Sufjan Stevens may be the all-time indie king of concept albums, as he's currently doing the United States, and has managed two of the states so far.
But before that, he created another one: "Enjoy Your Rabbit," a whimsical, enchanting little album based on the Chinese zodiac. In other words, it has songs named after the dog, asthmatic cat (little pun there), rat, rooster, tiger, horse, dragon, monkey, ox, boar, snake, sheep... and the rabbit.
It opens with "Year of the Asthmatic Cat," which sounds a lot like a UFO landing... except creepier. It's followed by the sputtering glitchpop of "Year of the Monkey," which explodes into a seething mass of horns, synth, static, and stately gothic organ. By this point, you will probably be mesmerized.
From there, Sufjan Stevens tries out all kinds of glitchy, airy, noisy pop music -- dancey little pop that twirls around on itself, robotic dance, bubbly twittery stuff, breathless dancepop littered with weird noises, and even "Year of the Sheep," which is best described as electro space-folk. It finishes off with the sparkling epic "Year of The Horse," and ending with the spiritual, stately "Year Of Our Lord."
Stevens mashes together different sounds and styles, and not one song on "Enjoy Your Rabbit" can be described in fewer than three words. This is probably the least accessable of all of his work, but it's also perhaps the most charming and innocent. Anything that uses wind chimes as an instrument has to be.
Musically, it sounds like ordinary indiepop filtered through a broken music box. There are fragments of horn, bits of electronica both jagged and symphonic, stately organ, flutes, delicate chimes, clocks, and who knows what else. The title track even employs some punky guitar riffs alongside the chimes and electronic blips -- what more could you ask for?
There is one downside: Sufjan's voice. Yes, he does sing in this album, but not in many of the songs. And when he does sing, it's very low-key -- yes, even that choirlike singing at the very end. There aren't really any lyrics either.
It's radically different from all his other work, but Sufjan Stevens's quirky, scattered melodies make sure you will "Enjoy Your Rabbit." Clever and charming.