My girlfriend went to Chicago last spring while i stayed in this dusty old European city, thinking of what i didn't like in our relationship, of how i thought things would be different. We sorted it out through multiple freak-outs, but even though she had a terrific time there, as far as i'm concerned, her trip in Illinois remains as a disturbing shadow looming over ourselves. She's in love with this record, and so am i. As far as we're concerned this is this year's best record, and i really can't think of any other artist able to compete with it.
Sufjan Stevens is a young american man, releasing his second record about an US State (after last year's awesome Michigan) and is fourth record overall. It may sound like it's a concept album, the concept being an awful bore, but it's more a frame into which Stevens can let his creativity (he's attending writing classes in NY, in his already packed schedule -he tours, too) flow. He's a outstanding storyteller, able to underline a few facts about Illinois and turn them into sincere, touching stories that work outside of the forementionned frame. He never sounds forced, he never even sounds like the smart man he obviously is, covering his work with a sincerity and an humbleness i have trouble finding nowadays.
Illinois is one of those few perfect, timeless records, both original and reverent, much more than the musical postcard from Rockford you think it is. There's no way you can resist its majesty as charm perspires through the record's 22 songs. it's a long ride, but it's the best i went on this year.
/sept 1st 2005/