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Sufjan Stevens And A Beguiling Hybrid

Sure, Sufjan Stevens' discography features plenty of soothing acoustic medleys and warm, hypnotic rhythms. But be careful when rummaging through it in search of even more deep cuts to serve as sleep aids or mix-tape material. There's a good chance you'll stumble across 2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit, an abrasive electronic amalgam that, minus a few standout moments, mostly sounds like a malfunctioning Atari. This style appeared to be no more than experimentation -- an obscure hiccup in the songwriter's career -- until now. The turn-of-the-century Stevens is back, but that's not to say he's ditched the pensive, heartstring-tugging internal monologue that defines the rest of his work. If anything, Stevens has fused the emotional elegance of 2006's Illinois with his earlier adventures in electronica, and it's a beguiling hybrid.

"Too Much" opens with a miniature apocalyptic air raid -- little tectonic explosions that morph into a deep groove as Stevens relays an angst-ridden account of regret and uncertainty. The song builds into a gorgeous, synthetic force field of huge proportions, with cameos from nearly every member of the orchestra. The chilly electronic undercurrent remains, though, tossing a wrench into the delicate textures with which Stevens has become so identified. But it's also an exciting reminder that he never stands still for long.

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Will Butler