Album Cover
Sufjan Stevens
Seven Swans
Sounds Familyre
March 16, 2004


Sufjan Stevens released his previous album only seven months ago. Spending years slowly experimenting with different styles (post-rock, electronic what have you), he'd finally found one that was a hit with Michigan, and so has immediately plopped out more of the same; Seven Swans is the full-priced expansion pack to the recent hit game, but unlike any Sims add-on, Seven Swans actually makes your game more enjoyable. This isn't more-of-the-same-actually-worse-for-being-the-same the same; this is more-of-the-same-still-great-great-very-good the same, and even having been rushed out in such a hurry, it meets up to its high expectations and even marginally surpasses its horribly likable predecessor.

It's not about a state, though. Those of you who were into Suffy solely for his militant Michiganderism will be sorely disappointed, but you are most likely the sort who don't count for much of anything. Seven Swans is composed of odes to love and family and, alarmingly often, God. The lyrics are as well-composed but ultimately unimportant as they ever were; the simple but multifaceted melodies and sincere delivery are the big selling points, and that point is magnified by Sufjan's increase in banjo showcasing - it was a gimmick that paid off wonderfully with Michigan, and does so again.

In "He Woke Me Up Again", Sufjan pulls off a better Phil Elvrum than Phil Elvrum's been able to do as of late, adding the banjo that we now see was missing from The Glow, pt 2. Despite their awkwardly religious lyrics ("He will take you / If you run, he will chase you / 'Cause he is the Lord", "Two men appeared / Moses and Elijah came", etc.), the title track and the following "Transfiguration" are the two highest high points - this album's "Oh Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!" or "Say Yes to Michigan!", sort of - and bring the album to a magnificent close. The rest of the highest points are more similar to Michigan's "Holland" or "Romulus", affecting acoustic songs with half-whispered lyrics (and more banjo).

Essentially, if you liked Michigan, you are 100% guaranteed to enjoy this album roughly as much, due to its being more or less exactly the same. Play "All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands" versus "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" and just try to tell the difference. The same or otherwise, though, Seven Swans is Stevens' best work yet. And word on the street is the next Michigan expansion pack will feature online multiplayer and let you have pets.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands
  2. The Dress Looks Nice On You
  3. In the Devil's Territory
  4. To Be Alone With You
  5. Abraham
  6. Sister
  7. Size Too Small
  8. We Won't Need Legs to Stand
  9. A Good Man is Hard to Find
  10. He Woke Me Up Again
  11. Seven Swans
  12. The Transfiguration