PDA

View Full Version : Sufjan Stevens...I am a pretty big fan.


|Zach|
03-01-2006, 11:52 AM
I know there are a lot of hard rockers on this side of the board...thats really not my thing as much but I have stumbled across Sufjan Stevens and really enjoyed his work. You can click the link to take a listen.

http://zachishere.com/?page_id=555


Pithfork review below...


The best travel writers skew their journeys into pointed narratives, writing the story of the landscape by seizing all the weird, awkward bits that make it distinct. On first listen, Sufjan Stevens' latest installment of state-based chamber-folk, Illinois, sounds dangerously similar to 2003's Michigan, all chirping vocals and copious orchestration. Both records inadvertently validate East Coast stereotypes of tough Midwestern values: This is earnest, hard-working music, morally rooted and technically precise.

Still, Stevens has always been a folk singer more in theory than in practice. He routinely ditches folk's scrappy, stripped-down aesthetics, but consistently embraces its stories-of-the-people unanimity. Consequently, Illinois is less about place than spirit. Stevens dutifully celebrates and indicts all the appropriate landmarks, isolating the highest and lowest points in Illinois history, but at its best, the album makes America feel very small and very real: A boy crying in a van, a girl with bone cancer, stepmothers, parades, bandstands, presidents, UFOs, cream of wheat, trains after dark, a serial killer, Bible study.

Musically, Illinois is strange and lush, as excessive and challenging as its giant, gushing song titles. Despite employing a small army of backers (including a string quartet, the Illinoisemaker Choir, drummer James McAllister, trumpeter Craig Montoro, and a pile of extra vocalists), Stevens is more forefronted than on the comparably solo Seven Swans. Manning nearly every instrument in his arsenal (and some beyond-- Stevens recorded the piano parts at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn), Stevens conducts his friends with impressive grace. Stevens' pipes quiver generously; his vocals could be easily (perhaps accurately) read as precious, but they're really more intimate than emo, and always beautifully echoed by his backers.

The colossal "The Black Hawk War" cartwheels slowly into a climax of strings and horns, gurgling and pushing, ostensibly signifying (with much aplomb) the violent return of the Sac and Fox Indians to Illinois. Stevens may be deploying state propaganda, or validating Black Hawk's push home, but no matter how grave its reality, the moment still lands like a giant, neon-cased WELCOME TO ILLINOIS billboard. Trumpets blare, submission looms, our eyes widen, it makes sense: Illinois. Is. The. Greatest. State. Of. All. TIME!

The excellent "Casimir Pulaski Day" (named after an Illinois state holiday honoring the polish-born victor of the Battle of Brandywine) is a heartbreaking story of late winter death, bravely sung over rich banjo; the bubbly "Decatur" (the title of which is, awesomely, rhymed with "alligator," "aviator," and "emancipator") features one of Stevens' most undeniable melodies, the kind of pretty, tinkling cue that sends everyone in earshot twirling through the streets, jazz hands and all. Matthew Morgan yelps solid backing bits (see their gorgeously squeaky harmony on "Stephen A. Douglass was a great debater/ But Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator!"), while Daniel and Elin Smith (of Brother Danielson, and the Danielson Famile) chime in for a campfire finish, complete with self-applause.

Stevens has a remarkable habit of being rousing and distressing at the same time, prodding disparate emotional centers until it's unclear whether it's best to grab your party shoes or a box of tissues. The gut-punching "Chicago" cagily celebrates the innate (and deeply American) tendency to employ highways as escape routes, ditching old mistakes for new swatches of land, new plates of eggs, new parking lots. Impossibly propulsive, each calm, harmonized, Illinoisemaker cry of "All things go!" pushes harder, promising liberation, by death or by automobile: "If I was crying/ In the van with my friend/ It was for freedom/ From myself and from the land," Stevens chokes, voice shaking over a haze of drums, strings, and shimmering keyboards.

"John Wayne Gacy, Jr." traces, with alarming accuracy, and over a hazy swirl of acoustic guitar and piano, the pathology of Illinois' most infamous serial killer: From 1972 until his arrest in 1978, Gacy was responsible for the torture, rape, and murder of 33 boys and young men, many of whom were discovered buried under the floorboards of his Norwood Park home. Lyrically, Stevens nails the specifics (as a kid, Gacy was slammed in the head by a swing, resulting in a blackout-inducing blood clot in his brain; he routinely donned a clown suit to entertain at a local hospital; victims were typically immobilized with chloroform-soaked cloths), and shifts perspectives gracefully; anchored in first-person, the song's narrator prods Gacy's mother and father, his neighbors, his victims, himself. More than any other track here, "Gacy" highlights Stevens' literary prowess, perfectly packed with nuance and detail.

