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February 11, 2009

"The Lonely Man of Winter" - Sufjan Stevens

via Brooklyn Based

On January 28, I read something on Brooklyn Based that literally made my heart skip a beat. Over a year ago, Alec Duffy of Hoi Polloi received exclusive rights to "The Lonely Man of Winter" for winning Sufjan's Xmas Xchange with an original song that you can listen to here. After holding onto the song for a year, Alec decided to host listening sessions every Wednesday for about a month. With three sessions a night, each limited to four listeners, Alec truly intended to create an meaningful experience for those who were able to attend. Promises of tea, cookies, and a virtually unheard Sufjan Stevens song were more than enough motivation for me to shoot an email to Alec.

As I entered Alec's home in Prospect Heights, I was immediately greeted by co-host Dave Malloy, the musical director of Hoi Polloi. I was the last to arrive of the group, as everyone was already situated in chairs and couches with mugs of tea. We all introduced ourselves and talked about how we became fans of Sufjan Stevens. Of course, we had different backgrounds, but we came together by chance to hear Sufjan's "The Lonely Man of Winter." After some convo, Dave and Alec set us up with some headphones so that we could listen to the now famous (or infamous) song.

Immediately, the looped guitar intro of "The Lonely Man of Winter" sent chills down my spine. I could almost imagine him building the loops by himself to produce the song. Because I generally prefer the more somber Sufjan pieces like "Casimir Pulaski Day," the melancholy lyrics of this holiday song seemed to deliberately cater to my tastes. The song ended with a beautifully haunting piano coda, reminding me of my recent reconnection with the instrument. Clocking in at 3:11, "The Lonely Man of Winter" ended before I knew it. After hearing it one more time, I'd say that it's one of Sufjan's best Xmas songs. In fact, "The Lonely Man of Winter" is a track that could stand on its own on any Sufjan album, not limited to just his yearly holiday albums. Sadly, I can barely remember the song now. Alas, some beauty is meant to be transient.

Even after Alec fulfilled his end of the bargain, the small group continued to linger a little longer. But, with the group picture taken and the guestbook signed, we knew that it was time to depart. Maureen, one of the attendees, said that she really enjoyed what Alec and Dave were doing with the small listening parties because they humanized the act of sharing. It's true that with the digital age, connections and relationships have become rather impersonal. I am guilty of this, since I hardly ever pick up the phone and prefer communication via text or email. While some people are upset with this method of distribution, I really appreciated listening to a new song in this manner. Alec and Dave created an environment for a unique experience: connecting with a small group of strangers over a common interest. Let's be honest. If this song had been readily available on the Internet, I would have downloaded it, listened to it once or twice, and then it would have been added to my exponentially growing iTunes library. I download something like at least four albums a day plus at least fifteen other songs. Because I go through so much music, I'm no longer able to keep up with how I discovered certain songs and artists, which is rather sad since I like having background stories.

Thank you, Alec and Dave. I hope to hear this song again in some shape or form, because it is too good to be kept "unheard" forever. Also, thank you for introducing me to strangers who informed me of "secret" bars and possibly illegal sushi joints in Brooklyn, all très important info since I'm moving across the bridge in a couple months.

Casimir Pulaski Day (demo) - Sufjan Stevens | Alternative Link

Sufjan Stevens

By the way, this is a real holiday in Illinois. I wish I could still get a day off for it.


pmclaughlin on February 12, 2009 at 2:43 PM said...

Hey Liked your post, interesting to hear a perspective on the listening sessions. When I heard about it, I wasn't sure, thought it was a bit pretentious, but your post convinced me that it is a good idea and very much in keeping with the 'sufjan' ethos! Casimir Polaski Day is probably my favourite track as well. Greetings from a Scotsman in snowy England.

JK on February 15, 2009 at 4:54 PM said...

You are a writer Mimi. And this is a cool idea to have a listening session for songs instead of hearing them for the first time all by yourself and through the interwebs.

John Sims said...

You are so lucky. I live in Texas and love sufjan stevens and am starting to come to grips with the fact that I will never hear that song. I really stinks. But thanks for the review its as close as Ill get to the song...

mimi on June 25, 2009 at 7:34 AM said...

Honestly, I think Alec Duffy will one day share the song with the world. Just a matter of time...

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