You’ve GOT to Hear This: “Illinois”

Illinois by Sufjan Stevens

Having just written about The National, a natural transition seemed to move on to one of my other favourite artists, whom again I was lucky enough to see live at Massey Hall: Sufjan Stevens.  If you are wondering where this transition comes from other than them both being wonderful, it has to do with the fact that Sufjan was featured on the National’s latest album High Violet.  With this in mind, I though it only too appropriate to introduce the wonder of Sufjan Stevens, but in particular, my favourite of his albums.

Ever since I first heard the orchestral creations off the 2005 release Illinois I was hooked.  Never had I heard anything so musically, vocally, and lyrically brilliant all at once.  Although this music did not need the aid of context to intensify it, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to listen to the album on repeat while driving to Chicago.  If you’ve never heard Sufjan Stevens, then Chicago is a good song to start with.  It illustrates his ability to blend music seamlessly, to evoke a mood, and to woo his audience with swooning vocals.  If you ever plan on taking a road trip to Chicago, then along with your toothbrush you might want to pack Illinois.

Although every song off this album stands alone as unique must-hear, sometimes powerful, other times soft, quirky, uplifting or melancholic, a great option and one of my personal favourites in terms of lyrical and emotional depth would have to Casimir Pulaski Day.  A great song to appreciate the subtle power in Sufjan’s voice, it takes you through a historical and personal voyage. Loaded with analogy, allegory, and symbolism, it’s not only pleasant to the ear but also pleasant to the mind.  In the mood for something magical?  Then you’ve GOT to hear this.
Nadia Kaakati

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