Wednesday, March 08, 2006

After studying creative writing in New York, Sufjan Stevens (SOOF-yan) turned his back on editors to embrace instruments. But listening to his most recent album, Illinoise, is like reading a collection of Midwestern short stories while you drive, or walk, or instant message.

The twenty-two tracks on this album -- which range in length from just a few seconds to seven minutes -- depict scenes of life in the state of Illinois. The second of Stevens’ “fifty states project” (he plans to release one album for each state; the first was Michigan, his home state), this album is drenched in dreamlike layers of piano, strings, guitar, brass, woodwinds, cymbals, and glockenspiel. Down-to-earth twangy banjo and the occasional electric guitar riff, alongside lyrics about road trips, stepmothers, life, and death, break up these instrumental reprieves.

Some tracks (“Chicago”) sound like inspiration and exultation. Others (“Casimir Pulaski Day”) make you want to cry. Any of them could get stuck in your head for the duration of the day. Sufjan appreciates innovation. In an interview with Pitchfork (2004), he said he wants to “converge different types of music, and to find similarities, common ground, between different genres… to create a new sound.”

If you haven’t yet heard Illinoise, go get it today!

Emily Garrett
Contributing Writer

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