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See all 21 tracks on this disc
Asthmatic Kitty announces a new edition of 'A Sun Came' the 1999 debut album by Sufjan Stevens. Widely acclaimed for 'Michigan' (2003), & 'Seven Swans' (2004), singer/songwriter Sufjan Steven's first solo collection has been skillfully remastered, with two previously unreleased tracks & new art by Stephen Halker. A stunning blend of 60s psychedelic pop influences with middle-eastern & east Indian musical touches & a trace of experimental noise.
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Top Customer Reviews
It opens with the slightly medieval flavour of "We Are What You Say," with a stately flute-and-tambourine melody. Sufjan solemnly announces that "we are a servant/we have a song" and finishing up with the reverant "The Spirit is life/We are what You say," right before the music swirls off into a mad tangle of Renaissance acid-folk.
Things get indie-rockier with the catchy flute-and-guitar of "A Winner Needs a Wand," grimy "Demetrius," and the breathless, ghostly folk tune of "Rake." From there on, Stevens explores a half dozen different styles: fuzzy indiepop, more medievalish folk-rock, sparkling lo-fi stuff, glitchpop, shimmering rock, sweeping synth-folk, a sitar dance tune, and much more.
A lot of artists don't really know what they're doing when they first start out, or what kind of music they'll be most talented at. Given that Sufjan Stevens explores at least a dozen kinds of music in "A Sun Came," all completely different, it's pretty clear that he was exploring the styles.
And for the most part, he's successful -- there are some weird moments, like the awkward Beckesque "Super Sexy Woman," but far more like "Joy! Joy! Joy!", a mad squiggle of blips that rearrange into a shimmering, scratchy little pop tune. The different styles are tied together with Stevens' unique flourishes -- oddball synth, smooth acoustic guitar, and mellow piano, as well as some indie-rock grind, bells, keyboard, sweet flute and some odd scratches.Read more ›
Some of the highlights of the album are the hilarious 'Godzuki' which is a recording of Sufjan's brother and sister doing a little improv, Sufjan's siblings Djohariah and Marzuki sound like they are 7 or 8, really innocent and having fun making up a little skit. The improv banter that goes on is like anyone would have done at that age just spitting off ideas, ideas about "boogers" and made up names with strange accents. "Super Sexy Woman" alone is worth getting this album, it is like the falsetto of Jeff Buckley meeting the more acoustic part of Beck's "Mellow Gold" mixed with about an undergraduate's worth of smarts and humour. "A Sun Came!" (as an album) is a varied beast with great displays of lyrical prowess and brilliant endevours into compositional and arranging technique. Sufjan, like on Michigan and Illinoise, knows how to hit an emotional core - check out the ending to "A Winner Needs a Wand", the last two minutes (because of the wonderful musical choices made) really hits some sort of center. Or, basically listen to "The Oracle Said Wander", it contains a galaxy of sounds and emotion.Read more ›
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On a side note, I noticed an occasional pre-Mellow Gold Beck feel on some of the songs such as "Demetrius" and "Super Sexy Woman," largely due to the scratchy, atonal guitars and falsetto harmonies. Additionally, A Sun Came! also features short snippets of strange dialogue between songs and a couple noise excursions ("Rice Pudding" "Satan's Saxophones") akin to some of Beck's work before cleaning up his act. As a result, the album is a push-and-pull between astounding creative originality and somewhat derivative noise experiments. Overall, it is definatly essential listening for fans of Sufjan--and I'd also recommend fans of Beck's early work to check it out.
And Sufjan Stevens does just that.
In the course of 4 short albums, he's proven that he is a new undaunted master of folk music, but transcends convention time and time again. While "Michigan" and "Seven Swans" are both albums of lush, sweet beauty (and depression as well, to be fair), nothing comes to match his powerful, dirty, experimental yet still resoundingly sound debut album, "A Sun Came."
He throws in childish voice-altered interludes here and there (which actually BLATANTLY RECALL those on Beck's "Stereopathic Soul Manure" LP), adding to the odd whimsy of the album. Yes, he does add some blatant throwaway tracks ("Satan's Saxophones" and "Rice Pudding"), which are just experimental instrumental noodling. The interludes aren't all that bad - they use absurdist humor to break up the dramtic flow and serve as well-placed "restart" buttons for the listener. Because sometimes they're needed ...
... simply because you are overwhelmed by the music. Layers upon layers of acoustic guitars, woodwinds, panpipes, and countless other instruments are mixed together in a startling array of melody. Best example of this is "A Winner Needs a Wand" - pianos lead to a dark acoustic melody, which in turn leads to flutes and pipes blaring in during the chorus, a stream of voices near the climax and a near heavy-metal guitar outro - and it all makes sense. The sweet "lost tape" sound of "Happy Birthday" proves to be almost heartbreaking each time you listen. The mostly instrumental "Wordsmith's Ridge" could easily be used for the emotional climax of some unmade film, and the blissfully irrelevant and stupidly fun "Super Sexy Woman" shows that it's not full-on seriousness all the time.
Sufjan gets most interesting when he experiments within the confines of conventional melody. As a matter of fact, "Demetrius" and "The Oracle Said Wander" sound almost EXACTLY like Pavement B-sides. The distorted vocals and propulsive drums of "Jason" create a haunting effect. And, best of all, the song that sounds like NOTHING else on the album (though only available on the re-release) is a little ditty called "Joy! Joy! Joy!" - it's a melodious electro-stomp of a number that's as excitable and state-of-the-art as any dance song out there but still bounded in Sufjan's simple vocals and human warmth.
All of this goes before mentioning his lyrics, which go from absurd to profoundly meaningful in a heartbeat. If you need further proof of his lyrical brilliance, simply listen to "Rake."
Even with the few failed experiments, the seemingly inappropiate humor, and attempts to jump all over the place, this album is in a class by itself - it's a powerful, haunting, infinitely repeatable album that reveals more with each listen. It may be a bit inaccessible at first, but, given time, this can grow to be an all-time favorite.
While the music definately has the Sufjan touch, it feels raw and underdeveloped in comparisson to Michigan and Seven Swans. There are annoying little skits and songs that feel like "joke songs." Perhaps the worst songs feel like nothing more than a bad Captain Beefheart parody.
After all the filler is culled out, you've got ten to twelve songs, which range from decent to great. They have a middle eastern flair to them, which adds to the charm. Some of the best songs are in the first four tracks of the album, including the infectious chorus of that Rake song.
The artwork has a great mythology feel to it, however, that is trumped by the simply stunning picture inside of a seemingly unrelated female (the credits list her as the photographer... but how many photographers get their own picture in an album they didn't make?).
All in all the album is a good pick up for Sufjan fans, though I wouldn't reccomend it until getting "Michigan" and "Seven Swans".
The album starts out strong - the first three tracks are highly enjoyable. There is a celtic feel throughout many of the tracks which is enjoyable and ties many of the tracks together. I find the skits somewhat bothersome and rather unecessary, but I am able to look past it and enjoy the rest of the tracks.
More than half the tracks are 5 Star worthy, which makes this album essential for any fan of Sufjan.