You know that you’re in for a good song when, upon hearing the first few notes, you are already completely locked in. That’s exactly what happened to us when we pressed play on Sufjan Stevens’ hypnotic new song ‘Sugar’. Naturally, it had to be our Track of the Day.
The song comes as a preview of the Detroit indie legend’s eighth record, The Ascension, which arrives next week on September 25th via Asthmatic Kitty Records. It’s a welcome return for the singer-songwriter as the first full-length release since the beautifully heartbreaking Carrie & Lowell and judging by this release, it will be one of Stevens’ best.
Sufjan Stevens is back and he’s not messing around this time. Following the two previous snippets of the new album ‘Video Game’ and ‘America’, Stevens has shared the brand new track ‘Sugar’ and this one comes complete with a beautifully shot cinematic video to boot. The track marks out the new album as a slight diversion from Stevens’ usual style.
‘Sugar’ is a deeply hypnotic and glitchy track, built out of loops and reels the song feels a little removed from Stevens’ last LP Carrie & Lowell, an album centred on the fractured relationship he shared with his mother and not without Stevens’ darkest moments. This track clearly has the music in mind and even makes reference to Stevens’ penchant for melancholy melodies, seemingly proclaiming he’s had enough when he sings on ‘Sugar’s chorus: “Don’t make wait me too long/ Don’t make me sing the sad songs/ Come on baby, give me some sugar.”
It’s a repetitive motif, too. No doubt using the track’s hypnotic tendencies to truly draw in his audience, using his tender vocal to add some texture and rendering the entire track with a gentle dystopia, Stevens is adding another string to his bow with every release. The looping backbeat and clever chorus feels destined to be remixed by an EDM DJ ready to add “the fattest drop” to proceedings. But, naturally, to do so would be to miss the point. The song is supposed to not really have an end and we’re supposed to be left a little clueless by what’s just happened during the last four minutes and thirty-nine seconds.
There’s certainly a narrative quality to the sonics being offered, but its more accurately depicted by the accompanying video—a series of vignettes which sees a family’s choreographed escapades with different sweet treats. Alongside the video, the song explodes into moments of unstoppable energy before reducing once again into the mid-tempo glitch of modern society that seems to soundtrack all our lives.
Though one can certainly see the song becoming a soundtrack for the latest fantasy gaming advert, the track holds up as a signal to the new direction Stevens may well be about to take. If this is what’s to come from The Ascension then we can’t wait to hear it.