- Released: October 1, 2005
- Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Spin - p.64Ranked #8
in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2005" - "[A] Chicago World's Fair of the ear -- a rebirth of wonder, discovery, and progress..."
Spin - p.105
"[The album] sounds as informed by middle-American community theater, church choirs, and John Adams' American operas as any canonical 'folk rock' it may resemble." - Grade: A-
Entertainment Weekly - No. 829, p.71
"...[F]inespun songs variously inspired by Carl Sandburg, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., and the 'Seer's' tower....ILLINOIS sounds quaint and even magical." - Grade: B+
Uncut - p.865 stars out of 5
- "ILLINOIS is an extraordinary achievement, all the more so as Stevens played most of the parts himself."
Magnet - p.52Ranked #5
in Magnet's "The 20 Best Albums Of 2005" - "[The album] continues his brave/insane quest to document the whole of our great nation's quilt of quirks..."
The Wire - p.41
Included in The Wire's "2005 Rewind: 50 Records Of The Year."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.60Ranked #24
in Mojo's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2005" - "A boundless cornucopia utilising choir, woodwind and Vince Guaraldi-like piano..."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.983 stars out of 5
- "[W]hen focusing on life's minute joys or its mundane horror, Stevens' voice is as true and profound as an angel."
- 1.Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
- 2.The Black Hawk War, Or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and ...
- 3.Come on! Feel the Illinoise!: Pt. 1: The World's Columbian Exposition
- 4.John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
- 6.A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But for Very Good ...
- 7.Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!
- 8.One Last "Whoo-Hoo!" for the Pullman
- 10.Casimir Pulaski Day
- 11.To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea ...
- 12.The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
- 13.Prairie Fire That Wanders About
- 14.A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens ...
- 15.The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is out to Get Us!
- 16.They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from
- 17.Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It
- 18.In This Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth
- 19.The Seer's Tower
- 20.The Tallest Man Broadest Shoulders: Pt. 1: The Great Frontier / Pt. ...
- 21.Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, ...
- 22.Out of Egypt, Into the Great Laugh of Mankind, And I Shake the ...
Personnel: Sufjan Stevens (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, flute, accordion, recorder, oboe, alto saxophone, piano, organ, Wurlitzer organ, vibraphone, glockenspiel, electric bass, drums, shaker, tambourine, triangle, sleigh bell); Sufjan Stevens (vocals, various instruments); Illinoisemaker Choir (vocals); Rob Moose, Julianne Carney (violin); Maria Bella Jeffers (cello); Daniel Smith (hand claps, background vocals); Rev. Dan Smith (background vocals); Craig Montoro (vocals, trumpet); James McAlister (drums); Elin K. Smith (hand claps, background vocals); Matt Morgan, Shara Worden, Katrina Kerns (background vocals).
Recording information: Carroll Music Studios, New York, NY (2004-2005); Marla's Apartment, Brooklyn, NY (2004-2005); New Jerusalem Recreational Room, Clarksboro, NJ (2004-2005); Redhook, Brooklyn, NY (2004-2005); St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, NY (2004-2005); Sufjan's Apartment, Brooklyn, NY (2004-2005); The Buddy Project, Astoria, Queens (2004-2005); The New Jerusalem Recreational Room, Clarsboro, NJ (2004-2005).
Arranger: Sufjan Stevens.
The second entry from sui generis singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens in his absurdly ambitious project to make a record for every state in America outdistances even 2003's superb GREETINGS FROM MICHIGAN in scope and beauty. A sweeping paean to the Lincoln state, ILLINOIS weaves together history, personal confession, and detail-filled scenarios with chamber folk, expansive orchestral pop, and back-porch pastoral settings for a stunningly progressive indie gem that sound like Brian Wilson, Stereolab, and Neil Young holding hands in heaven.
Remarkably, in its intricate, gorgeously crafted surfaces, ILLINOIS lives up to its aims. In addition to its symphonic grandeur, the album also showcases Stevens's heartland folk, and some of the album's most shimmering moments are its most spare. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.," for instance, is an absorbing narrative that features Stevens's sweet tenor couched by guitar, piano, and backing vocals. "Casimir Pulaski Day," similarly, rides a rootsy banjo and guitar groove while Stevens unfurls image-rich lyrics over a lilting melody. Witty, audacious, and moving, ILLINOIS manages to be spiritual, entertaining, and educational all at once, resulting in an utterly unique conceptual and musical statement.