At seventy-four minutes, Illinois is an exercise in patience; considering how long it takes to dog paddle through all the gooey orchestration, chugging through Stevens' meticulous arrangements and parsing out the melodies, Illinois is a bit of a commitment. Its 21 tracks consist of a handful of transitional snippets (many arresting in their own right), and plenty of good stuff ("The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulder", in particular) is buried way in the back, rewarding those who persevere, and in both theory and execution, Illinois is huge, a staggering collection of impeccably arranged American tribute songs.

shakesthecat
03-01-2006, 12:06 PM
Thanks for the link, I've been meaning to listen to his stuff.

"Illinois is an exercise in patience".....is putting it mildly.

Coma-inducing is more like it. :)

I'll give it another listen at home after a couple cocktails.

Archie F. Swin
03-01-2006, 12:36 PM
I bought Illinois back in January and haven't listened to much else since.

My fav tracks are Jacksonville, Decatur & Tallest Man, Broadest Shoulders

It will be interesting to see how many 'state' CDs he makes

StcChief
03-01-2006, 02:07 PM
Being from Illinois have interest in local home state artists.

Interesting sound. Modern Folk music.

|Zach|
03-01-2006, 02:09 PM
Interesting sound. Modern Folk music.
Bingo...I am really into it.

CosmicPal
03-01-2006, 06:34 PM
I bought Illinois back in January and haven't listened to much else since.

My fav tracks are Jacksonville, Decatur & Tallest Man, Broadest Shoulders

It will be interesting to see how many 'state' CDs he makes

He's supposed to do all 50 states. Quite an ambitious project, and I very much doubt he'll ever complete it. Even if he were to put out 2 albums a year- he'd have to complete it in 24 years (considering he already has two states down and 48 to go).

I love Illinois. One of the best albums I've heard in a very long time.

Fave songs: Jacksonville, Decatur, Chicago, They Are Night Zombies!.

Casimir Pulaski Day is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a very long time. Heartbreaking and beautiful all the same. The fact that he actually plays the banjo on a eulogy and somehow makes it work is an absolute masterful job. Which brings me to the fact that I consider Illinois to be the modern day Pet Sounds.

I love the album, and I look forward the rest of the states.

|Zach|
03-01-2006, 09:15 PM
Our step mom we did everything to hate her...

She drove us down to the edge of Decatour.

We saw the lion and the kangeroo take her...

Down to the river where they caught a wild alligator.

phisherman
03-01-2006, 10:32 PM
man, the gacy song is chilling...

it's hard to consider that the song will make you want to feel bad for gacy, but sufjan has a way of making it sound like it should be that way

bp

Archie F. Swin
03-02-2006, 07:30 AM
Has he been touring for the album?

phisherman
03-02-2006, 08:52 AM
he did, he came through lawrence a while back...

he played the bottleneck, his show was very interesting, he had cheerleaders on stage and he was dressed as a male cheerleader...quite strange, but appropriate considering his eccentricity level

bp

CosmicPal
03-02-2006, 10:16 AM
man, the gacy song is chilling...

it's hard to consider that the song will make you want to feel bad for gacy, but sufjan has a way of making it sound like it should be that way

bp

Yes, it is a chilling song. I love the last stanza in the song:

"And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid."

CosmicPal
03-02-2006, 10:21 AM
Our step mom we did everything to hate her...

She drove us down to the edge of Decatour.

We saw the lion and the kangeroo take her...

Down to the river where they caught a wild alligator.

You forgot my favorite line in the song:

Chickenmobile with your rooster tail...

If you enjoy the imagery and the strange language in this song, you should then try listening to "China Cat Sunflower" by the Grateful Dead- another song with a colorful play on words.

Archie F. Swin
03-02-2006, 04:38 PM
Yes, it is a chilling song. I love the last stanza in the song:

"And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid."

On 6 out of 10 CD listens I have to skip that song....its a little much at times. I've never play it with my children in the car.

the Talking Can
03-02-2006, 07:29 PM
I have some of his songs but haven't listened to him...guess the "folk" moniker makes me wary, but I'll give it a play...every review I've read has been positive...

phisherman
03-02-2006, 07:46 PM
Yes, it is a chilling song. I love the last stanza in the song:

"And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid."

i also love that stanza...

we all have secrets we do our best to hide...

very powerful stuff

on a lighter note, june 3rd, colorado here i come...moe. and Umphrey's McGee at Red Rocks!!!

bp

|Zach|
03-02-2006, 09:29 PM
Alot of you folks who like Sufjan may also really like Joh Rouse.

His 1972 album is fantastic.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000AM6K2/sr=8-1/qid=1141356556/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-5904544-8724830?%5Fencoding=UTF8

CosmicPal
03-03-2006, 09:53 AM
on a lighter note, june 3rd, colorado here i come...moe. and Umphrey's McGee at Red Rocks!!!

bp

No kidding? Hit me up w/a PM and we'll try to hook up for the show.