Sufjan Stevens teams up with fellow musician Angelo de Augustine to create the most beautiful folk you will hear this year. Sufjan really broke through with his record Come on Feel the Illinois in 2005. This record was a mix of indie musical arrangements and a fragile / beautiful folk vocal that launched the indie folk scene. Since that record, Stevens will dip in and out of his indie folk roots as he explores electronic music and other genres. However, I always find myself gravitating towards the folk influenced part of his catalogue.
Musically, Sufjan is a genius in how he can intertwine so many instruments flawlessly. The instrumentation behind this track is like a fine gold rope where these individual strands of guitars, keyboards, strings and chimes all rape around each other into a cohesive whole. Everything seems to fit so well to create this dreamlike state where you envision yourself running through the woods next to a babbling creek. The music in this track is beautiful and inspiring, which will play a big role when we look at the vocal / themes within this track.
First of all, Sufjan and Angelo harmonise extremely well and fit right in with the larger musical arrangement. I have always loved the fragility and beauty in Sufjan’s vocal, which pairs seamlessly with piano and acoustic guitar. They sing about pain, restoration, nature, spirituality and defiance. Stevens has always explored issues of faith, belief and Christianity in his music. He often has a tenuous relationship with religion and will contrast that dogmatic system with more organic / natural spirituality. For example, he sings: “Now my life has been erased / And what I gave, I gave for you / And for myself and for the holy name” which draws strong connections to Christianity, but also to spirituality more generally. He also sings about wanting to be the flower and not the ocean. Sufjan wants to reach out to that singular beauty as opposed to the ocean’s vastness. For Sufjan, one needs to reach out from the pain and let a spiritual connection restore you. For him, the spiritual is the personal and reaching out for connection.
Sufjan’s music is often fun to listen to, but also lyrically complex. Reach Out is no different; where religious imagery, allusions to Jesus Christ, as well as descriptions of nature and pain run throughout the song. It is great to see Stevens go back to his folk roots and his collaboration with Augustine has created a beautiful and thought provoking track.
Listen to Reach Out