Fifty states = fifty albums. This is the goal of singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens. With the release of Illinois, Stevens has 48 more to go. The uniqueness of the project lies in Stevens' craft. Anyone can write an album about Abraham Lincoln, the Cubs or The Great Chicago Fire. Stevens steers clear of these hackneyed topics and encapsulates the true essence of The Land of Lincoln. Through the use of a mandolin, an accordion, a Chicago gospel choir and various other instruments he delivers an album that unapologetically celebrates the triumphs and debacles of Illinois.
At over 74 minutes, the album is a lot to take in. Stevens had so many songs written for this album that he has another due out later this year. Like its predecessors, nearly half of the tracks on Illinois are instrumentals; the other thirteen are flawless. He covers a wide variety of subjects from The Black Hawks War to UFO sightings to Pullman. The album also features a beautifully written, pensive song about death "Casmir Pulaski Day" and a frighteningly brutal song about Illinois' most notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Pleasantly arranged instrumentals and intelligent songwriting make Illinois one of the best releases of 2005.
Come on and Feel the Illinoise is not just an album about Illinois but rather a window into the soul of an Illinoisan. Stevens not only captures the strong mid-western work ethic and pride of having one of tallest buildings but also the WASP movement and other elements that make the state unique. Stevens' title is dead on; he invites his audience to feel the Illinoise.