Sufjan Stevens

Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty)

Say it with me: SOOF-yahn. Last year you could still get away with mispronouncing the symphonic folkie's first name. His previous two records, the sprawling Greetings from Michigan and the banjo-filled Seven Swans, were gorgeous works that never received nationwide attention. Illinois follows Michigan's semisymphonic path. The beautiful "Come On, Feel the Illinoise"' runs six minutes and is broken up by separate swelling movements of flutes, electric organ, and violins. Throughout, Sufjan is careful to offer folky songs and instrumental numbers as respites to the album's dizzying six- and seven-minute epics. The result is a wonderful amalgam of restraint and ambition. After releasing Illinois, Sufjan shouldn't have to worry about people getting his name wrong again.

 
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