Sufjan Stevens Seven Swans

As if the daunting task of releasing a record dedicated to each of America’s 50 states were not enough, the prolific Sufjan Stevens strays from his goal-oriented path with Seven Swans. Well, sort of. The 12 tracks on this disc are all overflow from the first of his to-be series, Greetings From Michigan, The Great Lake State. But these songs are certainly not worthless superfluity. Sufjan’s ease of creativity seems to be what does and will continue to propel him through his lofty ambitions. He emotes a sense of contemplative collected cool that comes through in his music, be he playing atop a cast of other friendly musicians — who, in this case appear to be a stack of Smiths from the Danielson Famile (Daniel Smith is producer and occasional musician) — or on his near-lonesome. It’s here, in the sort of solidarity of "To Be Alone with You,” that Stevens is most surprisingly effective. Lazily grand instrumentation and companionship temporarily on hold, Stevens’s weighty sincerity can pull you in pretty deep. The record’s smart, literary sense is delivered in dozy hushed tones and Stevens’s musical agility is affirmed though his competence in miniature ranges of divergence when he positions simple, folky banjo songs beside bigger choir/guitar medleys like "Sister” and "A Good Man is Hard to Find.” What’s to come is nothing less than unquestionably promising. (Sounds Familyre)