Why I Am in Love with Sujan Stevens' Music

After reading the 2007 coming-of-age novel Call Me by Your Name and watching the 2017 film adaptation many years after their release, I felt shocked at how late I was to realize the beauty of the scenery and storyline. There are many criticisms about the storyline—and many have validity—but one thing that stood out to me during and after the movie was the role that the music played in portraying the feelings of the main character Elio Perlman, played by Timothée Chalamet.

Out of the 17 songs listed on the soundtrack, 3 are written and performed by Sufjan Stevens, an American singer-songwriter who typically makes music of the Alternative/Indie genre. Upon listening to the soundtrack after watching the movie, I was able to still feel the love and loss of Elio Perlman as if I was staring at the screen, which is the main goal when creating a soundtrack. My interest in Sufjan Stevens as an artist peaked when I realized the soundtrack wasn’t the only thing I was falling in love with. Instead, I was falling for the style of Stevens’ songs. 

 

Call Me by Your Name (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 2017

“Mystery of Love” is arguably the song that encapsulates all of the feels that come with first love and the heartbreak that follows for most people, which is a theme explored by basically every singer-songwriter. The heartbreak gets carried on into “Visions of Gideon,” which is the ending of a relationship that is finally being realized. There’s a reason why this is the song that plays through the crying scene that lasts for several minutes while the credits roll. “Futile Devices” was a song from Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 album, The Age of Adz, but was remixed for the film. The instruments are slightly louder than the vocals, which makes it seem like Stevens is whispering or when listening with earphones, it’s like your subconscious is talking. These three songs together are immersive and it is less about hearing the artist sing about the love or heartbreak, but it is more about the listener feeling those experiences. 

 

Carrie & Lowell, 2015

Compared to many other albums, this is one of the few where all of the songs blend seamlessly together. For some, this may seem confusing, because how will you know where each song begins and ends… well it’s not exactly continuous in that sense. The songs are like chapters to one story; the story of Carrie & Lowell, the parents of Sufjan Stevens. Some of my favorites include "Should've Known Better," "Death with Dignity," and "All of Me Wants All of You." The music is very soft and intimate as it is inspired by his strained relationship with his mother and his feelings after she passed away. Even with the complex meanings of the songs, Carrie & Lowell is one of my favorite albums to listen to for a 45-min study session because it is both peaceful enough to relieve any stress that can come from studying and interesting enough to keep me engaged in my work, unlike instrumental music that can make me fall asleep. This album is like a continuation of the three songs in CMBYN, which is great because the soundtrack only had a few minutes of music from Stevens, and if you enjoyed the music, you get even more with his other albums.

 

I’m still making my way through Stevens’ discography, and my next album of choice will be either listening to one of his older albums, such as The Age of Adz from 2010, or listening to one of his most recent albums, such as Ascension or Aporia, both released in 2020. Whichever I chose, I am excited to hear more from one of my new favorite artists, and now I know whether I am looking to feel like I am in the Italian countryside of Call Me by Your Name, looking for music to listen to while I study, or just looking to relax and enjoy the beautiful melodies, Stevens’ music is my go-to.