Illinois

Illinois

4.8 14
by Sufjan Stevens
     
 

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With two states down and only 48 to go, Sufjan Stevens' ambitious musical map of the Unites States of America should be completed -- if he puts out one a year -- sometime around 2053. It's a daunting task (and not an entirely original one at that), but if each subsequent record is as good as Illinois, fans who live long enough to witness the project'sSee more details below

Overview

With two states down and only 48 to go, Sufjan Stevens' ambitious musical map of the Unites States of America should be completed -- if he puts out one a year -- sometime around 2053. It's a daunting task (and not an entirely original one at that), but if each subsequent record is as good as Illinois, fans who live long enough to witness the project's completion will no doubt find themselves to be scholars of both state history and its narrator's shape-shifting soul. Stevens' folk epics, as played by his signature mini-orchestra, have changed little since his 2003 foray into Michigan -- a charge that may cause some grumbling among that album's detractors -- but there's a newfound optimism that runs through much of Illinois that echoes the state's "Gateway to the West" pioneering spirit. Glorious road trip-ready cuts like "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts," "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!," and "Chicago" have an expansiveness that radiates with the ballast of history and the promise of new beginnings. Stevens has done his research, with references to everyone from Abe Lincoln, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the ghost of Carl Sandburg to John Wayne Gacy -- the latter provides one the song cycle's most affecting moments. The lush (yet still distinctly lo-fi) indie pop melodies draw as much from classic rock as they do progressive folk. "Jacksonville," with its four-chord banjo lurch, mines "Old Man"-era Neil Young, disco strings dance around "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!," while the rousing pre-finale "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" is pure Peanuts-infused Vince Guaraldi as filtered through the ambiguous kaleidoscope of Danielson Famile spiritualism. There's a distinct community theater vibe to the whole affair that may or may not be the result of numerous photo shoots in which the players are dressed in adult-style Boy Scout uniforms -- it brings to mind the Blaine Players from Christopher Guest's small-town theater parody Waiting for Guffman -- but the majority of Illinois is alarmingly earnest. Stevens may be a snake-oil salesman, but he's got pretty good stuff, and like many of history's most untrustworthy wordsmiths, he somehow manages to switch the opportunist off and turn on the human being each time the listener gets suspicious of his intentions.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Jon Pareles
Even the most elaborate constructions come across as homemade, touched with an optimism that is by no means naïve.
Rolling Stone - Rob Sheffield
A sprawling twenty-two track tour of the Prarie state.... he holds it all together with his breathy, gentle voice, reminiscent of Neil Young circa After the Gold Rush.
Pitchfork - Amanda Petrusich
In both theory and execution, Illinois is huge, a staggering collection of impeccably arranged American tribute songs.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/05/2005
Label:
Asthmatic Kitty
UPC:
0656605892627
catalogNumber:
14
Rank:
14645

Tracks

  1. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois  - Sufjan Stevens
  2. The Black Hawk War, Or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and ...  - Sufjan Stevens
  3. Come on! Feel the Illinoise!: Pt. 1: The World's Columbian Exposition  - Sufjan Stevens
  4. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.  - Sufjan Stevens
  5. Jacksonville  - Sufjan Stevens
  6. A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But for Very Good ...  - Sufjan Stevens
  7. Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!  - Sufjan Stevens
  8. One Last "Whoo-Hoo!" for the Pullman  - Sufjan Stevens
  9. Chicago  - Sufjan Stevens
  10. Casimir Pulaski Day  - Sufjan Stevens
  11. To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea ...  - Sufjan Stevens
  12. The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts  - Sufjan Stevens
  13. Prairie Fire That Wanders About  - Sufjan Stevens
  14. A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens ...  - Sufjan Stevens
  15. The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!  - Sufjan Stevens
  16. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from  - Sufjan Stevens
  17. Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It  - Sufjan Stevens
  18. In This Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth  - Sufjan Stevens
  19. The Seer's Tower  - Sufjan Stevens
  20. The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders: Pt. 1: The Great Frontier/Pt. ...  - Sufjan Stevens
  21. Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, ...  - Sufjan Stevens
  22. Out of Egypt, Into the Great Laugh of Mankind, And I Shake the ...  - Sufjan Stevens

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Sufjan Stevens   Primary Artist,Organ,Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Flute,Piano,Accordion,Electric Bass,Drums,Glockenspiel,Electric Guitar,Oboe,Recorder,Alto Saxophone,Tambourine,Triangle,Vocals,Various,Sopranino,Vibes,Shaker,sleigh bells,Wurlitzer
Rev. Dan Smith   Background Vocals,Hand Clapping
Matt Morgan   Background Vocals
James McAlister   Drums
Craig Montoro   Trumpet,Vocals,Muted Trumpet
Shara Worden   Background Vocals
Elin K. Smith   Background Vocals,Hand Clapping
Katrina Kerns   Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Julianne Carney   Violin,String Quartet
Jennifer Hoover   Choir, Chorus
Illinoisemaker Choir   Vocals,Hand Clapping,hooter,Hollers
Maria Bella Jeffers   Cello,String Quartet
Beccy Lock   Choir, Chorus
Tara McDonnell   Choir, Chorus
Rob Moose   Violin,String Quartet
Tom Eaton   Choir, Chorus
Daniel Smith   Background Vocals,Hand Clapping

Technical Credits

Sufjan Stevens   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Divya Srinivasan   Artwork

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