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Sufjan Stevens – “Impossible Soul”

though I know it’s small, I want love for us all

So, anyone got a spare 30 minutes to listen to a pop track?  I know, it’s easy to approach songs that lengthy with trepidation; usually they’re either a bloated mess, annoyingly repetitive, or worse yet – they do that pointless “hidden track” thing where they put 18 minutes of silence between two average-length tracks.  Thankfully, “Impossible Soul” is none of those things, and instead of viewing it as the final song from Stevens’ 2010 blockbuster The Age of Adz, I beg you to imagine that it is an album in and of itself.  After all, it’s more of a collection of movements than it is one drawn out song idea, with different concepts bleeding into each other effortlessly.

There’s a lot of inspiring messages floating around within the confines of “Impossible Soul”, but instead of rattling off all my favorite passages it would be more prudent to look at how the song evolves within itself.  It begins as this somber/electronic/dehumanized ballad, and gradually adds layers of warmth.  By the second “movement”, you can hear more audacious synthesizers zipping through space in the background, while Sufjan self-harmonizes to make it sound like he’s no longer in isolation.  Eventually, the song erupts into this celebratory dance — with a full crowd harmoniously chanting a series of choruses (“it’s a miracle..do you wanna dance” / “we can do much more together” / “it’s not so impossible”) that all brim with equal optimism.   Someone on Sputnik once said that The Age of Adz was akin to Sufjan Stevens finding the meaning of life and making an album out of it; I think the same praise could be extracted and applied to “Impossible Soul” – a song that offers bleak introspection yet proves such hurdles to be surmountable, after all.

Invariably, there will be several interpretations of a song with so much metaphorical and literal stature.  I could delve into all the ways that this song is about a relationship with a woman, or concerning Stevens’ ambiguous sexuality, or perhaps about a number of Biblical allusions, or just simply about the general trials and triumphs encountered in life.  But again, with a song this magnificent and meaningful, less description is more.  It’s best to develop your own bond, and choose your own meaning.  There are so very few tracks that I can unequivocally state are in the running for SOML (song of my lifetime) – that aren’t dependent on evolving taste, mood, associated memories, etc.  – but this is one of them.  Just click play and let all twenty five minutes of “Impossible Soul” wash over you — you won’t regret it.

Read more from this decade at my homepage for Sowing’s Songs of the Decade.





SowingSeason
12.29.18
I am going to eventually try to stagger these out a week apart, but I have a lot of free time on my hands right now. This is another highly hyped 2010 song, but again, I'm sure there are users here who somehow missed it and/or joined later on. Another essential classic, be sure to give it a chance.

luci
12.29.18
The bookends off this record are easily the best. Oddly enough, I find the 2 minutes of Futile Devices more affecting than this beast of a track. Shows his breadth of range that he can churn out such contrasting masterpieces.

JohnnyoftheWell
12.29.18
Always had a lot of respect for Stevens as a musician without actually enjoying his material all that much, will give this a spin and see if I change my mind

WatchItExplode
12.29.18
Luci u are totally right futile devices and the last minute of this are beautiful complimentary bookends That distill the bombast of this album into its fundamental parts

JohnnyoftheWell
12.29.18
Okay this is a great track, best I've heard from him so far

neekafat
12.29.18
yeah this is his best song easy

SowingSeason
12.29.18
YESSSS Johnny did you actually listen to the whole thing?

JohnnyoftheWell
12.29.18
I maaaaaay have skipped the last three minutes haha, but got 90% of it! Will try and get the album into rotation

SowingSeason
12.29.18
That's good enough! lol

Dylan620
12.30.18
Even better than "Christmas Unicorn?" Or anything from C&L?

Arcade
12.30.18
i remember at one stage i absolutely loved and adored this album, and now it’s been about two years since i’ve listened to it at all. i think 22, a Million took its place in my rotation of kinda weird, synthy folk music

Rowan5215
12.30.18
lol yeah [2] arcade

Futile and Vesuvius are still two of his best

SowingSeason
12.30.18
re: Futile Devices - love that track too, but in terms of the grand scope of "songs of the decade" I don't think it measures up to Impossible Soul

re: anything from C&L - my top choices from that album would be Death With Dignity, Fourth of July, and No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross. I haven't decided if I plan to allow more than one song per artist for this little feature, but for now Impossible Soul tops any individual moment in his discography - even if C&L is his best overall album.

re: 22, A Million - The same thing kind of happened with me, I still think that might be Justin Vernon's best album. There's a handful of songs there that might eventually vie to make it onto my playlist.

Gyromania
12.30.18
vesuvius is actually my fave (even if i'm not crazy about the ending), but the bookends are also top contenders for sure

Gyromania
12.30.18
best part of impossible soul is the outro imo. sufjan is best when he's being folksy. just him and an acoustic guitar and/or banjo is just the best. don't get me wrong though, his bigger tunes are incredible. come on feel the illinois! comes to mind. probably my favourite sufjan song now that i think of it

GhostB1rd
12.30.18
Yo Sufjan is 43. Dude has aging on lock.

emmny
12.30.18
my 12yo ass was shook when i heard this for the first time, never forget my sufjan days man he was the GOAT for my sad preteen self.

theamazingjamez
01.02.19
This is probably the most listenable 20 minute song since Pink Floyd's "Echoes." I'm always like "Oh, I'll just listen to this section and then go to something else" and then suddenly I've listened to the whole thing. The acoustic coda is by far the best bit, worth going through the whole song to listen.

SowingSeason
01.02.19
my favorite part is the upbeat middle section but I love the whole thing

nolerthebowler
01.20.19
really incredible track, great pick

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