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Seven Swans and One Hot Dress

March 28, 2010

I believe I am already behind on updating my music section. This is unacceptable. To earn back your readership, here is another song that’s been periodically calming me down and getting me humming along: The Dress Looks Nice on You by Sufjan Stevens, from the 2004 album Seven Swans. Click here to take a listen (Sorry about the YouTube music, I am too cheap for the embedded music upgrade)!

If you take a listen, hopefully you’ll see why I love the song so much. It is the perfect blend of simplistic lyrical structure overtop a beautifully composed melody; the song isn’t complicated, but it is complex. It possesses a grace that would make the creature on the album cover proud, and tones of mystery and longing that provide that rare peek into the human heart.

I can’t help but wonder exactly what it is that Sufjan is singing about, though. The minimalist introduction verse calls out: “I can see a lot of life in you / I can see a lot of bright in you / And I think the dress looks nice on you / I can see a lot of life in you,” followed later by “I can see a bed and make it too / I can see a fireside turn blue / And I can see the lot of life in you.” As I said, it all rings of a sombre mood, but somehow feels simultaneously uplifting. One mental image that came to me was a silent moment where a lone man stands looking at his deceased lover who has been dressed up before a funeral, in that void between pain and the joy from great memories of their life together. But that could just be some depressed part of my imagination.

As someone who has spent the last year of his life falling in love with the sound of the banjo, Sufjan Stevens has quickly climbed my favourite artists list. When Stevens comes in strong and suddenly with a banjo interlude version of the song’s main riff, I can’t help but smile every time; the man takes an instrument most people associate with inbred country folk and makes it the perfect texture tool. I can only hope to play the banjo like he does one day. On a related note, Seven Swans has almost definitely settled in as my favourite album by Stevens, keeping a consistent feel throughout that truly unifies the work. Cascading through religious references (The album’s namesake is a reference to stories from the book of Revelation), this seems to be one of his most blatantly Christian works, but the artistry of it all leads me to believe that even an atheist would be inspired. Other key songs like He Woke Me Up Again and Abraham will have you listening to this album on repeat, feeling inspired, and practising your hammer-ons.

This is the kind of music that I would love to calm down at night to, drive down a country road to, stare at the stars to, and fail miserably at serenading my girlfriend with.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Emma permalink
    March 29, 2010 12:36 pm

    “I can’t help but smile every time; the man takes an instrument most people associate with inbred country folk and makes it the perfect texture tool.”

    Hahaha, so true. Nice review =) And you should probably learn this song; it’s really good.

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