the ‘seven swans’ project feels like an epic work, especially when the holy moments hit: such as when sufjan meets lord during “seven swans”, or, when sufjan narrates the process of dying and growing wings on “we won’t need legs to stand”.
stevens exhibits a sense of unrelenting determination on this equably crazed folk album.
there are certain nonsecular events within ‘seven swans’ which completely impress. the underlying themes of christianity pit the listener in visceral, poignant situations. in “the transfiguration”, there is a description of jesus and three of his disciples encountering moses and elijah during the transfiguration of christ. meanwhile, “abraham” tells the biblical story of abraham and how he was commanded to sacrifice his son. also, in “seven swans“, the events closely relate to the book of revelation.
sufjan stevens’ hallowed musical vision is what propels ‘seven swans’ into one of his top tier works.
creating and recording something such as ‘seven swans’ requires someone exceedingly bold and tenacious. it takes true guts to make an album that feels this intimately personal, religious, and risky.
‘seven swans’ is arguably sufjan stevens’ most overtly religious major work. due to this, ‘seven swans’ sounds grander than most other albums, including any by sufjan stevens himself.
aside from biblical references, sufjan stevens also uses multiple songs to reference and pay tribute to the writer flannery o’connor. for “in the devil’s territory” sufjan takes the title phrasing from a direct quote of o’connor’s. stevens uses related elements from o’connor’s works as obstacles throughout “in the devil’s territory”.
“in the devil’s territory” is one of the calmest, most peaceful songs on ‘seven swans’, despite its lyrics, in which sufjan encounters witches and monsters.
sufjan stevens also takes influence from flannery o’connor on “a good man is hard to find”. the dark, ominous storytelling is inspired by a short story of the same name by o’connor. sufjan narrates in first person from the shoes of the misfit character from the short story.
sufjan’s musical awareness is exceptional. he spreads intricate details throughout the music, and he interweaves perspective into the lyrics. sufjan takes any listener and puts them in the place of the narrator. all of the melancholic, observational lyrics compound into a singular album which achieves the improbable.
for ‘seven swans’, sufjan stevens becomes a musical madman: he begins hearing voices and personally confronts biblical situations.
sufjan’s 2004 effort, ‘seven swans’, is the predecessor to 2005’s ‘illinoise’ (one of the most historically well received albums ever released). the sessions of ‘seven swans’ demonstrate stevens’ full control of the music, and that musical control foreshadows sufjan’s power and individualism circa 2005.
the unimaginable success of ‘illinoise’ may be a direct result of the under-consumed “seven swans”. sufjan’s 2004 work reaches the same territory of insane quality as his 2005 work to follow. i believe that while ‘seven swans’ is not as diverse or long as ‘illinoise’, it is of the same quality and level of success.
‘seven swans’ is a comforting album which feels like being near the warmth during an icy wintertime. sufjan stevens shall be treasured for eternity based off this specific album.
‘seven swans’ is unlike any other album in existence in many regards. the laid back folk of ‘seven swans’ does eventually consist of some drastic changes in dynamics. it is rare for a folk project to turn, and to sound as dense as “sister” or “seven swans” do. these few instances convey the importance and spirituality of their respective moments.
for ‘seven swans’, sufjan tells stories with inclusive atmospherics, thus pulling the listener into the lyrics in ways that most musical works cannot. there are lots of uses of the senses throughout the album lyrics, as one can actually feel, see, and hear what sufjan describes.
the music occasionally rises into intense passages. songs like “sister” display the heaviness of the spiritualistic atmospheres. whereas “to be alone with you” utilizes vague phrasing, minimalism, symbolism to profound affect.
sufjan’s charismatic efforts for ‘seven swans’ pay off, as mr. stevens accomplishes his first - and by my count, only - complete work to properly astonish the listener with devout writings and ethereal recordings.
‘seven swans’ has a gradual journey through select themes and emotions. this proves to move the listener in a powerful manner, foreshadowing the emotional devastation of ‘carrie and lowell’.