After releasing four albums in two years, indie royalty Sufjan Stevens said it was time for him to take a break. In 2020, he collaborated with Lowell Brams for Aporia and then released the solo effort The Ascension, and then last year he unveiled the solo album Convocations followed by his joint project with Angelo De Augustine called A Beginner’s Mind.
Now, Stevens (who turns 47 today, by the way) is finally back, this time with new versions of “Fourth Of July” from his sprawling 2015 opus Carrie & Lowell. The heartbreaking ballad has always been a fan favorite, and these renditions dig into the sadness and haunted texture, sounding more stripped-down than ever. The opening lyrics continue to be some of the most powerful first lines of a song: “The evil it spread like a fever ahead / It was night when you died, my firefly.”
Stevens’ label’s website Asthmatic Kitty offered an explanation for this generous release: “The song has recently had a resurgence with listeners — which may speak to a deep national grief and sense of loss. As we head into this Fourth of July weekend — a US holiday marked by war (and death) — let us reflect on what it means to live in fullness in the face of death.”
Listen to the April Base version above and the Dumbo version below.