When Sufjan Stevens is involved in something, you know it's bound to be good. He's recruited composer Nico Muhly, The National guitarist Bryce Dessner, and drummer James McAlister to make something truly spectacular: an album about the galaxy. Sufjan Stevens and co. deliver a beautiful collaboration in Planetarium.
It's hard to describe the sound of Planetarium. Sufjan Stevens' ethereal attitude combined with beautiful string arrangements and a spacey atmosphere is what Planetarium is built off of. It already sounds amazing, but you don't truly understand the scope of it until you first hear the record. 'Neptune,' the album opener, is something otherworldy (appropriately). Sufjan's vocals soar with a crystalline tone above haunting piano, beautifully spiraling out into space. 'Jupiter' follows up with equally beautiful vocals with pounding percussion and ominous guitar moving beneath the sweet synths and vocals. The vocoded part at the end is pure bliss, bringing a beautiful end to the track.
The instrumentals of this record really do an amazing job of exemplifying a spacial texture. You feel like you're floating through the planets, just within their atmosphere and seeing their landscapes. 'Mars' has epic orchestration to top its busy sounds, while the pulsing nature of 'Venus' gives the beautiful vocals and various sounds a faraway feel. This album also does timing perfectly, like in 'Halley's Comet,' which, much like the celestial body itself, passes quickly and doesn't dwell for too long.
Planetarium is more than an album about space. It's an existential album, about love and the effects it can have. It's beautifully deceptive; you find yourself floating through space, but in the words and in the mood, you fall in love, or even feel uncertain at times. Album closer 'Mercury' ties the two together, the bright and quickly bouncing piano sounding both like its reminiscing but also that it can't wait for the future. You can watch your future kids hold your hand and laugh as children and grow up right in before you. It's a beautiful song that draws the most wonderful dreams to the surface.
Sufjan Stevens and co. deliver a beautiful collaboration with Planetarium, a deceptive album that'll put you into space and our love into perspective. This album is everything about emotion: uncertainty, bliss, bittersweetness... It's beautiful from start to finish with very few weak moments. You won't find yourself feeling disappointed here whatsoever.
Favorite Tracks: Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Mercury
Least Favorite Track: Moon
Rating: 85 / 100
Stream or buy Planetarium on Apple Music: