better pinch yourself!

Today I am going to be indulgent and write about music.

Actually, reading my own entry I kind of hate myself.  What kind of pansy has enough time to get so analytical about a single song?  People really care about songs to a degree where they’d dissect them and ascribe meaning that’s probably not even there?  Yeah, well, I like to do that sometime.  I just don’t typically overcome the embarrassment and write it down.  Anyway, when words come out I hate to throw them away.

A while back I wrote about the seventeen minute track that caps the new Sufjan Stevens EP.  I loved it.  Today I’m going to write about the twenty-five minute epic that caps the new Sufjan Stevens album (what can I say, the guy’s prolific when he gets going, a long-player right after an almost album-length EP and all).  No, really it’s twenty -five minutes long.  The song, called “Impossible Soul,” is longer than some albums in their entirety.  I’d recommend queuing it up by going here and give it a critical listen whilst you read my interpretation.

This song is tough to swallow.

In the third movement, Steven’s loses his mind and has a full-on bed-intruder autotune breakdown. In it he robotically warbles about a “stupid man in the window” and some begging-to-be-deciphered stuff about how he “couldn’t be addressed.” I, in addition to some other armchair theorists, like to think that Sufjan is talking to God.  But I’m getting ahead of my theory: I’ve decided that the song is about how “impossible” Sufjan feels it must be to have a saved soul in the face of his earthly motivations, and that the track represents his struggle with God upon this realization.

Structurally, the song is split into musical/lyrical fifths.  Because it’s pretentious, I’m going to refer to these as “movements.”  Here are the lyrics.  Let’s get stupid about it.

  • The first movement is a struggle with human desire; a man crushed by a woman he loves, still pining pitifully for her.
  • In the second movement our narrator changes, and we’re now hearing the woman who was our subject in the prior section.  And in this movement the object of his desire reminds the diserer that this obsession is a mere distraction from more righteous pursuits.  Urges him to get over let go of his longing, to not “be distracted” by it, it’s not “worth all the work.”
  • Our narrator returns for the third movement and issues a gauntlets-down challenge to God, baiting Him to come down and get involved.  It’s the most abstract of the sections, and where I’ve made the biggest stretch in guessing intent.  I say the “man in the window” is God (maybe thinking of stained glass or something).
  • If you buy this crap so far, then I’d tell you that I think the fourth movement is God’s response to our narrator’s challenge.  His response is both fatherly and reassuring.
  • And, like Job’s response to his go-round with God, the fifth and final movement sees our singer wither from his previous hubris and humbled again before his creator.

In the end I feel it’s likely not a bad stab at it – much of Stevens’ output is steeped in Christian allegory. Anyway, because I like to think he’s talking to God, the song becomes that much more awesome. The bouncy denouement pronouncements of, “Boy, we can do much more together! Better get a life! Better give love! Better get it right! It’s not so impossible!” take on the air of a revival-tent pep-rally.

I’m almost not posting this crap.  Goodnight.


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