1.19.2006

Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise



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.

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