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Nightmare Fuel / Sufjan Stevens

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Sufjan Stevens is one creepy cookie. Filled with whispering vocals and exotic, ululating instruments, his music is eerie at the best of times, and when he wants to, it's downright disturbing.

  • Year of the Sheep, for example, consists of soft chorale, gentle strings, electronic effects, and, oh yeah, what sounds like backmasking of a screaming sheep. Not one you want your Winamp shuffling up late at night, or even on a vaguely overcast morning.
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  • "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is about a (completely real) serial killer who killed 27 teenage boys (according to the song, though the real number of victims may be slightly more or less) and buried them in shallow graves in his cellar. Every line is pure nightmare fuel, but the last verse is particularly chilling.
    And in my best behavior
    I am really just like him
    Look beneath the floorboards
    For the secrets I have hid
  • "The Owl and the Tanager", originally called "Barn Owl, Night Killer", is just as sinister as its working title.
  • Usually when his Christian faith is brought up in his music it's in the context of a God Is Love Song, but "Seven Swans" is a truly chilling depiction of the Book of Revelation. Most of the song is built around a slightly off-key ukulele riff and cryptic lyrics about signs in the sky and dragons. Then the key change happens and huge, echoing drums come in in the background and the tone of the lyrics changes:
    Oh, He will take you...
    If you run
    He will chase you
    He will take you
    If you run
    He will chase you
    Because He is the Lord
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  • "Dumb I Sound" is a little eerie from the start with its lonely piano but then it builds in intensity before breaking out into a nightmarish flurry of noise and unintelligible vocals.
  • "I Want to Be Well," which seems to be narrated by someone contemplating suicide as they suffer from an unspecified illness in a hospital room. Contains such disconcerting lyrics as "Everywhere you look, / everywhere you turn, / illness is watching, / waiting its turn," and culminates in a frantic climax of electronic noises and profanity. Certainly not one for the faint of heart, especially if you have unpleasant personal associations with hospitals or terminal illness (as most people do).
  • "Die Happy" is nearly six minutes of ominous, slowly mounting instrumentals, with the single lyric "I wanna die happy" repeated throughout. It segues directly into "Ativan", another eerie-sounding song about a severe depressive episode.


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