Sufjan Stevens has released "America," the first single off his first proper album in five years, The Ascension, which was announced earlier this week and comes out September 25 via Asthmatic Kitty. It's 12 and a half minutes long, and it finds Sufjan applying his classic whisper-singing to crackling synths and a sleepy but sputtering drum machine, and it's built around the line "Don't do to me what you did to America." It's awesome. Listen below.

Sufjan calls the song "a call for personal transformation and a refusal to play along with the systems around us" and says it's "a protest song against the sickness of American culture in particular," and as much as it resonates very strongly right now, it actually was written six years ago and originally worked on as part of the Carrie & Lowell sessions. "I was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote it, because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie & Lowell," he adds. "So I shelved it."

"But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next."

A press release adds that "America" served as the thematic template for this album, and like this song, much of the album was made by Sufjan himself at his computer with synthesizers and a drum machine. "My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you," he adds. "Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving."

"America" also comes out as a digital single on July 10 and a 12" single on July 31, backed by non-album track "My Rajneesh." You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp, who are waiving their cut of sales and giving 100% of profits directly to artists and labels today.

We also recently posted a roundup of some of our favorite covers that Sufjan has done.

More From Brooklyn Vegan