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Sufjan Stevens?!? (update: interesting review)

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mrmando   

Just got round to spinning A Sun Came and did not care for it very much. Multi-instrumentalism impressive. Nice nods to Arabic, Indian and Celtic styles. But why do so many of the songs devolve into godawful distorted messes, and why do bits of it sound deliberately amateurish and out of tune?

So ... any of you Sufjan fanciers want A Sun Came? You can trade me something for it.

Are the later discs better?

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opus   
Are the later discs better?

Oh heavens yes. A Sun Came is not without its charms, but his more recent work is far, far better. You might want to steer clear of Enjoy Your Rabbit, as it's his most "out there" album, but Michigan and Seven Swans are both much more solid and focused than A Sun Came.

MP3s from Michigan...

- "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace"

- "Holland"

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SHOCKED.gif

Pitchfork posted the tracklisting for Illinois today, and man oh man... if you thought Michigan had some long song titles...

01 Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL

02 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 Going to Have to Leave Now, or, "I have fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!"

03 Come on! Feel the Illinoise!

-Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition

-Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream

04 John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

05 Jacksonville

06 A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But for Very Good Reasons

07 Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!

08 One Last "Woo-hoo!" for the Pullman

09 Chicago

10 Casimir Pulaski Day

11 To the Workers of the Rockford River Valley Region, I have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament, and it involves shoe string, a lavender garland, and twelve strong women

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!! Ahhhhh!

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

21 Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name a Few

22 Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I shake the dirt from my sandals as I run

The album will be available in both CD and vinyl formats. The vinyl will be a 2xLP set with a triple gatefold sleeve and an additional track, "The Avalanche". The CD will have a running time of 74 minutes and the LP will be 80 minutes. Epic indeed.

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opus   
Pitchfork posted the tracklisting for Illinois today, and man oh man... if you thought Michigan had some long song titles...

I know there will be some out there who will find those song titles to be the very height of pretention, but I love them.

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Pitchfork posted the tracklisting for Illinois today, and man oh man... if you thought Michigan had some long song titles...

I know there will be some out there who will find those song titles to be the very height of pretention, but I love them.

Sufjan performed a couple of these new songs at Calvin College last weekend.

I love his music, and look forward to "Illinois" very much. Many times I don't deal well with "ethereal." I find the results hopelessly twee, and want to sic Steve Earle or Drive-By Truckers on the perpetrators. But Sufjan's music really works for me. I was mesmerized by his set last weekend -- acoustic guitar and banjo, trumpet, subdued electric guitar used primarily for atmospherics, xylophone, and what sounded like the angelic host. Performed by five people in swan costumes.

My inner redneck will never comprehend it, but I genuinely loved this music. And if what I heard is any indication, the songs from "Illinois" will hold up quite well with the ... Michigan" and "Seven Swans" albums.

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traveen   

I had Sufjan's Cd called "A Sun Came" (I think, I gave it away long ago) after one of the locals in a guitar shop recommended it. I listened, and I didn't get it.

The Cd I had went all over the place, which was entertaining, but in the long run if failed to excite me. I admittedly think that if you can't whistle a tune, it probably isn't good as music. Music is music, and should be hum-able. If your aim is to create an art piece and use music as your medium, then that's a totally different story. But this didn't register as music to me.

Playing 20 instruments and playing them well are two different things, I failed to see the excitement. Hopefully is later stuff is better.

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opus   
I had Sufjan's Cd called "A Sun Came" (I think, I gave it away long ago) after one of the locals in a guitar shop recommended it. I listened, and I didn't get it.

I think most would agree that A Sun Came is his weakest album. Try Seven Swans or Michigan before you give up on the guy.

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Bethany   

I have heard Illinois, and it's beautiful. I haven't had time to really process it fully, but after I have a bit more time to digest it, I can give a better review.

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opus   
I have heard Illinois, and it's beautiful. I haven't had time to really process it fully, but after I have a bit more time to digest it, I can give a better review.

Gah!!!!!!! How?!? How are you guys beating me to it?!? mecry.gif

Come on, hook a brother up!

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Joel   

Jeff @ the Drop 7 mp3 Blog just posted a song from Illinios, "Chicago."

It is beautiful, although the melody totally cops the oboe hook from "The Transfiguration."

I have no idea if the file is legal...but when has that stopped people, nowadays?

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Jeff @ the Drop 7 mp3 Blog just posted a song from Illinios, "Chicago."

It is beautiful, although the melody totally cops the oboe hook from "The Transfiguration."

I have no idea if the file is legal...but when has that stopped people, nowadays?

Indeed, the entire album has been leaked to the Internet. Those of you who are desperate to hear this album can find a quick, easy, and probably unethical way to get your Sufjan fix on Soulseek or some other such program.

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Brookd.   

not to piss all over the Sufjan love-fest here, but I just don't get it. I've seen *part* of his concert on two seperate occasions, and part was all I could handle without wanting to do something either suicidal or homicidal with his banjo. I have had this same reaction to the "music" of half-handed cloud and Danielson family. Goofy childrens-church ecclecticism just ain't my thang apparantly.

