The Fey Highwayman

On Sufjan Stevens's indulgent, hula-hoop-plagued BQE symphony

I'm not clear on why he says this exactly, whether he's unhappy with the tune's occasionally cheap sentiment or just its prurient details. In any event, it's proof of how much thought goes into this, to what extent self-doubt and second-guessing can plague him. It also suggests evolution. The night's real highlight is a new dead-rock tune, "Majesty Snowbird." At 10 solid minutes, it's reliably sprawling and overwrought, and before it begins, Sufjan and the non-orchestral portion of his band all slap on giant theater-production wings. Cute, cute, cute. But the melody that beats back this excess is a killer, an echo of angelic voices and melodramatic strings that somehow makes Sufjan sound even more isolated and lonely. The chorus it eventually arrives at is simple and unencumbered by useless almanac trivia:

Don't stop
Don't break
You can delight because
you have a place
Quiet room
I need you now.

photo: Elena Dahl

I'm seizing on that I need you now, squeezed out in his frail falsetto, as evidence that Sufjan Stevens doesn't need a 15,000-piece orchestra and reams of road-atlas whimsy to hit his mark, to tear you up as he brings the house down. It's the mark of a mega-talent who can one day ditch the crutches, dismantle the training wheels, shed the wings, and cast aside the hula hoops.

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