March Preview: Celebrating the songs of Sufjan Stevens

I don't know about you, but I gravitate toward different music depending on the season. Spring can be a mixed bag for me: Sometimes I want swanky rock like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and sometimes I want my musical high school sweethearts like REM & The Smashing Pumpkins. In the summertime when the sun is high and the air is warm, I feel like reliving my college days with a little Jimmy Eat World, or maybe some intelligent dance pop like Goldfrapp, Robyn, or The Gossip, singing along while I drive winding county roads with the windows rolled down. Fall is a moody mix that oscillates between sad Americana like Gillian Welch, and ethereal rock like a A Perfect Circle. Winter, however, belongs to Sufjan Stevens.

I'll begin the season with his holiday albums (he saved Christmas music for me, but more on that in Week 2), and just spirals out of control into straight up binging on his beautiful, sad music. Ugh. Is there anything better than sad music?

For the uninitiated, Asthmatic Kitty's website most eloquently describes his musical charm as mixing "autobiography, religious fantasy, and regional history to create folk songs of grand proportions." Folk songs of grand proportions. That about sums it up.

Sufjan's feelings run large, and so does his music. While some of his songs definitely employ a sweeping drama from time to time, the largeness of his music also comes through in his moments of subtlety. The songs I've chosen to cover this month run the gamut between both ends of that spectrum, illustrating what I think makes him such a masterful storyteller. They are:

Sufjan fans will notice that there are many holes here. In fact, his first few albums aren't represented at all. That's not because I don't think they're worth writing about, or that I don't like them. I, like many people, first heard Stevens when he released Illinois, and that's the album my emotional attachment to his work grew from. And since there are only five weeks in March, I needed to be choosy. Every week I'll explore why I chose that particular song, and how I developed the resulting cocktail (with free recipe, of course). And because choosing just five Sufjan songs was ridiculous, I'll include others from the corresponding album (or outtakes & extras, as needed) to make myself feel better for not including some of my favorites in that list above.

If you're a Sufjan fan: Which five songs would you choose? Let me know in the comments below!

PS Once Upon a Time returns on March 1st, and I've got some other projects in the works for you... Follow me on Instagram for extra cocktail recipes (and, let's be real: dog photos).

*Unaffiliated links. These go to the album page where you can listen to the songs and/or purchase the album, which you should totally do if you haven't already.

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