Hello, Dear Wind
have been thinking for a while about the ubiquity of Sufjan Stevens. And I have to admit that the reasons are totally confusing to me: is it something about being uplifting, pleasant, hopeful, sublime, or beautiful? He seems too polite, too quiet, though, for the crowds that love him—Stevens’ tender religious devotion is all evangelism, but it’s the type of Jesus that’s safe enough for atheist/agnostic hipsters.
Page France treads in the same waters: doing a good job at the strange awkwardness of wrestling with a neo-orthodox Jacob. But there is something lost on the unbeliever here, no matter how haunting or astute the lyrics are. Some of that losing comes from not needing—there is a desperation in words like: "Now he breaks the bread for us / Breaks the bread and sings / Would you pray for us / Would you stay for us" that do not come when you do not need Jesus. Or, “Chariot,” the first song, which is tender, hopeful, optimistic, and free of fire and brimstone, even though it's about the end of the world.
One is also required to know that Jesus raised hundreds of bodies after he was crucified, and that for some believers, that raising will happen again after he returns. The second song, “Jesus,” is all about this—and it's a slight, acoustic, ditty—nothing more then what one would play in bible studies or the like—except the line "Jesus would arrive from the ground so dirty / With worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy." In the literal concern for what happens when Christ comes back, and in the humble description of this returning, refusing the triumphant jingoism of Christian nationalism, is a radical departure. But what else might you expect from a song that ends on an ethereal cloud of la-la-las?
There is an edge of melancholy throughout: the jangly guitars, ringing bells, and joyous keyboards betray talk of fear, of being blown away by the wind—and lead singer Michael Nau admits that we are all dogs, begging for scraps from the divine. In “Junkyard,” the most cryptic, and the darkest track, Nau tells us that this Christianity not only requires us to "lie there patiently" but to have life "shake us like a bad dream," even if the dream was about "the truest song that was never true."
If all of this sounds oddly intense, it should. Hello, Dear Wind feels like people talking quietly in a circle, a collection narratives of confusion and shame. Things you would hear at retreat centers, AA, the confessional booth, bible studies, and the like. It is easy to mock lo-fi emo boys with their four-track, singing love songs to girls who will never really love them—now imagine finding that girl who will love them forever: all of that trepidation about adolescent desire remains, but there is a surety amongst the doubt.
Reviewed by: Anthony Easton
Reviewed on: 2006-01-30