Tag Archives: illinois

Day 159: [THEME WEEK CONCLUSION] Chicago by Sufjan Stevens

20 Nov

Hello again everyone!

Tonight is the shocking conclusion to Sufjan Stevens Theme Week!

Sufjan in all his glory

I had a lot of fun trying to pick all the songs and things this week, but I saved the best for last (in my opinion).

“Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens is probably a more well known song… it’s sounds like a single, and it was recently remixed into a rap song by the popular group Chiddy Bang (check out their version “All Things Go“).

But the reason I picked this song to end theme week is it’s ferocity. It’s… I can’t even explain it.

I guess the best word to describe it is the “climax” of his work. It’s got such an upbeat feel to it, and the music is incredibly epic. Honestly, it’s a perfect song.

I don’t want to say more to ruin it, mainly because I hope everyone hears it the same way I do.

Just listen to it without any distractions, and hopefully you’ll see what I mean. I present “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens.

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Day 155: [THEME WEEK] I Walked by Sufjan Stevens (+Too Much)

16 Nov

Hey there!

Once again, I present SUFJAN STEVENS THEME WEEEEEEK!

Mask atop his head.

Today, I picked two songs off his newest CD to preview for ya today. Why two songs and not just one? Well there’s just too much of his music to keep away from you! Besides, I wanna give you guys a reason to buy his latest masterpiece Age Of Adz. It’s that good.

I listened to “I Walked” first, mainly because about four people recommended it to me, and I was impressed.

But what I didn’t realize was the idea that Age of Adz is on a whole different mindlevel than that of  Illinois or his other albums (Greetings From Michigan or Seven Swans…). What Adz has is deepness. It has melancholy. It has an extremely creepy feel to it. And it is quite possibly one of the most intense albums I’ve ever listened to.

Sufjan’s crooning voice is forced and backed by an array of strong orchestral sounds and booming electronic blips and beeps… something he is not used to. And while I was taken by surprise to hear that the adorable banjo-lover had put down the folky sound to pick up the new-age fads, I was completely drawn to it.

The reason this album is on my list of best albums of the year is because it is a creatively genius album. Sufjan has poured his heart and feelings out on the album, creating a sense of self-reconcilliation that he is going through. At one point (in the beautiful lyrics of “Vesuvius”) he begins to talk to himself: “Sufjan, follow the path/It leads to an article of imminent death/Sufjan, follow your heart/Follow the flame/Or fall on the floor/Sufjan, the panic inside/The murdering ghost/That you cannot ignore…” Now I’m not entirely sure if the album is his preparation of death from the illness he contracted (it involved some sort of serious nervous system virus), or if this is his mind… but all I wanted to do was give him a huge hug. “I want to be well/I want to be well/I want to be well/I want to be well…” he sings over and over in the song titled “I Want To Be Well.” Apparently he’s “NOT F***ING ARROOOUNNDD” either about this!

Regardless, Age of Adz is a reflection of how genius Sufjan Stevens actually is. He can go from sweet, light-hearted Illinois to the dark, metropolis-like* Age of Adz and pull it off! I feel like I’m watching a moving picture of his mind when I listen to each song, which is difficult to comprehend with all the sub-par music out there these days.

*when I say “metropolis-like”, I mean it kind of reminds me of the old, silent film Metropolis (1927). Watch it if you haven’t watched it before

Anyways. The first song I want to feature today is “I Walked.” It’s the closest thing to what would be a “single” off this album, but it’s solid nonetheless.

Finally, as a bonus, I wanted to throw on my favorite song off the whole album (it’s actually tied with another of his songs that I want to feature on a later date). It’s called “Too Much”, and while it’s a little strange and overtly techno, it’s still a fantastic song.

Day 154: [THEME WEEK] Come On! Feel The Illinoise! by Sufjan Stevens

15 Nov

Hello hello!

Once again, I present SUFJAN STEVENS THEME WEEEEEEK!

