It’s not a collection of new material. Entirely. Some time ago, Bryce Dessner approached Stevens about re-arranging his 2001 electronic song cycle Enjoy Your Rabbit for the New York string quartet Osso, who contributed string arrangements to Illinois and My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me the Workhorse. Stevens was into the idea, Dessner commissioned them for his Music Now Festival, and over the next year various New York-based composers (Michael Atkinson, Olivier Manchon, Maxim Moston, Nico Muhly, and Gabriel Kahane) went to work reinterpreting the Enjoy tracks. (As those familiar with Enjoy know, the songs are based on the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. So, no, Run Rabbit Run is not about John Updike.) The pieces premiered in April 2007 at Music Now in Cincinnati. After that, the decision was made to release them as a single collection. The thematic cover art’s by Bryce and Aaron Dessner’s older sister, Jessica. She based her art on Matt Morgan’s Enjoy Your Rabbit illustrations There’s an interesting story behind the collection, so take a look at the pretty picture and then dig into the text.

The tale, told by Jessica Dessner:

Sufjan suggested I do artwork for this new album that he’d started work on Run, Rabbit, Run – drawings that, like the re-arranged music, would flower from the outlines and ideas suggested by the originals.

Now, Sufjan is a very formal person, so we set a date for the official kick-off meeting. At the appointed hour, I heard a light rapping on my door. I went to answer it, wondering why so quiet? Why no doorbell? Sufjan stood there, and he said to me in his quietest voice, ’There’s a rabbit in your yard,’ like it’s some set up, like this is some joke.

But there it is, this beautiful black and white bunny, twitching and lost and afraid and unsure exactly what was going on and how he ended up under this big bush on a lawn in this big city. We scrambled to catch him, and once we did, and we put it in a box out in our backyard.

Now Sufjan had brought this ornate list of what needs to be done in the drawings and we tried our best to get through it: ’Of course, a tiger and a tortoise and a butterfly.’ ’Yes, sure the snake could use a scorpion and some pomegranate.’ ’Definitely water dragons would enjoy grapes.’

It was hard to do this with a straight face, and all we could think of is this rabbit in the back of the house, and all of a sudden for no particular reason we found ourselves calling Shara to tell her.

’Did you guys know I’d been keeping rabbits lately,’ she said. ’Thank you for finding my new rabbit.’

As the story goes, the rabbit, Fontoof, currently lives in Detroit. Run Rabbit Run’s tracklist:

01 “Year of the Ox” (Arranged by Michael Atkinson)
02 “Enjoy Your Rabbit” (Arranged by Michael Atkinson)
03 “Year of the Monkey” (Arranged by Michael Atkinson)
04 “Year of the Tiger” (Arranged by Rob Moose)
05 “Year of the Dragon” (Arranged by Nico Muhly)
06 “Year of the Snake” (Arranged by Olivier Manchon)
07 “Year of the Horse” (Arranged by Rob Moose)
08 “Year of the Sheep” (Arranged by Maxim Moston)
09 “Year of the Rat” (Arranged by Olivier Manchon)
10 “Year of the Rooster” (Arranged by Gabriel Kahane)
11 “Year of the Dog” (Arranged by Rob Moose)
12 “Year of the Boar” (Arranged by Michael Atkinson)
13 “Year of Our Lord” (Arranged by Michael Atkinson)

Run Rabbit Run is out 10/6 via Asthmatic Kitty.

Comments (31)
  1. I guess it’s something…

  2. Bill Cosby  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    I am loving that album art, it’s like a Dürer watercolor vs. Ms Pacman. Exactly that.

  3. Where’s my great state of New York album, Sufjan?

  4. that’s like hoping that you’re going to get a new red bicycle for christmas and then opening the gift and your mom re-gifted you a toaster. bummer.

  5. Top ten messages left on Sufjan Stevens’ answering machine:
    10-1: Hello Sufjan — d33r here. When is your new album coming out?

  6. bev  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    Sufjan should be in Guitar Hero. Like Vampire Weekend lol!

  7. Andrew  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    Hmmm, should be interesting. I really liked what I heard from Music Now.

    I’m still waiting for a new Sufjan Stevens album though.

  8. Fernando  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    How does he know water dragons enjoy grapes? They might like muffins or pastries.

  9. OrangeKrush  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    Is there any chance in hell that Sufjan is just stockpiling albums over the years for some grandiose release later on?

  10. It’s like he’s trying to figure out as many ways to sustain output without making an actual new LP. Christmas songs (mostly all preexisting), Illinoise b-sides, and now a remix album? I hope the next thing is Seven Swans overdubbed in an amalgamation of Esperanto and Hopelandic. Probably!

  11. kyle  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    Goddamn, talk about abusing his sick days.

  12. Evan  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

    It’s a scary thought, but I think Sufjan may be creatively dead right now. I think he’s been trying to write, for sure. But I’m sure it’s all awful. Why else would he put out this absolute bullshit instead of an ACTAUL ALBUM THAT PEOPLE WILL CARE ABOUT?

  13. Sufjan is so done with music.

  14. Sufjan’s loss of inspiration has alot to do with the state he’s writing about next: Jersey.

    • Nick Jonas (spy)  |   Posted on Jul 9th, 2009 0

      That comment better be true. As a proud New Jerseyite, I pray he mentions our National Spoon Museum. . .and our Parkway.

  15. Poor Sufjan is like a timid cat with a half million people in the yard trying to coax him out from under the porch so they can get him to “do that thing with the rake again”.

  16. Evan  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2009 0

    you fool, you foolish fool. I meant for the Kunt part. It was supposed to be an insult. But spelling ‘load’ as ‘loud’ kind of diffuses it.

    • Why would you want to insult a man that has been dead for over 200 years?

      Whatever. How about we just call truce, and move on with our lives?

  17. PeteR  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2009 0

    No new material exactly? Pass…
    Don’t know why he keeps doing this… I keep getting excited and then finding out it’s more bulls**t!

  18. jonathan  |   Posted on Jul 10th, 2009 0 —- YEAR OF THE BOAR

  19. He and Jeff Mangum are releasing a 6xLP in 2013.

  20. i’m not sure which bothers me more: the complete lack of new sufjan material, or the sense of entitlement that we all have in regards to it…

  21. will this have anything to do with the novel by john updike? or is the title just a rip off? ps i suggest reading the novel. that may be time better spent. that’s just me though and my damned opinion again

  22. sufdub  |   Posted on Jul 12th, 2009 0

    i don’t know why everyone’s got their panties in a wad. EYR kicks ass and this is more sufjan. drop the expectations and get pumped

  23. jayfarer  |   Posted on Jul 13th, 2009 0

    It’s just that we’re addicted to Sufjan’s music and have been jonesin’ for a studio version of Majesty Snowbird for years now.

  24. I’m getting REALLY sick of all these people bitching that he isn’t making a new album. Let him do what he wants to do.

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