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, I’m sure he/she would strongly agree that she imitates the sounds of pop singers like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. I’m also pretty sure I could name quite a few other Christian artists who imitate someone who’s consistently on MTV or VH1. Yet, there are few among the current illustrious Christian artists who dare to enter that realm which detaches themselves from the palatable, yet (I’m sad to say) unoriginal songwriting which so many musicians today are sinking into. Well, good news, the not yet acclaimed Sufjan Stevens brings to us a rather different approach, as his newest record Seven Swans integrates the poignant ambience of folk with his ever so daring explicit and moving “Christian” lyrics, which possess beautiful elements of poetry and transcendence. Playing over 20 instruments on his Greetings from Michigan album, Stevens decides to put the oboe and bells in the closet and give his banjo a little more prominence on Swans, which, although perhaps less-layered and complex musically, nevertheless gives his vocals a chance to express the exquisiteness of his poetry. With harmonies from Elin and Megan Smith, the meticulous mesh of voices over guitar and banjo with occasional synthesizers allows for an encompassment of Sufjan’s delightful essence. His folk developed pieces do demonstrate a more abstract atmosphere, but not to the extent where it creates musical ambiguity. He could probably be compared to the likes of Elliott Smith or Nick Drake, just with more instruments. Although eccentricity is present in Swans, it does not decrease the quality of the writing, but only complements it. An example could be his track “Sister”, which has a lengthy musical prelude lead by building guitars and Sufjan eerily humming (which reminds of the sounds of Pinback), and beautifully resolves with a more mellowed down acoustic section. This dynamic is seen throughout, and goes to show the vibrancy Sufjan exhibits, which in turn creates a beautifully laid out project. The themes in Swans’ lyrics are vicariously Christian, which contrasts the subtlety of Michigan. The inward search of Stevens seems to be prevalent, as he doesn’t simply say something about agreeable Christian notions, but draws them out in light of his personal faith journey. In songs such as the title track, “Seven Swans,” Stevens claims he “saw a sign in the sky,” which probably refers to a plausible failure of his in searching for “the meaning of life,” but has a redeeming conclusion as he loudly recites “If you run, He will catch you because He is the Lord!” Even references to the Biblical text itself are made, as tracks like “Abraham” and “The Transfiguration” gives the Scriptures credence. This, perhaps being a risk for Stevens, identifies him on a sort of middle ground with listeners. On the one hand, he elates those of the “artsy” domain and perhaps nonChristians with his inspirational indie/folk sound, and on the other hand his lyrics are extremely edifying from a Christian perspective. Thus, it seems to be Swans has captured the best of both worlds, and is able to be appreciated on numerous levels. This feat has generally not subsisted in a lot of current Christian music and in my opinion shows that most current Christian music isn’t any good. But, Seven Swans evades that stereotype and in effect entails all around consistency and beauty. So, Sufjan Stevens is an artist you should check out and become familiar with; as I’m sure we can expect good “Christian” stuff from him in the future.