Today I bring you a sweet song called “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!” off of his Illinois album. Whenever I’m down or just need a pick-me-up, I throw on this one and just smile. Even if he talks about crying himself to sleep at night…

But before I give you the song, I want to put on record why Illinois automatically jumped to my top ten favorite CDs list:

 

Sufjan in his ILLINOIS uniform

First of all, for those of you who are not familiar with Sufjan’s work, you should know this: his personal goal (about 6 years ago) was to create a unique album for each of the 50 states. He finished Greetings From Michigan: The Great Salt Lake, which was his first of the project and outlined his home state. Then, he went on to produce Illinois, and stopped there.

 

I had heard this CD before, back when it came out, but with my dad trying to force the music into my mind, and my spirit still shaken from moving to a new state, I hadn’t regarded it as any more than just strange. Of course I remember what it was, I mean it’s hard to forget a guy with a name like “Sufjan” and a project so strange as the 50 states. I also remotely remember being a little intrigued but nothing more.

So, of course, as soon as I had listened to one song off of Age of Adz, I had to go find a different song by him to kind of compare it to. And I picked a song off of Illinois

I downloaded the CD that night, and call me strange, but I haven’t been able to put it down since last Saturday. It’s got everything I love: orchestras, uplifting songs, pianos, beautiful vocals, banjos, acoustic guitars, and strange melodies that caught me off guard. Of course the first thing I thought of was how amazing it would sound live (just my luck: he came to Portland about 5 days before I found my love for him. Cue the banging my head on the table).

But there’s just so much about this album I love. “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois” is the first song, and it is incredibly strong: just a piano depicting a city-like melancholy, aided by some flutes to give sort of an exotic feel. Then his voice chimes in, soft and secure, adding to the sadness and beauty this song. It’s such a simple start to a powerful album.

The rest of the songs vary afterwards: “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!” (which is featured below), is such a happy sounding song, while the song immediately following (“John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”) fills the audience with a sorrow, discussing the life of a serial killer. Then there’s “Chicago,” which you’ll be seeing at the end of the week, and “Casmir Pulaski Day”, another song featured this week, both of which are powerful in words and mind. The rest of the album, plays on different styles, with “The Predatory Wasps Of The Palisades Are Out To Get Us!” (soothing and happy-sounding) to “The Seer’s Tower”, (dark and morose) to “The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders” (uplifting and exciting). It’s a mixed CD of lots of emotion, but they are so intense that it bursts from the seams.

This CD is a surprisingly well-crafted image of the human psyche… specifically that of a man who appears to have a lot of troubling thoughts. But the best part is how strangely optimistic it is.

I can’t stop listening to it, and I wonder if it’s because it creates a child-like world of sweetness and naivety.

So there you have it… I’m officially a strange girl who is in love with a CD. But oh well, whatever makes me happy, right?

Here is “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!” by Sufjan Stevens. Let me know what you think of it!

Day 153: [THEME WEEK!!] Sufjan Stevens (and his magical powers) “The Lakes Of Canada”

14 Nov

Hello there!

So, as I promised the last two days, I am starting a THEME WEEK!

What is this theme week about? Well, let me explain.

The last few weeks (aka month) have been very difficult. Due to school/family/computer/and health problems, I’ve been more than a little under the weather in health and spirit. While my friends have been there for me (and I appreciate all the love and help I’ve been receiving from them), I’ve still been down in the dumps.

But what has gotten me through to a week of stress-free thinking is the wonderful man with a banjo: Sufjan Stevens.

Fig. 1.1: Sufjan Stevens and his banjo.

With the release of his newest masterpiece “The Age Of Adz” (which is incredible… check it out if you can!), my interest in Sufjan spiked for the first time. Yes, I had heard him in the past, but it was more of that “second-glance-not-really-listening-but-saying-you-like-them” type of situations (In fact, in my mind, he was just a really cute guy who played banjo… see fig. 1.1). So I felt like a jackal when I picked up a copy of his “Illinois” album (more on that later in the week) and fell in love hard core.

Today’s song by him is incredible. It’s a cover of an already beautiful song, but somehow he has captured it in a way that I didn’t think was humanly possible. Just him and a banjo on a rooftop, singing to no one and everyone all at the same time.

Enjoy “The Lakes of Canada”, a cover by Sufjan Stevens.