Dear Mr. Supercomputer-Sufjan Stevens

This is one of the sluttiest songs I have ever heard, and I can’t think of a higher compliment to give to any song.  By slutty, of course, I refer to its promiscuous use of styles and rhythms, stolen from other fantastic artists.  It is also potentially the only songs I know of that is primarily written in 7/8 time.  In this case, they syncopation is written in a 3-2-2 rhythm, so if you are counting the rhythm out loud (as I frequently do), you can follow the song by counting 1-2-3-1-2-1-2 for each bar.  Who the hell thinks of this?

First, listen to the track

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.  Then listen again.  Maybe one more time.  OK, now take a break, come back, and listen one last time.  Finally read on …

The track comes from the recent compilation of outakes from Illinois, titled The Avalanche.  In many ways, the outtakes, rather than being just throw-aways, represent a parallel and organized version of Illinois.  This is easily the best track on the CD, possibly better or equal to any other Sufjan Stevens song ever written.

What are the influences?  Here’s what I come up with.  The introduction, which is the only part of the song in 4/4 time (more likely 8/8 time) begins with a Philp Glass minimalistic theme.  You know the kind of builds slowly and moves fluidly in bladilaidabldialdlald kind of way until 10 minutes later and your brain has been beaten into submission?  Then the trumpets come in and play a very Stereolab rhythm, which incidentally was stolen almost verbatum from Imperial Teen (again, that’s a good thing).  The song abruptly changes into its highly syncopated 7/8 all Sufjan all the time song.  It’s sublime genius.  I get weepy listening to how good the song is.  A few abrupt tempo changes happen here and there with little mildly jazzy Sea and the Cake moments, but song always gets back on track.  The other amazing highlight in the middle is a moment where a robotic voice sings, “One two three four five six seven, all computers go to heaven” – a direct homage to The Beatles Abbey Road.  As can be expected from any Sufjan Stevens song, there are probably 15 different musical instruments in the arrangement, each more obscure and beautifully blended than the next.

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