Come on Feel the Illinoise
Sufjan Stevens fans don't have to wait for the rerelease of his second state-based album Come on Feel the Illinoise: It's still on the shelves. Plans had been made to make the CD temporarily unavailable, thanks to a cease-and-desist order from DC Comics over the use of Superman on the cover art. While folks at label Asthmatic Kitty will no longer be shipping out original versions from their warehouse, they've given the okay to sell copies already in stores. New pressings are scheduled to be released in early August. If AK wanted all copies of their investment back, they'd have to rip it out of my roommate's lifeless hand-the girl loves Stevens like no other and obtained an early copy. Me, I usually stay far away from music so shamelessly nostalgic, but the latest product of Stevens' 50-state project has won me over with its scope and ambition. If there are any similarities between this and the album he penned for his birthplace-Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State-it's because Stevens has seemingly tapped into what makes each state fit together like a dysfunctional puzzle. Like Michigan, Illinoise has precociously long titles and its fair share of swooping melodic melodrama. Featuring a vast array of musicians and instruments, the result is a wall of patriotic noise. But Stevens himself stands out as the virtuoso, switching between the Wurlitzer, the oboe, a Baldwin electric church organ and the accordion like a man with a bad case of sonic schizophrenia. Each song deals with Illinois-centric details, such as "The World's Columbian Exposition" and "Casimir Pulaski Day," but is whipped into an almost operatic frenzy with layers of instrumental interludes. Though they sometimes feel gratuitous, a haunting simplicity is achieved with "In This Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth." "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is possibly the most beautiful song ever written about a serial killer. And the chorus of "All things go!" in "Chicago" captures the hearty sound of naive industry. At times the sound of Stevens' ubiquitous chorus verges on cloying Brady Bunch politeness, but then again, what's more disturbingly American than the hopeful sound of apple-cheeked harmonies?