The forthcoming follow-up to 2015’s Carrie & Lowell was written and recorded almost entirely by Stevens himself over the course of two years. According to a statement, the album was created using just his computer, “working mostly with a drum machine and handful of synthesizers.”
In terms of subject matter, The Ascension channels a deep sense of curiosity and reflection. “My objective for this album was simple,” the beloved indie songwriter explained. “Interrogate the world around you. Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.”
Its sprawling first single, “America”, does just that — with Stevens protesting “against the sickness of American culture in particular.” As with the rest of the new album, it’s meant to be “a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us.”
The 12-minute (!) track originally came about during recording sessions for Carrie & Lowell, but Stevens ended up shelving it “because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else” on the album. However, as he recounted, it wasn’t long before he rediscovered the song and decided to re-record it for his next project,
“But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next.”
Check out the Stevens-filmed video for “America” below. The single and its B-side, “My Rajneesh”, will be pressed as a 12-inch on July 31st. Find pre-orders for that vinyl release here and The Ascension here.