Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Classic Pick:-->Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise (2005)

"And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid".
Sufjan Stevens
Catching a rebroadcast of Sufjan Stevens on the enjoyable Austin City Limits this past weekend...reminded me of how much I enjoy his 2005 gem..."Illinoise".

Sufjan (pronounced soo-fi-yahn) Stevens, a twenty-something Detroit native started in 2000 releasing music to the Web to little fanfare.

A few years couldn't escape surfing the net without reading praise after nauseum. It was almost annoying.

Nonetheless...the high props and attention were warranted...and though I'm sure I'm preaching to the musical blog choir...this is my first time throwing daisies his direction.
And besides...I really enjoy this CD.

In 2006, Sufjan was awarded the “PLUG Independent Music Award” for best album with “Illinoise”. This album also attracted the attention of Rolling Stone magazine who threw props his direction. And deservedly so, as this CD is strikingly honest and strangely surreal. A combination that grabbed my attention from the first spin.

With an exciting mixture of acoustic guitar, bells, drums, French horns, oboes, banjo, piano and marimba, Sufjan creates a sometimes eerie, sometimes bright collection of 22 songs based loosely on the state of Illinois.

Although I’ve listed a variety of instruments, they are not used in a cacophony way, but in smaller doses, creating pleasing and sometimes unexpected sounds.

This album is filled with thoroughly original songs and choosing just a few is difficult. “I drove to New York/in the van, with my friend/ we slept in parking lots/I don't mind, I don't mind/I made a lot of mistakes” (“Chicago“) recalls a road trip with a long-ago friend trying to run away from problems.

“Casimir Pulaski Day“, a song about a teenage girl with cancer told from Sufjan’s perspective. “On the floor at the great divide/With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied/I am crying in the bathroom./ Oh the glory that the lord has made/ And the complications you could do without/ When I kissed you on the mouth”. Brutally honest and beautifully done.

“Decatur”, about his step mom, has a Neil Young sounding banjo providing percussion while Sufjan appears to be having a laugh rhyming words with Decatur.

Along with the tracks mentioned, Sufjan sings about UFO’s, Civil War, Night of the Living Dead, ghosts, and Superman intermixed with short instrumentals that are not in the least bit filler.

The killer song (no pun intended) on this awesome bed of work is the disturbing “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”.

Sufjan attempts to humanize the monstrous serial killer from Illinois. He covers most of the ugly facts about the murderer with a contrasting beautiful melody and by the song’s end Sufjan has successfully startled us by suggesting we all have unflattering secrets best left hidden. “And in my best behavior/I am really just like him/Look beneath the floorboards/For the secrets I have hid”.

It was rumored that Stevens was planning on releasing an album dedicated to each of the 50 states. Not likely...but quite an ambitious ladder to climb nonetheless.

This record was made for introspection and is perfect for when you want to enjoy your melancholy for a little while.

As confusing as this may seem, this is not a depressing record. Quite the opposite.

The fact that Sufjan can pull this off with such heavy subject matter is a testament to the choreography of brass and strings and bells...and whatever else may be handy.

There is a refrain from a band whose name escapes me that goes…“It’s all been done”.
Well…Not this time, my babies.
Good Stuff!


Sufjan Stevens:-->"John Wayne Gacy, Jr." (Illinoise) (2005)
(Must Own)


Anonymous said...

the refrain is by barenaked ladies

Casey said...

That's it!
Thanks for the help!