After Michigan suggested possibilities for both gentle acoustic songs and intricate epics, Seven Swans is firmly focused on Stevens’ material side. Thematically, it’s dealing with more blatantly Christian subject matter, like the “he is the Lord” climax to the title track.
Opening track ‘All of the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands’ is gorgeous, with a gently building arrangement that gradually adds piano, rhythmic ethereal backing vocals, and percussion to the sparkling banjo that anchors the song. Some of the other instrumentation used is equally offbeat – a Theremin powers the later phases of ‘In The Devil’s Territory’, while wheezy organs and choirs are also used to great effect, while ‘Sister’ quietens down from soaring rock to a gentle acoustic track. ‘That Dress Looks Nice On You’ is catchy in its low key arrangement, while the title track and ‘The Transfiguration’ bring the record to a triumphant conclusion.
Seven Swans is a terrific record; Sufjan wouldn’t make another straightforward folk record until 2015’s even better Carrie and Lowell.