USA, 2005, chamber pop / singer-songwriter / indie pop
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois: It’s clear from the beginning how central Sufjan’s faith is to him, what with the way he equates a UFO sighting with the Incarnation and its attendant signs in the heavens. How effortlessly Sufjan calms the celebration and, without taking away any of the joy, brings us into such a beautiful turn of musical phrase that leads us all into a singalong ballad! Float away on lazy horn clouds, or leap above them on the strings of violins. And you know what? It’s okay to cry yourself to sleep sometimes. Not all tears are sad. For the record, I’ve never heard a more uplifting, beautiful song about a serial killer. Not sure what Sufjan is trying to do here, but I just close my eyes and shake my head at the loveliness/ugliness and the conflicted feelings with me. If you want to know just how full this album is, take a look at just what Sufjan is doing: vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, electric bass, drum kit, electric guitar, oboe, alto saxophone, flute, banjo, glockenspiel, accordion, vibraphone, tenor recorder, soprano recorder, sopranino recorder, alto recorder, sleigh bells, shakers, tambourine, triangle, and church organ. The only instrument featured on the album he didn’t touch is the trumpet. Thematically, the album is at once inaccessibly specific about historical facts that really don’t have anything to do with anyone, as well as being broad in his allusions to our common human condition, to say nothing of the all-pervasive Christian framework. Why do we need our faith? Well, for one…bone cancer. So celebrate life while you can, and understand just how much you have to give.