Shannon Stephens, a former bandmate and longtime friend of Sufjan Stevens, released her solo debut in 2000 before dropping out of the limelight to raise a family. One decade later, her career is back in full swing thanks to Sufjan’s own record label, Asthmatic Kitty, which released Stephens' second album ten years old, but its sparse, soft-spoken folk music isn’t exactly time specific, and it works just as well in 2010 as it would’ve at the turn of the millennium. Stephens decorates her songs lightly, inviting a few friends into the studio to play their instruments -- piano, guitar, and brushed percussion chief among them -- but usually taking a solo approach to the material, the majority of which seems to shine a spotlight on her lyrics. Like many coffeehouse-styled songwriters, she draws upon a hit-or-miss love life for inspiration -- but she does so with a unique, poetic touch, finding metaphors in unlikely places (“You’ll tire out soon enough, for I am a fruitless tree/All leaves, all leaves”) and gravitating toward words that her contemporaries would struggle to use in a sentence (“girded,” “penumbra”). She result is part Lilith Fair folk and part collegiate confessionalism.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey