Sufjan Stevens abandoned his much-discussed states project (one album per state, 50 in all) a long time ago; he probably never meant to finish it in the first place. Still, his last full length, 2015's legendarily sad Carrie & Lowell, could easily count as his Oregon album. He name-checks the Tillamook Burn on "Fourth of July," Spencer Butte on "All of Me Wants All of You," The Dalles on "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross," and there's a standout track called "Eugene" where he recalls early Oregon summers with his mom and stepdad.
Last week, Sufjan announced his followup to Carrie & Lowell—a 15-track LP called The Ascension with song titles like "Ativan" and "Death Star," out September 25—and dropped "America," the 12-minute first single that he wrote during the Carrie & Lowell sessions. This week, he released a non-album B-side written in the same period: "My Rajneesh," which clocks in at a comparatively modest 10 minutes and 30 seconds, and fuels the age-old "is this Sufjan Stevens song gay or just about God?" debate with lyrics like "I lit a fire and drank in the breath of his kiss."
There are other unmistakably Sufjan flourishes: finger picks that give way to crashing, discordant synths; lines like "Mystical star, burn bright like the tail of a dog." The title, no doubt, is a reference to Rajneeshpuram, the central Oregon political commune covered in 2018's popular Netflix doc Wild Wild Country.
At one point, Sufjan directly addresses Osho (formerly Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh), the self-appointed head of the Rajneesh movement. Lest we forget, Osho is not the first disgraced Oregonian to be immortalized by Sufjan's warble—that honor goes to Tonya Harding, whose eponymous Sufjan tribute contains the incredible lyric, "Well, this world is a bitch, girl / Don't end up in a ditch, girl." Listen to "My Rajneesh" below and see how it stacks up: