Sufjan Stevens: “Exploding Whale”

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In the ongoing tradition of employing grotesque imagery, Sufjan Stevens’ tour-only song “Exploding Whale” has been leaked online. Thanks to a Reddit user, and with permission from Stevens’ label Asthmatic Kitty Records, the plinky, wandering track is now available to us all. It’s more Kid A than the offerings on his most recent record Carrie & Lowell, drawing comparisons to his previous album The Age of Adz. Its last minute goes from lightly peppered synths to full on autotune, but the whole track is supremely pretty – yet still subdued and understated, as it never fully swells as grandiosely as it could.

As with Sufjan’s other work, he manages to make art school vagueness feel frighteningly personal and intimate. It’s unfortunately commonplace these days for songs to use a gracelessly hashtagged title, but Stevens seems unironic in his plea for us to embrace his “epic fail.” Between this and the song’s title, it’s a possible allusion to Twitter’s fail whale – and, more broadly, the attention span-less social age in which we live. This is most apparent at the song’s beginning, when Stevens sings, “I’m nobody’s friend / Loneliness rides in my bed / My misfortune / Give everything you’ve got / While the sun burns hot, my addiction / Spoils my affection for everything good.”

(It’s also worth mentioning the single’s ace artwork, featuring an as-of-yet unexploded mobster whale who’s probably about to utter the word “sweetheart.”)

Though originally from Virginia, Kelsey recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a cavalcade of neat degrees. She's written for other sites like Wide Open Country, Half Past, Seeing Trees Music, The Cropper, InfUSion Magazine, and Blurt. Kelsey’s greatest weakness is a large bowl of pho, and though she doesn’t know it yet, her friends will soon host a soup intervention for her. In her spare time she enjoys exploring abandoned buildings, crafting dad-humor puns, collecting vintage key chains, writing long lists that utilize the Oxford comma, and acting like Larry David.

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