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opus   

Well, I'll agree with you when it comes to Half-Handed Cloud and, to a lesser extent, the Danielson Famile. I've only heard one Half-Handed Cloud album that I could really stomach (the I'm So Sheepy EP) and Danielson Famile can be absolutely brilliant at times and other times not so much. However, I don't think I'd label Stevens' music as "Goofy childrens-church ecclecticism". I'll admit I can get a little gaga over the man's music, such that it's probably impossible for me to ever be objective about his stuff in the forseeable future, but it's never felt goofy to me. Eclectic sure, but never goofy.

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opus   
Illinois is now available for pre-ordering. Click here...

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opus   

Whee!!! Mine just shipped today.

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My copy of Illinois (more accurately, "Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come on, Feel the Illinoise") arrived this morning, which was a surprise since the website said they wouldn't be shipping until June 3rd.

First observation: the song list takes up like 45% of the entire back of the cd case, and that's with a very small 6 point font. I love it.

Second observation: I found Michigan to be brilliant, but Illinois blows that album away. Michigan had a few songs that went a little too long, and a few interludes that ended up getting skipped after the first listen; Illinois is an hour and a quarter long, and not one minute is wasted.

There's also more stylistic variety than Michigan: "Man of Metropolis" is the closest thing to an all-out rock song that Sufjan's ever done, and "Night Zombies" sounds like 1970s disco funk with a killer string section.

Third observation: "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is maybe the most chilling song I have ever heard. I don't think Glimpses of God is gonna touch this one with a ten foot Christian pole.pinch.gif

Fourth observation: I think the line"Tuesday night at the Bible study / We lift our hands and pray over your body / But nothing ever happens" might be incredibly profound, but I'm not sure yet.

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John   

Received my copy of Illinoise in the mail today and it is stunning. I'm not sure anyone is making music today that has the kind of impact Sufjan has on me. Beautiful and intricate songs, with more strings (violins and stuff) than I seem to remember from earlier albums. Oh, and John Wayne Gacy Jr. and Chicago are my favs thus far.

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opus   

My copy of Illinois arrived yesterday. I've only had a chance to go through the complete album once, but I'm liking it quite a bit. Still too early to tell if it's better than Michigan, but I'm going to have a lot fun unravelling these songs. Seriously, for all of the pomp and complexity of songs like "Come On! Feel The Illinoise" and "Chicago", I never cease to be amazed the subtlety in Stevens' songwriting.

There are melodic shifts in the former song that give me the chills, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is quite chilling in its restraint, and "Casimir Pulaski Day" strikes me as this album's "Romulus" - a quiet, quaint little ballad that wrestles with great pain and betrayal. I'm glad that someone else isn't afraid to mention disco when describing "They Are The Night Zombies!", and I'm very glad to see that Stevens' Steve Reich obsession is still in full force on those closing tracks.

I'm enjoying it, but it has a lot of gound to cover before it supplants Michigan in my mind (partially because that album has so much personal significance for me). And like I said, I can't wait to unravel and pick apart every little detail in these songs.

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opus   

FakeJazz gives Illinois 11 out of 12

Sufjan's second stop is Illinois. Outside of Chicago, what do you know about Illinois? If you're like me, it's hard to name anything else, and Sufjan admittedly had just as little familiarity with Illinois before this album, which makes it a true test to the realizability of this whole 50 states idea. To pass this hurdle, Sufjan submerged himself in books, so the album carries the slight stench of old Social Studies textbooks with lines like "Stephen A. Douglas was the great debator, Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator" - perhaps enough to make him Sarah Vowell's new favorite band but not choice source material to most. However, Sufjan's music on Michigan was successful despite the gimmick, not because of it, and Sufjan's card catalog rummaging provides Illinois a few bursts of inspiration, even when its connection to the state seems fleeting at best.

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opus   

I just posted my review.

On a related note, Asthmatic Kitty has redesigned their website.

Edited by opus

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Heard a song. Dropped everything and ordered it.

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As you know, I am prone to overstatement, embellishment, and hyperbole.

But.

I am being fully and utterly serious when I say that "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is one of the two or three greatest songs ever released on a Christian label[1]. It is...I don't know. Simply indescribably intense. I'm not sure how many more listens I can give it before I break down entirely, and I can't recall having that reaction to any song. Ever. (I skipped it last listen through Illinois for that very reason.)

The rest of the album is Michigan-good and Seven Swans-good, with the same caveat as Michigan that perhaps he should have trimmed it just a bit. (First to go: Whatever that song was the steals the rhythm he uses in the "Chicago" verses a mere two or three tracks later.)

Dale

[1] which Sounds Familyre is, as we established earlier in this thread

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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zalm   

I haven't shared much by way of reviews in these parts, because I haven't written many and because I'm often a trifle intimidated by those of you who have. But Asthmatic Kitty sent the disc much earlier than expected, and I truly adore this album, so I thought I'd post my review.

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