Sufjan Stevens is ready to celebrate two holidays, his 47th birthday on July 1st, and Independence Day on July 4th. With that in mind, he’s unveiled two new versions of his song “Fourth of July.”
While the original track was released as part of the singer-songwriter’s 2015 album Carrie & Lowell, the alternate recordings represent Stevens’ penchant for experimentation in the studio, as he tinkers with his creations to get them just right.
The song remains a heartbreaking conversation between the songwriter and his mother as she dies of cancer. “Well you do enough talk/ My little hawk, why do you cry?/ Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?/ Or the Fourth of July?/ We’re all gonna die,” he sings on each iteration. The “April Base Version” features ephemeral backup vocals, and was recorded at Justin Vernon’s famed studio outside Eau Claire, Wisconsin, while the sparser “Dumbo Version” was crafted at Stevens’ old, familiar studio in Brooklyn, New York.
“The song has recently had a resurgence with listeners — which may speak to a deep national grief and sense of loss,” reads a statement about the new releases on the official website of Asthmatic Kitty, Stevens’ record label. “As we head into this Fourth of July weekend — a U.S. holiday marked by war (and death) — let us reflect on what it means to live in fullness in the face of death.” Stream both new versions of Stevens’ “Fourth of July” below.
Back at the end of 2021, the musician announced he’d be taking a temporary break from recording after releasing four albums — Aporia with his stepfather Lowell Brams, The Ascension, Convocations, and A Beginner’s Mind with Angelo De Augustine — within a two-year span. However, less than two weeks later, he dropped a cover of Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.”