In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream (Planetarium review)

Time to pull out the sports equipment, latex paint, and fishing line, we got ourselves a planetarium to construct!


Sufjan Stevens – Planetarium

released Jun 9, 2017
******** 8/10

Planetarium is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens, composer Nico Muhly, drummer James McAlister, and guitarist Bryce Dessner. A supernova, modern art, super group, if you will. This album was inspired by our solar system and features tracks about black holes, tides, Halley’s Comet, black energy, the Sun, the Moon, the Kuiper Belt, creation, and each of the planets, including Pluto!

Now let’s get to the burning question on my mind – is it off for me to say that this was a weird album to review?

Running at just over seventy five minutes, and including seventeen different tracks, Planetarium takes us all over the place, both metaphorically and literally. An album chock full of ideas, it has tons of instrumentals to take advantage of, and produces epic soundscapes, while including vocals as necessary. It weaves in both the epic (Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Black Energy) and the intimate (Venus, Mercury, Pluto, and Neptune) to good effect, but the most interesting thing to note of all of these tracks is not how they function individually, but what happens to you as you listen and experience this light show. Err, sound show.

Mythology, science and astronomy dominate this soundscape. Granted it may take a few listens to really immerse yourself in it all, but each time I sat down with it, I focused on different elements. Sometimes I focused on the melody, others were about the lyrics, and still other times I just sat with my own thoughts and contemplated life. That an album about the solar system could make me reflect on my own existence is compelling. Odd that.

And then we have sonic interludes like Halley’s Comet, Tides, the slightly longer Kuiper Belt, Black Hole and In The Beginning. These serve to dial down or ramp up as appropriate. Remember this is a dense album and not something to be taken lightly, but when you consider the scope and scale of it all, well then it just starts to make sense that it was organized this way.

Some of my favourite moments happen on Moon, with it’s many “R2-D2” like sounds, Mars and it’s to the point thoughts on love and war, and the unfettered sexuality/lust of Jupiter. By the time we get to Earth it’s already felt like everything has happened, but not worry.

Coming in at fifteen minutes, we get to experience the passage of millennia through carefully curated sequences representing formation, habitation, natural disasters, the arrival of man, and what seems like the end of civilization. This is all played tongue and cheek of course, delivered with lines like “… run Mission run, before we arrive” and ending with the more intimate Mercury.

Pros: Heady and thoughtful, the talent of its members is well demonstrated on Planetarium. It gets better and better with repeated viewings, each time with a new thing to uncover. Album closer Mercury is just brilliant.

Cons: Interestingly enough, the scale can be somewhat daunting to witness, but hopefully we get more harmony from the group in live performances or if they ever make another studio album. Sometimes Sufjan sounds like an auto-tuned parrot when he doesn’t need to be.

Runtime: 76 minutes

Points of InterestThe group was formed way back in 2012 and Planetarium actually existed as an idea way way back then, with further get togethers solidifying the songs and setting up for a full-length studio album. This is the result of those sessions. Cosmic themes make sense as globalization has flattened the Earth, but space still remains unexplored.

This is an album of abstractions, considerations, and comparative to a space opera. Maybe it won’t ever be repeated again in the history of humanity, but this record is quite a beautiful thing to behold – I just hope that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of 2017 releases.

theories Summarized

What else can I say about Planetarium but to listen to it for yourself creative cuties? This is a concept album through and through, and one that isn’t afraid to switch from the grandeur of the stars right down to the people on this organic jet pack hurtling through space and time. Theory or no, that’s what I think.


Drawn Together (Colin MacIntyre cartoonist interview)

After quite a bit of thought, and just a touch of procrastination thrown in the mix to spark heightened awareness under duress (read:one of the camera angles came out yellow), I think I found another classic pairing that future generations can use, one that just seems to click and is, of course, obvious upon reflection. That said, we already know that certain things in life just pair together well – Peanut butter and jelly, bees and honey, salt and pepper, black and white, dogs and cats, king and queen, socks and shoes, and Laurel and Hardy. All of those choices are great examples of individual items which end up being even better together.

In fact, every romantic couple is supposed to function this way, when it’s healthy. In fact, when you talk with someone after a break up, they will often cite compatibility as a major factor in it not working out. Chemistry in love is a very real thing.

That’s why this month’s interviewee is so special.

He is a creative person who dabbles in a great many different arenas, with his most important asset being his love of drawing. For example, he cites instagram as a major inspiration in getting back on the creative horse, and following through each day. Producing at least one drawing on a lunch hour is quite the feat, but Colin MacIntyre does it with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. The act of making itself is a major reward for him, and given that he has at least three other regular projects on the go at any given time, it’s an impressive thing all it’s own. Colin and drawing.

Now by chance, are you wondering what those other projects he does could possibly be? Heck, you haven’t even seen his art yet, but I have a direct line to everything. Which is why I recommend you get right into the video below or hit the jump for the Youtube express train.

What a great topic dear readers! I’m still smiling and all fired up after all of that talk of Beeverine, Winter activities, and the many shades of Batman. And those were just tangential points to be made in this down-to-earth interview about the life of a salesman.

But what did you think folks?

Did  you like it? Did you hate it? What part of the interview inspired you to get back to making art – when you heard those answers on how Colin deals with the challenges of life? If you want to see more of those kinds interviews, then please, please, please subscribe to the mailing list. We need your comments and shares in order to grow. And to know. If the interviews flow.

And special thanks to Colin for being cooperative, capable, and charged up during this entire process! His enthusiasm knows no bounds; at least, that’s my theory.