Sufjan Stevens

Seven Swans

8 p.m. Sunday, July 25; at Old Ironsides, 1901 10th Street; with Joanna Newsom and Dennison Witmer; $8.

On his fourth release, Sufjan Stevens brings finger-picked guitar, understated vocals and audio that mixes campfire, low-fi bedroom moments with creative studio expression. Various members of the mysterious Danielson Famile assist in the recording, sweetening the sounds with female vocals, bass and drums. Antecedents exist in Bert Jansch and Will Oldham, but Stevens sings better than both. It’s not as staid as it might seem—with banjo; synthetic horns; and, on “Sister,” an amusing “la-la-la” excursion obscuring his extended guitar solo before the vocals form words. Southern Gothic authors and religious imagery converge, as Seven Swans is an epic expression of faith that packs in enough epiphany to engage those normally put off by such pursuits. It’s one of the better records so far this year.