Song of the Week: Sufjan Stevens – “America”

An epic that ties questions of fate to the cracks of the country.

Sufjan Stevens has long wrestled with his faith in God, almost as much as he’s written wry or biting observations about the flaws of American life. On “America,” those topics spiral downward together, where Stevens desperately looks for a path forward, both in his own life and for the country. But rather than latch on to any specific moment, he keeps his lyrics straightforward for what he calls “a protest song against the sickness of American culture.”

“Don’t do to me what you did to America,” he repeats throughout the track, calling towards God not to allow him to fall into chaos like the United States has. The 12-minute musical saga is filled with the type of subtle, slow-building electronic tinges that Stevens explored on the Planetarium project. The music ebbs and flows, at times reaching eruptive peaks, only to descend again into droning ambience. There’s an uneasy, nervous, lost feeling that permeates every minute, but it also ends on a beautiful, serene note of hope. It’s a song built for this moment, a Fourth of July like no other.

“America” is out now and will appear on Stevens’ new album, The Ascension, out on Sept. 25 via Asthmatic Kitty.