You Are The Blood – Sufjan Stevens

I literally cannot shut up about this song. I know that I have annoyed two of my friends to within an inch of their life by playing this song over and over. So, I think the best way to do this is to give the top 5 reasons why this is my favorite song right now;
1. It’s the last thing that I would have expected from Sufjan. He has made his fame by doing songs that are too fully orchestrated to be called folk, and yet sound like almost nothing else from the indie rock genre. Before this, I guess I had heard some electric bass and guitar on some tracks, and digital distortion on some of his throwaway songs from leftover compilations (like Seven Swans), but here he embraces everything from Radioheadesque noise to drum machines.
2. One of the features that I have always liked most from his music is the rich brass orchestration found in many of his songs. He does that and puts it on steroids. His brass sounds dark and rich, and with jazzy chords and precise rhythms that bring to mind 60’s film scores with jazz orchestras (think James Bond scores). Now that I write this, I would be extremely curious to hear a Sufjan Stevens film score.
3. Another one of my favorite things in all music is the postmodern concept of the mixture of high and low art. Often, the product of these marriages is irredeemably kitschy, like Tiësto’s Adagio for Strings. But when done right, and here I think it is, it can be unbelievably cool to go from a neo-Romantic piano cadenza to a drum machine and brass finale.
4. Another thing that I like a lot is that this song is unafraid to have a full dynamic range. This song has sections that are really quiet, while the loud parts could shake buildings. There has been a documented trend in popular music to make music uniformly louder, often by sacrificing dynamic range. It’s actually a little insulting. What you are basically saying to the musicians is to keep your music at a uniform level so that when we turn it down, it stays quiet so that we don’t have to listen to it (or, conversely, when people are bumping to your music, don’t blow out their speakers). I could do a whole other rant about how nobody actively listens to music anymore, but I don’t really want to.
5. Finally, I like what it says about Sufjan as an artist. I listened to the original version (a pretty good song by the Castanets), and it’s pretty cool to listen to that source, then hear the little nuances that must have given him ideas about how to interpret the song.
Here it is.

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