With two states down and only 48 to go, Sufjan Stevens' ambitious musical map of the Unites States of America should be completed, if he puts out one a year, sometime around 2053. It's a daunting task, but if each subsequent record is as good as Illinois, fans who live long enough to witness the project's completion will no doubt find themselves to be scholars of both state history and its narrator's shape-shifting soul. Stevens' soulful folk epics, as played by his signature mini-orchestra, have changed little since his 2003 foray into Michigan, a charge that may cause some grumbling among that album's detractors, but there's a newfound optimism that runs through much of Illinois that echoes the state's 'Gateway to the West' pioneering spirit. Glorious road trip-ready cuts have an expansiveness that radiates with the ballast of history and the promise of new beginnings. Stevens has done his research here.
1. Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
2. The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You're Gonna Have To Leave Now, Or, 'I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight...
3. Come On! Feel The Illinoise!: Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition/Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream
4. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
6. A Short Reprise For Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But For Very Good Reasons
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 Concerning Your Predicament
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 Has An Existential Crisis In The Great Godfrey Maze
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 The Dead!! Ahhhh!
17. Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All The Way Out In Bushnell
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, The Broadest Shoulders: Part I: The Great Frontier/Part II: Come To Me Only With Playthings Now
21. Riffs And Variations On A Single Note For Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, And The King Of Swing, To Name A Few
22. Out Of Egypt, Into The Great Laugh Of Mankind, And I Shake The Dirt From My Sandals As I Run