Sufjan Stevens
Illinois


4.5
superb

Review

by musicandwords USER (4 Reviews)
April 3rd, 2006 | 27 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


This is my first review on here. I hope you enjoy it.

Michigan born Sufjan Stevens is surely the most ambitious man in alternative music around, with plans to write an album for each North American state. Illinoise being only the second in this line, he better hope he lives a long life. A graphic designer, writer, and amateur seamster, Stevens sure doesn’t look set to run out of creativity any time soon.

Illinoise, though separated in to twenty-two tracks, is actually more of a unified experience; one song in many suites. Track one, ‘Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois’, is an ephemeral pleasure; delicate piano introducing Stevens’ voice with quiet confidence. It melts effortlessly in to track two, an interlude with such a long name that not only am I not going to type it, it ought to have been the centerpiece of the whole album. This, in turn, introduces the lively and unusual, ‘Come On! Feel the Illinoise!’ It’s the first offering that makes use of a full band, displaying curious but effective use of trumpet, saxophone, xylophone, and choir.

Track four, ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jn.’, is something altogether different. Simple yet exquisite guitar and piano support Stevens’ ethereal vocals as they soar elegantly above, voicing intense but understated lyrics. The entire song has such a pleasing feel to it that it melts in the ears like chocolate on the tongue.

From here the album moves wonderingly on, through ditties such as, ‘Decatur, or, Round of Applause For Your Stepmother!’ into the extravagant instrumentation of ‘Chicago’. ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’ is another milestone on the way to track twenty-two, a serene and unpretentious song about a woman with bone cancer. The lack of lyrical metaphor is refreshing, and makes for a much for touching ballad, aided by some inspired trumpet work. The enchanted musing of a complicated piano part in track eleven lead in to the memorable ‘The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts’, and almost catchy affair that makes use of some heavier guitar work, and constant changes in texture.

The almost sacred-sounding ‘Prairie Fire That Wanders About’, is follwed by the seemingly unremarkable ‘The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!’ However, on repeated listen, the melody proves to be one of the most addictive and modest Illinoise has to offer. The next song is a perfectly rounded work of art, with a bass line to kill for and hypnotizing backing singing; the perfect companion to ‘The Seer’s Tower’, a haunting offering by piano and voice, that quietly sticks in the mind, despite almost being an interlude.

Here the album gently melts away with handclaps and obscure brass work abound, running through it’s closing motions without ceremony, the last notes never quite resolving enough to call Illinoise finished. Rather, it is just read to start again.


user ratings (1412)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
Tom Gellatly (5)
Sufjan Stevens takes on one of the most ambitious projects of not only his career, but also indie mu...

Kiran EMERITUS (4.5)
...

musicisgood (4.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
YDload
April 3rd 2006


1207 Comments


Yeah, this was a pretty good review. But I don't like how you described "John Wayne Gacy Jr." as a pleasant song. It's fuckin depressing and creepy as hell! But it's also one of the album's highlights. Along with "Casimir Pulaski Day," Sufjan is at his best when he's writing sad songs.

morrissey
Moderator
April 3rd 2006


1688 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ha the tracklist makes this review seem intolerably short. :p
This is a great album and the highlights are excellent(Gacy, Chicago, Come on!, Casimir Pulaski etc.), but there is far too much filler. At first it didn't bug me and I understand its importance in presenting a unified album, but at this point I just skip all the extraneous tracks.

Iai
Emeritus
April 3rd 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Nah, most people i know think that.

Med57
Moderator
April 3rd 2006


1001 Comments


I still don't see how this gets so much acclaim from all the indie music fans out there. :-/ Especially compared to his Michigan album, I find it pretty dull on the whole. Good review, anyway.

Zebra
Moderator
April 3rd 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

This is a great album, but nothing spectacular. There are some brilliant tracks such as John Wayne Gacy Jr. Chicago and Jacksonville but the end of the album gets pretty dull being over 70 minutes long.
Good review, you went quite in depth on a few tracks and left some of the filler type stuff out. This Message Edited On 04.03.06

musicandwords
April 3rd 2006


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks hugely for the feedback guys. It's the only Stevens album I own but I'll let you know what I think of the others when I get them.

x

mx
Moderator
April 3rd 2006


733 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Agreed completely on Wasps,its the best track IMO

Zmev
April 4th 2006


983 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Seven Swans > This

mx
Moderator
April 9th 2006


733 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I never listen to albums all the way through anyways, so the filler doesn't really bother me

musicandwords
April 13th 2006


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Some albums lend themselves to full listens. I think this is one of them. The Mars Volta also make these kind of albums.

x

STLMiguel
May 20th 2006


335 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Out of all of the discs out there that have gotten a ton of indie cred the last few years, this might be the least appealing. I liked the Michigan album and bought this when it first came out, but after like one listen, I was done. Now it is at a CD Warehouse, waiting for somebody else to pick it up and be disappointed.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hmmm, I decided to spend 15 bucks on Lights & Sounds over this a few months ago. After finally getting this, I'm fairly happy with my previous purchase.

Hatshepsut
May 20th 2006


1997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wait..the Lights and Sounds by Yellowcard? Interesting.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Ooooh, do I lose street cred now? Yay.

musicandwords
June 6th 2006


11 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like Lights and Sounds. But not better than this. And definitely not as much as Ocean Avenue.

x

Anthracks
November 11th 2008


3764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

John Wayne Gacy, Jr. is fucking creepy fucking beautiful fucking I don't know, just one of the best songs I know of.

Digging: Radio Moscow - Magical Dirt

AtavanHalen
November 11th 2008


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Chicago is pretty much a life-affirming song. I still have faith in the human race because it can make songs as beautiful as that.

taylormemer
November 11th 2008


4917 Comments


Atavan wtf is this album all about? I can't bear reading through the clamour of diamoned question marks.

botb
November 11th 2008


9721 Comments


This album is an absolute gem in the folk genre as far as i'm concerned, you need to check it out immediately.

lunchforthesky
November 11th 2008


1039 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

John Wayne Gacy is a great song. This album is full of filler.



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