Thurs July 29
1 SW 3rd
Unconditional hometown love means the honest acceptance of flaws, not the delusional depiction of utopian conditions. Greetings from Michigan, the 2003 release that Sufjan Stevens' label Asthmatic Kitty just reissued on vinyl, branded Detroit as a "concrete prison," decrying its "infidelity" over a fragile string of morose minimalist notes.
But Michigan isn't all burned-out buildings and wasted-life warehouse tedium. Stevens captures its photogenic postcard moments too, penning persuasive "wish you were here" invitations as enchanting as any sunset scene. Detroit can make its artists aggressive and outlandish, Stevens, wields a wistful whisper, composing subtle symphonies with his muted trumpets and delicately plinked piano melodies.
On Stevens' most recent album Seven Swans, he heeds the call of a different muse, clarifying the oblique religious references that had dotted previous work with boldfaced references to Him.
Whether expressing his beliefs or exhorting his birthplace, Stevens makes music that could matter to, say, an Alaskan atheist. The spiritual songs aren't preachy, and the Michigan material acts as an absorbing tour guide rather than a string of obscure native-only nods. Even at epic lengths, Stevens' compositions remain accessible, with hovering harmonies and complex countermelodies that stilt-walk over a simple, catchy core.
Touring with a full band called the Michigan Militia, Stevens will likely stick to work from Michigan and Seven Swans. But it's worth noting that he has a wild card in his catalog, an eccentric electronic indulgence called Enjoy Your Rabbit, which assigns separate bursts of programmed noise to each sign of the Chinese Zodiac. Taken in the context of his catalog, it's the Detroit in his Michigan, an indelicate industrial district in a placid peninsula.