Sufjan Stevens’ “Seven Swans,” Ten Years Later…


“Seven Swans” was one of those albums that stayed in heavy rotation for months after I first bought it, and it has remained a staple in my music archives for the past ten years. The beautifully sparse banjo plucking and sweetly subdued vocals that open the first track, “All The Trees of The Field Will Clap Their Hands,” instantly captivated me and seemed to transport me to a different time and space when I closed my eyes and just listened. And ten years later, that feeling hasn’t changed; I still feel something magical and indescribable whenever I listen to this album. It still feels unique, relevant, and ahead of its time even now.

I’ve always been drawn to artists who are enigmatic and hard to categorize, so it made sense that I would fully appreciate Sufjan Stevens and his exquisite, ever evolving body of work. While I love all of his albums, “Seven Swans” is the one I listen to most often (and always straight through, from start to finish) because of its more stripped down, reflective nature. Although the instrumentation is intricately crafted, multi layered, and diverse, just as it is on “Michigan” or “Illinoise,” the sound and lyrics are more intimate and personal on this particular album. The songs on “Seven Swans” are the kind that quietly slip deep into your psyche, leaving you with a sort a dull ache you can’t quit articulate, but that feels so powerful and so good.

When many of my favorite albums from my high school and college years resurface in my listening, it’s for the sake of nostalgia, and the music feels frozen in a specific period of time. Certain albums and artists sound “so 2002 or 2004” when we listen to them 10 or 12 years later, but this isn’t the case with “Seven Swans.” The songs, and the way in which they seamlessly coalesce to create an artful tapestry of an album, sound timeless and ageless and not necessarily tied to one specific period of my young adulthood. Art is often imitated and an artist’s music often sounds reminiscent of another artist’s work, but I have yet to listen to an album or even a song that sounds reminiscent of “Seven Swans.” It’s such a singular, iconic work of art that is unlike just about anything that came before it, and would be almost impossible and futile to try to replicate or imitate. So, it will rightfully hold its place among my most treasured albums of all time, and I will always delight in listening to it from its subtle, sparse beginning to its elegant, epic finale.