By Chris Pacifico
Every year it seems like there is some musician whose name you hear all over the place but you never actually hear their music. I'm guessing that Sufjan Stevens is one of those guys. Having released Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State in 2003, this indie-folk wonderboy has announced that he will do an album that is sort of a concept album for each of the fifty states as he has done with Illinois.
"The Black Hawk War..." is an instrumental ditty that serves as sort of an overture for the album while the title track goes on with some lush orchestration and just a pinch of bossa nova.
Stevens has always fancied the banjo on his previous albums, and his fondness for the gentle plucking is still in tact on this album in tracks like "Jacksonville" and in the sugary down-home rusticness of "Decatur." "Chicago" contains a breathtaking dose of choral resonance aided by its youthful innocence and this us-against-the-world vibe.
Everybody wants to be a singer-songwriter these days, and it seems like there is in fact no shortage of them popping up left and right. Stevens, however, stands out above the rest because his songwriting has this flow that is innovative and intricate. While Come on Feel the Illinoise isn't really too reflective of Simon and Garfunkel, it is essential listening for anybody who is a big fan of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Stevens sure does have his work cut out for him. Good job Sufjan! Two down and only forty-eight more albums left to go.