Monday, November 19, 2007

The Fifty States In Rhyme

I tend to be drawn to things that seem impossibly big or difficult, something about the challenge of an unscaleable mountain. Maybe it is because if you DO manage to finish the task at hand it’s difficulty makes it thousands of time more impressive, but if you don’t then, well, not a big deal because that shit was CRAZY hard, NOBODY thought you were going to actually finish that… it’s cool. Maybe it’s because when you set out on these big legendary tasks you always know where you are headed, and that makes the work a lot easier to keep track of. I’m not really sure, but Sufjan Stevens apparently feels the same way.

In 2003 Sufjan released the record, “Michigan”, which was a concept record about the people, places and history behind the great lake state. He also announced that he was going to make a concept record for each and every of the 50 states of the union. He stayed true to his word with the release of “Illinois” in 2005.

I honestly think that the best word to describe Illinois is a masterpiece. Let me explain my criteria for this revered acknowledgement.

There are two kind of records that I enjoy. The first catches you right away; the instant that it hits your ear you like it you know that you like it. It’s like candy. Unfortunately, once that initial phase passes those songs are just not as sweet, it still has flavor, but nothing like the first few times you heard it. It’s like looking at an amazing painting from far away and then getting up close to realize that it’s really not as intricate as you thought. Or seeing a babe from far away and then getting up close and realizing, oh, wait, that is definitely not a babe. Whatever metaphor suits you, painting or babe, I’m sure you get the point. Regardless, it’s never really that much of a bummer because catching ones ear is hard enough, it was great while it lasted and for the most part everybody goes home happy. Not quite full, but happy.

Anyway, the next kinds of record that I like are the exact opposite. They are intricate, like a huge mansion with all sorts of rooms and hallways to explore. They reveal themselves slowly and over time, and they might not even catch a hold of you the first time you hear it. Maybe not even the second, or the third. But the reason that these records are better (only slightly, there ain’t nothing wrong with candy either) is that eventually they end up meaning so much more than if they would have just come right out and said, “Hey, this is what I’m all about, lets hang!”

I think that the best records, the real masterpieces of recording, are somehow both. They are instantly catchy and seductive and yet at the same time they hold these huge mysteries that you only notice after listening for months. I think that “Illinois” is one of those records.

Here is my favorite track off of that record, I will probably post more Sufjan later as he is probably my favorite artist of the moment. Enjoy.

The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! by Sufjan Stevens
(Right click and "Save As")

Buy Illinois by Sufjan Stevens


Max said...
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Max said...

Hell, I just realized this was the same night Idiot Pilot played in Birmingham. Tell me, did you post this before or after you danced as a crew member of the Enterprise? Anyway, I know exactly what you mean with those the two different types of albums. You can feel that way with individual songs as well.