“That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.” — Ernest Hemingway

It used to be so easy to think of Sufjan Stevens as happy guy. He made great music, he sang like an angel, he loved Jesus. But a recent interview with Sufjan has shown us that Sufjan’s life is not so simple. The interview seems to show that Sufjan has lost faith in music, or at least, publicized and distributed music. He points out how the industry has changed, and how the album no longer holds up. Because of this, he feels that his concepts can never be fully realized. He goes as far as to say, “What is the point? What’s the point of making music anymore?” He then finds fault in himself, explaining that, “I’m starting to get sick of my conceptual ideas. I’m tired of these grand, epic endeavors…”

So has Sufjan maintained his faith in God as he has lost his faith in music? I know that many musicians have tried to find happiness through either medium and often switch between the two. Most notable Bob Dylan, who became a Born Again Christian during the 80’s after growing up Jewish.

I also find the comparison between Sufjan and Jeff Mangum interesting. Mangum had similar struggles with religion, and also, had the experience of creating a work of art that is considered a masterpiece. For Sufjan, Illinois is the work of a life time, much like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. These albums are culminations of these artist’s lives. Conceptualized by one creator. Soon after the release of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Mangum announced that Neutral Milk Hotel would not release anymore albums.

“I guess I had this idea that if we all created our dream we could live happily ever after. So when so many of our dreams had come true and yet I still saw that so many of my friends were in a lot of pain … I saw their pain from a different perspective and realized that I can’t just sing my way out of all this suffering.”

-Jeff Mangum


The Books

October 15, 2009

I saw The Books a few weeks ago at the Luminary Arts Center in St. Louis. It was a really wonderful show. This video was played behind them as they recreated the soundtrack. It made me realize that listening to The Books on CD is only getting half of the experience.

The Flaming Lips: Embryonic

October 13, 2009

The twelfth studio album by The Flaming Lips, Embryonic, is out today. I bought it from my local record store Euclid Records.

Thoughts: This album is abrasive in many ways. The drums sounds, the guitar tones, the… whatever sounds. Because of this, I couldn’t hear it at first. I went in expecting something to the extent of a… neo-psychedelic spacey pop-rock anthem, but Embryonic is just not that, and it really really does not want to be. That being said, Embryonic is very amazing. The album works as an album. The themes and sounds build periodically to form multiple high points, and in the end, a very clear product. freaky strangeness.

Listening: This album is meant to completely fill a space with sound. The dynamic range is huge. The frequency range is huge. There is so much to be heard. Thus, you should listen to it on speakers… and nice ones.

Warning: I would not listen to Embryonic with headphones unless your only other option is laptop speakers. This is for a few reasons…

  1. Loudness: This album is recorded to be LOUD.
  2. Transients: Embryonic is filled with quick hits and transients that your ear is not expecting, many of which are high pitched, covered in fuzz, or extremely loud. This can be painful or even damaging to your hearing. I know that after I listened to this album in headphones my ears just felt so tired.
  3. Panning: There is a lot of hard panning in Embryonic. This sounds really interesting through a stereo, but when there is no bleed from ear to ear it is often disorienting or even annoying.
  4. Length: Having headphones or ear buds in your ears for 70 minutes is just hard to do sometimes. It isn’t good if your ears are in pain.