Release Date: Jul 5, 2005
Record label: Asthmatic Kitty
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Folk
With two states down and only 48 to go, Sufjan Stevens' ambitious musical map of the Unites States of America should be completed -- if he puts out one a year -- sometime around 2053. It's a daunting task (and not an entirely original one at that), but if each subsequent record is as good as Illinois, fans who live long enough to witness the project's completion will no doubt find themselves to be scholars of both state history and its narrator's shape-shifting soul. Stevens' folk epics, as played by his signature mini-orchestra, have changed little since his 2003 foray into Michigan -- a charge that may cause some grumbling among that album's detractors -- but there's a newfound optimism that runs through much of Illinois that echoes the state's "Gateway to the West" pioneering spirit.
Last year's Greetings from Michigan paid tribute to the place he grew up, but Sufjan Stevens has already announced that he intends to record an album about each of America's 50 states. Two territories in, this is not such a bad idea. Come On ... is a remarkable album that manages to pack in a state full of instruments (flugelhorns, choirs, presumably at least one watering-can solo) and sounds as simultaneously vast yet intimately detailed as Polyphonic Spree produced by Brian Eno.
For the second entry in his relentlessly charming and absurdly ambitious effort to chronicle the 50 states in song, Sufjan Stevens heads west from Michigan – like Marquette and Joliet before him – to explore the wonders of Illinois. Neither missionary nor fur trapper figure into Stevens’ telling of the Prairie State’s story, but they’re the kind of characters – wide-eyed voyageurs said to have timed their river songs to the strokes of their paddles – that would fit snuggly into the singer’s cosmology. Superman is there (or isn’t, if DC comics has their way).