We were bowled over by their Wonderful Oblivion album. We were seduced by their live performance at The Met. And now, the Melbourne sisters, Ivy and Mabel Windred-Wornes complete the At The Barrier holy trinity of album review, live review and Why I Love as Mabel joins us to explain why American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens is such an inspiration.
* Why we love him:
His music captures a beautiful vulnerability that is raw, poetic and personal. He brings beauty to sadness perfectly.
* When we first heard him:
When I (Mabel) was about thirteen, my friend gave me a mixtape which had Sufjan’s song – That Dress Looks Nice On You – It was something about the vulnerability in his voice that draw me in. That Christmas I got his album “Illinois” and so began my obsession.
* That moment when it all clicked for me with the artist
I loved the “Illinois” album but I really fell in love with the “Carrie And Lowell” album. Sufjan dives deeply into grief and regret bravely. With poetry and melody he creates a sad and exquisite realm.
* How he inspires me:
There is something so personal and moving about the way Sufjan tells stories. I love how he uses such specific details in his lyrics that somehow seems so relatable- like I am reading his diary. He can paint a picture or a moment so vividly that you feel as though you must have been there once. When we wrote the songs for our new album “Wonderful Oblivion”, we were inspired to bring this specificity and vividness to our own lyrics. He also magically peppers little references and images from mythology here and there, which we love! He grew up going to Waldorf school, which means hearing hundreds of stories from the mythologies of the world. We went through the same schooling here in Australia and so many of his references resonate deeply.
* How he has influenced us;
We seem to always be searching for the spacey dreamscape that is conjured in “Carrie And Lowell “in our own music. When we worked with our producer Daniel Ledwell from Canada, we delved into these misty soundscapes in songs such as Treading Water. When working on our song Gravity, we put foam under the strings of our guitar, ukulele and even cello and violin, to create that muted sound that you can hear on some of Sufjan’s songs – a glorious example if on the “Mystery Of Love”.
* Favourite songs
Fourth Of July, Should Have Known Better, All Of Me Wants All Of You, For The Widows In Paradise, Casimir Pulaski Day, Mystery Of Love
* Favourite album covers
A Beginner’s Mind
* Favourite lyrics
“The man who taught me to swim, he couldn’t quite say my first name. Like a father, he led Community water upon my head and he called me Subaru.” – from the song Eugene
“In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading” – Casimir Pulaski Day
Here’s the Charm Of Finches video for Gravity:
Our thanks to Mabel – and maybe we’ll catch up with Charm Of Finches when they’re in Manchester on 24th July… Their tour around the UK and Europe continues as we speak.
You can read more from our extensive archive of Why I Love pieces from a wide array of artists on an even wider array of subjects, here.