combined talent and imagination of four musical friends whose association seemed to just emerge from the ether.

80
Clash
For the most part, the record warrants its own expansiveness as themes of self-doubt, isolation and faith slowly supernova among dazzling ambient instrumentals, careening string sections and Sufjan’s warped vocals that bring harmony, hope and futurism to the cold, dense expanse of space.
80
Uncut

It’s this sense of childlike awe at the stars above and the possibilities they represent which Planetarium most strongly evokes with its bold and varied take on the music of the spheres.

75
Northern Transmissions

While a tad long, this is a great ambitious record to say the least. The jaw-dropping moments really warrant its release and overall it proves cool ambitious projects this weird should still exist.

75
Consequence of Sound

The result is expansive and dense, if inconsistent, and scattered with gems.

72
Paste

To be sure, Planetarium is not perfect. That it hangs together as well as it does is a testament to the considerable talents of the people who created it.

70
Drowned in Sound

Planetarium only occasionally feels absolutely essential, but it never dips below ‘pretty good’.

70
PopMatters

Although overly padded and repetitious at times, Planetarium is a poignant, adventurous, and highly promising debut; if the quartet can trim the fat in the future, they’ll truly reach their potential.

60
God Is in the TV
There’s a reasonably solid Sufjan Stevens EP in here, and a majestic Nico Muhly film score, certainly. But for a record more than five years in the making, one might have hoped their stars would be more sweetly aligned by now.
60
AllMusic
It's a sprawling effort with an over-70-minute running time, but also a haunting one, recommended for musically adventurous stargazers of all types.
60
DIY

It’s beautifully crafted, but if there’s a major criticism to be had of ‘Planetarium,’ it’s that its sheer size and scope is almost as enormous as the universe itself – perhaps too enormous.

60
Pitchfork

Perhaps it’s because of the lack of a center to all this big-question reaching, or perhaps it’s because of its absurd detours, but I found much of Planetarium difficult to get close to.

58
A.V. Club

Though the finished product feels less like an album and more of a huge score that happens to feature Stevens’ unmistakable voice on most of its tracks. Notably missing from the entire affair: anything resembling a traditional chorus or pop structure.

50
musicOMH

Planetarium is a boldly ambitious statement from a lavishly talented group of individuals, but ultimately it doesn’t quite scale the lofty, intergalactic heights it aspires to.

50
Loud and Quiet
Five years on, the performances have been rearranged in the studio, and the result is a little akin to staring up into a planetarium’s dome: bewildering, sporadically beautiful, almost terrifyingly random, and not quite as satisfying as experiencing first hand the thing it’s depicting.
50
The Needle Drop

For an album inspired by the cosmos, Planetarium is lacking quite a bit in the way of flow and harmony.

76fex
NR
Daddy did it again, /and this time with friends
chessmess
70
I am a bit torn when it comes to this album. I had unreasonably high expectations after I heard Saturn and I was generally just stoked to see some of my favorite artists collaborate on such an expansive and ambitious project.

Firstly, the space/sci-fi atmosphere is definitely captured well. It is spacious, luscious but I cannot help but feel that it is sort of underwhelming too. The explosiveness of Saturn hooked me for weeks. The album, however, seems to completely stray away from this ... read more
scott96k
67
http://soulfeederweb.com/2017/06/sufjan-stevens-muhly-dessner-mcalister-planetarium-album-review/
zeyadreda
57
Pluto is a planet
Soul_Feeder
67
Planetarium, being an album about our solar system is just as ambitious and cinematic as you would expect. However, with a line-up of artists as impressive as this, along with the mystifying subject matter of our universe, it is underwhelming when some tracks don’t live up to the potential.

Read more at: http://soulfeederweb.com/2017/06/sufjan-stevens-muhly-dessner-mcalister-planetarium-album-review/
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END OF YEAR LISTS

#23/Under the Radar

Track List

  1. Neptune
  2. Jupiter
  3. Halley's Comet
  4. Venus
  5. Uranus
  6. Mars
  7. Black Energy
  8. Sun
  9. Tides
  10. Moon
  11. Pluto
  12. Kuiper Belt
  13. Black Hole
  14. Saturn
  15. In the Beginning
  16. Earth
  17. Mercury
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Added on: March 27, 2017