Sufjan Stevens Shares Video for New Song “Sugar” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 16th, 2021  

Sufjan Stevens Shares Video for New Song “Sugar”

The Ascension Due Out September 25 via Asthmatic Kitty

Sep 15, 2020 Sufjan Stevens
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Sufjan Stevens is releasing a new album, The Ascension, on September 25 via Asthmatic Kitty. Now he has shared another song from it, “Sugar.” There are two versions of the song, the over seven-minute long album version and a four-minute long version shared via a music video. Ezra Hurwitz directed the video, which features a Black family in a rundown house. Kyle Abraham choreographed the video, which stars Samantha Figgans, Raymond Pinto, Walter Russell III, and Celeste Mason. Check out both versions of the song below.

“‘Sugar’ is ultimately about the desire for goodness and purity (and true sustenance),” says Stevens in a press release. “On the surface the song is just a string of clichés, but the message is imperative: now is the time to gather what is good and pure and valuable and make it your own, and share it with others. Feed your soul and speak new life into those around you. Give each other love, respect and sacrifice. Relinquish all the old habits, all the old ways of thinking and doing, all former practices—‘business as usual’—and bring new life to the world. This is our calling.”

Choreographer Abraham had this to add: “The way I approach choreography tends to blend elements of the everyday with moments of abstraction. I was compelled by the tempo and the tone of the song…especially when choreographing the duet material and solo material for Samantha Figgans and Raymond Pinto. This song and its undertones created a lot of really fun scenarios to play with choreographically.”

Previously Stevens shared The Ascension’s first single, 12-minute long closing track “America.” “America” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then he shared the B-side for the “America” single, non-album track “My Rajneesh,” which also made our Songs of the Week list. Then he shared the album’s second single, “Video Game,” via a video for the song. “Video Game” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

With a title like “America,” the first single’s timed release the day before July 4th was no accident and in a press release Stevens said it was “a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular.”

“Don’t do to me what you did to America,” Stevens sings in the chorus to “America.” “Don’t do to me what you do to yourself.” A previous press release further said the song “is an indictment of a world crumbling around us—and a roadmap out of here.”

Stevens says The Ascension is “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.”

And while “America” may seem written for these times, it was actually written six years ago, prior to the election of Donald Trump, when he was working on his last fully fledged studio solo album, 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. Stevens then re-recorded “America” and used it as a jumping off point for The Ascension. Musically, The Ascension seems much closer to the experimental and disorientating sounds of his 2010 album The Age of Adz, rather than the more delicate folk of Carrie & Lowell.

Stevens recorded most of The Ascension himself, on his computer, and basing it around a drum machine and synthesizers. Stevens calls it a “lush, editorial pop album,” one that finds us all at a “terrifying crossroad.”

“My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you,” Stevens adds. “Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”

The Ascension is described as the official follow-up to Carrie & Lowell. Stevens has released plenty of music in the five years since Carrie & Lowell, but he hasn’t released a straight up solo album since then. In 2017 he teamed up with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner (of The National), and James McAlister for the collaborative album, Planetarium, which centered around space and the planets. The same year he also released a mixtape entitled The Greatest Gift, which featured unreleased outtakes, remixes, and iPhone demos from Carrie & Lowell. Back in March of this year Stevens teamed up with his stepfather Lowell Brams for the new collaborative instrumental album Aporia, via Asthmatic Kitty.

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