|Stevens, Sufjan, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James Mcalister / Planetarium|
|Add Date:||2017-06-28|| ||Pull Date:||2017-08-30|| |
|Week Ending:||16 Jul||9 Jul||2 Jul|
In 2012, Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly and the Dessner brothers composed a set of instrumental works inspired by the solar system. (I guess Stevens’ 50 States Project wasn’t ambitious enough.) Now, five years later, they’ve fleshed out these compositions and laid them to tape, yielding 17 tracks of a strange hybrid of classical and electronic music. Planetarium is a very beautiful album, but that’s a liability as much as it is an asset; it is overstuffed, and overwhelming. Many of the songs overstay their welcome and get repetitive, and others are hard to distinguish from one another. Lyrically, the songs touch on mythology and tries to pull it down to a human scale—a pretty dense concept that some listeners might find puzzling. But again, this is an album with some truly beautiful moments. It’s like a cheesecake—best enjoyed in pieces, but taking it in all at once doesn’t make for a pleasant experience.|
Favorites: 1, 4, 11, 14, 17
1) “Neptune” (3:05)* – Gentle piano on the first half of the song, followed by strings on the second half. One of the most acoustic tracks on the album, and one of the more lyrically-driven ones as well.
2) “Jupiter” (7:10) – Mixes electronic crunches with acoustic percussion. (Sounds kind of like Stevens’ The Age of Adz.) Strings and horns kick in for a minute about halfway through, then are phased out as Stevens begins singing through some sort of processor.
3) “Halley’s Comet” (0:30) – Instrumental. Brief, ambient interlude that cuts off abruptly. At 30 seconds long, there’s really nothing to do with this.
4) “Venus” (4:43)* – Twinkling, subtle electronic song with classical elements. True to its name, it’s a beautiful track. Kind of like a pop song, straightforward in its accessibility.
5) “Uranus” (6:52) – Very similar to “Venus”, just longer. It has an extended outro after the four-minute mark, mixing classical and electronic elements.
6) “Mars” (7:09) – Electronic-rooted track with distorted vocals and bursts of horns. Brief acoustic break about five minutes in.
7) “Black Energy” (5:26) – Instrumental. Slow and ponderous.
8) “Sun” (4:00) – Instrumental. Same as “Black Energy”, but shorter.
9) “Tides” (0:58) – Instrumental. Same as “Black Energy” and “Sun” but even shorter. Probably just long enough to read a PSA or promo over. Ends kind of abruptly.
10) “Moon” (3:42) – Prominent beats and chiming tones. Vocals stop after about a minute and a half. Sounds similar to “Venus”.
11) “Pluto” (4:24)* – Builds on a gentle guitar line to sumptuous orchestration. Vocals and electronic flourishes feature throughout the track, with a classical break before the two-minute mark.
12) “Kuiper Belt” (2:04) – Instrumental. Heavy on electronics, prone to meandering.
13) “Black Hole” (0:34) – Instrumental. Short, ominous-sounding interlude that builds to a crescendo. Too short (and dark) to do anything with.
14) “Saturn” (3:51)* – Skipping electronic instrumental with Auto-Tuned vocals. Builds to a rave-sounding climax. Probably the most straightforward song on the album, even more so than “Venus”.
15) “In the Beginning” (1:17) – Instrumental. Ambience, growing in intensity before subsiding. Just right for a PSA or promo.
16) “Earth” (15:11) – A very long song that progresses through several movements, though typically leaning heavier on classical music than electronic music. Vocals kick in after four and a half minutes, followed by electronic percussion at the nine-minute mark, which gets a bit repetitive until it tapers off after four more minutes. It’s a beautiful track...it’s just too damn long.
17) “Mercury” (5:13)* – Piano and guitar lines weave in and out of each other, making for a relatively quiet conclusion to the album. The last half of the song is an instrumental.