Earlier this week, singer/songwriter and composer Sufjan Stevens announced the details of his eighth solo album The Ascension, due out on Sept. 25 via Asthmatic Kitty Records. It will serve as the long-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Carrie & Lowell, which Paste named one of the best albums of the 2010s. This morning (July 3), Stevens has premiered its lead single “America”—a 12-minute electro-pop epic—alongside a video shot by Stevens.
Stevens describes the new song as “a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular.” The song (along with its forthcoming b-side “My Rajneesh”) was written six years ago during the making of Carrie & Lowell. It was later re-recorded, and Stevens spent the next two years writing and recording the rest of the material on The Ascension almost entirely by himself on his computer, using “America” as its thematic template.
Stevens says of “America”:
I was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote it. Because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie & Lowell. So I shelved it. But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next.
Stevens describes his new LP as a “lush, editorial pop album,” saying, “My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you. Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”
Watch the video for “America” below. “America” and “My Rajneesh” will be released as a double-sided 12-inch single on July 31. Preorder the 12-inch single and The Ascension here.