Sufjan Stevens has returned with The Ascension, the singer-songwriter’s most direct and politically engaged album yet.
The new 15-track record departs from its predecessor—Stevens’ sparse, mournful 2015 folk masterpiece Carrie & Lowell—in both sonics and subject. The Ascension is heavy on synths and drum machines (a result of Stevens having to pack away his guitars in a hurried evacuation from his Brooklyn studio), and contains some of his most political songwriting yet.
“I wanted to respond to changes in the political climate and changes in human engagement, influenced by the internet and technology,” he told The Guardian. “I have a sense of urgency I don’t know I had before.”
That partially manifests, Stevens says, in the record’s emphasis on declaratives and demands. “All the shit they try to feed us / Don’t drink the poison or they’ll defeat us,” he warns on “Sugar.” On the pointedly titled “America,” he pleads: “Don’t do to me what you did to America.”
Stream those songs and the rest of The Ascension below: