Albums to watch

The Ascension

Sufjan Stevens

The Ascension

Eighth full-length album and first in five years from the Detroit-born indie folk singer-songwriter

ADM rating[?]

7.9

Label
Asthmatic Kitty
UK Release date
25/09/2020
US Release date
25/09/2020
  1. 10.0 |   Record Collector

    A joyous blend of dumb fun and sonic smarts with the talent that Stevens has been peddling for nearly 20 years to glue them together, this feels a fresh start in a career that didn’t exactly need one. Somehow, a wonderful surprise
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  2. 10.0 |   The Arts Desk

    The richness and depth of the album calls for repeated and careful listening. Sufjan Stevens is a master of sound who makes its creative manipulation appear so easy. The Ascension is a climb suitable for beginners – highly accessible and at times even danceable
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  3. 10.0 |   Exclaim

    It's not an album we could have ever expected in 2020, but it is the one we deserve. It may very well be his most challenging and ambitious undertaking to date as well as a sign of the new era of Stevens to come
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  4. 10.0 |   The Irish Times

    F Scott Fitzgerald wrote “there are no second acts in American lives”, and yet, at the precipice, Stevens leaves us not with dissolution, but resolution, for a second act to believe in. Exceptional
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  5. 10.0 |   The Independent

    A loveably retro fleet of bulky analogue synths course through this record
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  6. 9.1 |   Consequence Of Sound

    The indie-rock polymath’s first proper record in five years rivals his best work
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  7. 9.0 |   music OMH

    He might get judged against his past more than most but The Ascension sees him lay down new paths while very much corroborating his special, loved status
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  8. 9.0 |   God Is In The TV

    If Carrie & Lowell was Stevens at his simplest and most accessible, The Ascension is a leap in the opposite direction
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  9. 9.0 |   DIY

    Not so much a call to arms as an exploration of the individual’s ability to disassociate from the norm
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  10. 8.5 |   Under The Radar

    The Ascension harks back to the heavy electronics of 2010’s Age of Adz but with adroit focus on the themes of existential dread and the quest for meaning with a bounty of angry yet hopeful songs that satisfy melodically and metaphysically
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  11. 8.0 |   Vinyl Chapters

    This is contemporary music to lose yourself in, purveying a scuffed warmth that peeks out from within its despondent exteriors
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  12. 8.0 |   XS Noize

    A successful sonic marriage of the ethereal Coolwave, Funk beats and industrial glitchiness
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  13. 8.0 |   No Ripcord

    Stevens’ lyricism is direct, neither so literary as it was in the heyday of his fifteen-word song titles nor as plaintive and considerate as on Carrie & Lowell
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  14. 8.0 |   Crack

    Rather than revisiting the sparse instrumentation of Carrie & Lowell, The Ascension is closest to the shimmering synth symphonies and weirdo electronics of The Age of Adz
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  15. 8.0 |   The Observer

    Outward-focused but always addressed as though to a lover (or a listener, or God), The Ascension’s maximalist reckoning finds his horror at national affairs mirroring his own inner turbulence
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  16. 8.0 |   Paste Magazine

    Globally anxious, Stevens goes wide but overextends on 8th studio album
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  17. 8.0 |   NME

    Stevens' first solo album since his deeply personal 2015 LP 'Carrie & Lowell' may be uneasy in its outlook, but its pop-leaning soundscape will draw in even the most uncomfortable of listeners
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  18. 8.0 |   Clash

    There’s a stunning candour to the lyrics, though it gets a little stodgy in the mid-section and, at 80+ minutes, is a little more verbiage than the typical album. Yet we’re dealing with an untypical songwriter, and the last two tracks are among the best he’s ever written
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  19. 8.0 |   The Quietus

    For all the synthetic otherworldliness, this record is unflinchingly honest in its assessment of the United States as well as a very personal and raw portrait of Steven’s own humanity and fallibility
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  20. 8.0 |   Northern Transmissions

    The Ascension is a lot to digest and one that you cannot in a single sitting. Luckily the arrangements are interesting enough to hook you into wanting to come back for more and with every round, you start to peel away the record’s denseness and find some truly transcendent moments
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  21. 7.5 |   A.V. Club

    The Ascension’s relentless busyness is both a feature and a bug. There’s joy in strapping on a pair of headphones and luxuriating in this galaxy of samples, squiggles, and beats
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  22. 7.5 |   The Line Of Best Fit

    The listener is left with the underlying feeling that with or without faith in a higher power – God, or a lover, or the abstract idea of love itself – we must, like Stevens, face our personal and universal demons alone
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  23. 7.5 |   Spectrum Culture

    Stevens’ muddled but majestic look at a world in turmoil
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  24. 7.2 |   Beats Per Minute

    The Ascension is Sufjan at his most isolated – he has lost hope in nearly everything around him and desperately seeks a cure for a new identity crisis
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  25. 7.0 |   Loud And Quiet

    The Ascension may become something of a white elephant in Stevens’ discography: an album of lavish assembly, clearly of immense importance to its creator, and, during its best moments, impressively riveting, but also, you suspect, one that few will revisit in its presented form
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  26. 7.0 |   Pitchfork

    Exhaustive, dense, and detailed, Sufjan Stevens’ electro-opus is another huge artistic leap that speaks plainly to complicated emotions and attempts to rebuild his sound from the ground up
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  27. 7.0 |   Uncut

    On this sometimes obstinate, sometimes sublime record, Stevens shows he contains multitudes. Print edition only

  28. 6.0 |   Slant Magazine

    The album is only partially successful at maintaining the singer’s impeccable songwriting
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  29. 6.0 |   Evening Standard

    Newly angry Sufjan throws out the banjo, and the poetry
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  30. 6.0 |   The FT

    A contrasting tone of discordance and tunefulness runs through the album
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  31. 6.0 |   American Songwriter

    You might find yourself scratching your head repeatedly, but in the end, you’ll feel like you’ve been strangely seduced
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  32. 5.0 |   Sputnik Music (staff)

    With few exceptions, Ascension is channeled into one energy level, despite the variety of sounds. It’s busy lethargy: too hive-like to be soothing, too sedated to be invigorating
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