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|1. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois|
|2. The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You're Gonna Have To Leave Now, Or, 'I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight...|
|3. Come On! Feel The Illinoise!: Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition/Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream|
|4. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.|
|6. A Short Reprise For Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But For Very Good Reasons|
|7. Decatur, Or, Round Of Applause For Your Stepmother!|
|8. One Last 'Whoo-Hoo!' For The Pullman|
|10. Casimir Pulaski Day|
|11. To The Workers Of The Rock River Valley Region, I Have An Idea Concerning Your Predicament|
|12. The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts|
|13. Prairie Fire That Wanders About|
|14. A Conjunction Of Drones Simulating The Way In Which Sufjan Stevens Has An Existential Crisis In The Great Godfrey Maze|
|15. The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!|
|16. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!|
|17. Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All The Way Out In Bushnell|
|18. In This Temple As In The Hearts Of Man For Whom He Saved The Earth|
|19. The Seer's Tower|
|20. The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders: Part I: The Great Frontier/Part II: Come To Me Only With Playthings Now|
See all 22 tracks on this disc
Illinois sounds like The Sea and Cake collaborating with the high-school band from a Wes Anderson film on banjo-driven, pulsing meditations on Vince Guaraldi's music for Peanuts. Sufjan Stevens, the singer-songwriter behind the endeavor, is an earnest and whimsical young man who aims to record an album based on every state in the union, though this is just his second attempt since 2003's Michigan. Lavish praise has been heaped upon this precocious twenty-something, who weaves personal recollections, historical narratives, and strange facts together to create lush portraits of Midwestern life. It's not maudlin stuff, and the atypical instrumentation (strings, choirs, trumpets, vibes) is beyond gimmick. Halfway through "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.," when Stevens has you feeling true empathy for a serial killer, it's clear that he really is an artist of the highest order. These are weird and lovely middlebrow ditties; we eagerly await the Broadway adaptation. --Mike McGonigal
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Top Customer Reviews
Stevens' skill as a composer of complex, emotionally-laden melodies is only increasing with time and practice, as is his ability to tap into the legends, triumphs and shames of a populace.
The album is a suite, designed to immerse the listener into the cultural identity of the place, and for that reason it is a shame to give any of the songs precedence over the others. However, if there is one song on this album that deserves special mention, it has to be "John Wayne Gacy", a truly chilling and heartbreaking piece that highlights Stevens' real gift: sympathy - for victim and aggressor alike. He uses simple words and a soaring, theremin-like vocal line to bridge the gap between horror and acceptance, exposing the good an evil that lies in every heart. It still brings me to tears even after repeated listens.
Once again, his gentle take on the Christian faith comes to the fore, but as in "Michigan" it is less a cloying tack-on than a simple and truthful expression of thankfulness the source of his immense creativity and hope. It can't help but leave the listener thinking that if everyone knew Sufjan's version of God, the world just might be an immeasurably better place.
I came away from "Illinoise" with a renewed sense of faith -- in Sufjan himself. If he continues as strongly down this path he's set for himself we may be seeing the emergence of a true American musical genius, an unflinching Chronicler-in-Chief of the nation's dreams, crimes and acheivements.
I live in hope!
Just by seeing this album on store shelves, you know it's no ordinary album. Even the cover art, depicting a fantastic bricolage of Illinois figures and symbols, even the wildly thought-out track titles and the strange way they are arranged, with outros and intros all over the place indicates that this is not for a passive listener. And yet anyone who is remotely interested in something even a LITTLE different than top 40 radio could extract something out of "Come on Feel the Illinoise"... there are just that many layers.
One comment about the album (and I am unsure as to whether this is a criticism or a praise) is that it is difficult for the disc to be broken apart. If one of the songs is separated from the others, it just doesn't sound the same. Folks with ipods: when you're in the mood for Stevens' 'Illinoise' turn off shuffle and pick the album. As a whole, the album is much like a soundtrack to a ridiculously good musical spectacular about Illinois that never was (or will be, for that matter).
Stevens is publically a very spiritual artist, but the album not only refuses to alienate, but actually ATTRACTS secular listeners. Stevens' spiritual sensability lends to a sweeet, calming, intricate listen.Read more ›
The songs encompass emotions from joy to melancholy, and are interspersed with colorfully titled brief instrumental snippets like A Short Reprise for Mary Todd or vocal ones like One Last Woohoo for the Pullman. For all its dazzling variety, the album is surprisingly cohesive and the following are my personal favorites:
The celebratory Come On Feel The Illinoise with its intricate arrangement, the buoyant Decatur with its witty rhyme scheme and lilting beat, the poignant and solemn Casimir Pulaski Day, the sensitive treatment of a horrible subject like John Wayne Gacy, the mix of sadness and elation in the rousing and catchy tune Chicago, Man Of Metropolis with its segments of hard rock guitar and the tender Tallest Man.
Wow what a listening experience Illinois proved to be. On these exquisite melodies, Sufjan's intimate voice is often framed by the most elegant backing vocals over a rich and graceful instrumental mix. The music is infused with a stirring sense of spirituality. Illinois is the most inspiring and uplifting album I have heard in a long long time.
But whether or not he covers the whole USA, Stevens' will keep charming people with his music, as he does in his latest album "Illinoise." And no, that is not a typo. It's sort of folk -- dreamy acoustic pop, with songs about aliens, God, and wacky interludes. This is folk music for the Wes Anderson fans.
It opens with a dreamy intro about a UFO, written in elusive language that could hint at either aliens or a religious vision. Your pick which it is, but Stevens' sweet voice and birdlike instruments make it sound ethereal... before it switches over into the choral singing and inspiring horns of "Black Hawk War." By the time it's over, you'll feel like saluting.
Stevens uses that as a springboard for lighter material -- inspiring rock anthems, mellow acoustic music, and vaguely ominous balladry. Some of the songs wouldn't be out of place at a down-home barn dance, and others are sparkling indie bliss. And yes, some songs dabble at both styles, like the sweeping dancey "Man of Metropolis."
By the last stretch of the album, Stevens switches over to a folk-dreampop style, with cute little interludes between the songs. "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!!" wins for most unique title, but it also shows Stevens off in his eerie folk best. It's a sound that continues its melancholy way, right to the end -- the sparkling "Out of Egypt."
Yep, "Illinoise" is one of those albums that qualifies as an experience -- it's the sort of music that transports you away, and doesn't set you back down until it ends.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is quite literally one of the best things I've listened to in a while. It was so good that I tried making love to the CD and when I lay in my bed ridiculously satisfied I... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Michaelangelo Finistauri