“And you’ll tired out soon enough/For I am a fruitless tree/All leaves, all leaves, all leaves.”
~ Shannon Stephens

Today, prompted by one of her songs popping up on my Party Shuffle, I am re-discovering/re-listening to Shannon Stephen’s self-titled debut. And, according to iTunes, I’ve now had this album for almost a year. I first decided to get it when it popped up (with limited quantity, nonetheless) on the Asthmatic Kitty site. I was glowing in post-Illinois absorption, so naturally and instinctively I picked it up.

When I first listened to Stephens last December, I can probably say I was neither enamored, or particularly disappointed. To this day it remains that kind of record, lots of low-key folk ballads and similar sentiments expressed in the monochrome colors that run through nearly every song. And, of course, we have the vaguely perfunctory song about New York, the passage of time, and of course, love. It’s not revolutionary or surprising, for sure, but it is made at least somewhat mention able by a handful of excellent songs. Mainly “Catch the Morning Line,” an excellent folk rocker, and the spiritual-inflected and delicate tone of “I’ll Be Glad.” Plus, there’s always that potential for feeling somewhat mysteriously and spiritually closer to music that, in the scheme of things, few people have heard of. You can’t be friends with Bono, but, just maybe, you could be friends with Shannon Stephens.

I still stop by the Asthmatic Kitty store every once and a while, and I haven’t yet failed to see that, despite my initial beliefs, Shannon Stephens is still available for purchase ($12 dollars with shipping, asthmatickitty.com). Most people probably don’t care, but if you’re a true Sufjan-nite then this is practically canon, must-listen material. (Come on, I mean he plays drums, not badly either.) And it can be lovely.

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Tim Zila

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