Trip with Sufjan Stevens’ classic well worth the journey

In the midst of today’s ever growing musical world, it can be hard to find anything; sometimes people don’t even know where to begin. While this may not show you every song, album or EP that you’d ever dream of hearing, let this inspire you to search and dive into the infinitely deep hole that is the modern music world.

This time on the chopping block, we have Sufjan Stevens and his 2005 album, Come on! Feel the Illinois! Coming from Detroit, I never heard about this artist before, which is surprising since the whole style and feel of the album is something that would definitely be up my alley, but let’s see why that is exactly.

Come on! Feel the Illinois!, like some of the albums i’ve reviewed in the past falls under the idea of a concept album, a concept album is generally described as an album in which the tracks hold a larger meaning together than they do separately, one where the entire album has interconnected meanings between songs. A good example of this was Olivia Tremor Control’s Black Foliage, an album connected by this dream-like feeling, and similarly, Come on! Feel the Illinois! gives me this vivid feeling of flying over the city itself. What helps build this feeling is the instrumentation used, such as oboe’s, vibraphones, various alto instruments, alongside wonderful guitar and bass playing. A top off to the feeling given by the album is the vocals, with an impressive range, Sufjan can go to incredible vocal heights but can also keep it lower and mellow, which helps with the calm feeling that this album has. While I do appreciate his vocals, they sometimes don’t catch my ear to make me listen to what is being said in his lyrics. To get back to the meaning of the album itself, it’s exactly about what the cover says, the U.S. state of Illinois. As a matter of fact, Sufjan Stevens planned for this and one of his previous albums, Michigan, to be part of a 50 album wide series going over every U.S. state, a large feat to accomplish, but very interesting.

The album is possibly one of the longest I’ve listened to, with 22 tracks, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into, though some tracks are more like palette cleansers, being only a few seconds long. Getting into something I don’t usually talk about, the album cover has a decently interesting story about it. Originally featuring Superman flying along the city skyline; however, due to worries of copyright at the time, it was stickered over with balloons and replaced with said balloons on later releases. I found this interesting to mention since Superman as of 2024 will enter public domain in 10 years time. Another fun detail about the cover is the UFO spaceships seen, a reference to a supposed real life sighting in HIghland, Ill. Another relation to the state of Illinois was the song “John Wayne Gacey, Jr,” a song about the Chicago-based serial killer around in the 1970s.

As my listening experience comes to a close, I harken back to the times I’ve visited Illinois, the places I’ve been there, the things I’ve seen there. Combining them with this album, I can see why this album became so known. It’s ripe with emotion and feeling, something I believe to be paramount in music. Giving this album a score was tough because it was truly a worthwhile listen that I’d recommend just about anyone who’s into concept albums. I have to ponder how I rank it compared to other albums. I’ll give it a 7.5/10, which some people might think is low, but I still believe the album is truly something special.

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