Illinois

Metascore
90

Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 39 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
  1. Los Angeles Times
    100
    The tone of subdued romanticism is balanced by a fine, seductive sense of melody and arrangement. [3 Jul 2005]
  2. From its framing gimmick and its anti-folk folk songwriting to its he-has-to-be-kidding song titles and its show-offy instrumentation, Illinois should reduce to a simple stunt performance. That it's pop-art of the highest caliber, instead, cements Stevens as one of the most vital voices in music today.
  3. Alternative Press
    100
    It's ridiculously ambitious--and consistently surprising. [Aug 2005, p.164]
  4. 100
    Once you've taken in how wonderful it sounds, it'll be time to thrill at how much of it there is, then how dense it all is.
  5. Uncut
    100
    An extraordinary achievement. [Album of the Month, Aug 2005, p.86]
  6. Paste Magazine
    100
    A unique, remarkably ambitious 22-song cycle. [Aug/Sep 2005, p.114]
  7. What makes the album so gigantic is how intensely unique the state’s identity becomes filtered through one man.
  8. Illinois is huge, a staggering collection of impeccably arranged American tribute songs.
  9. Spin
    91
    Sounds as informed by middle-American community theater, church choirs, and John Adams' American operas as any canonical "folk rock" it may resemble. [Jul 2005, p.102]
  10. Filter
    91
    There is real joy and loss within these unwieldy song titles. [#16, p.88]
  11. This album radiates positive energy, and in today's alt, that's a precious thing.
  12. Stevens is simply one of the most talented artists creating music right now, period.
  13. Exhausting, enthralling, disorientating, celebratory, and contemplative, Sufjan Stevens has delivered another album that will keep us listening and educated till Christmas.
  14. This is a faithful and staggering tribute to a state executed with passion and originality, and it's one of the finest records you'll hear this year.
  15. So much of Illinois feels magical, however, in much the same way as a large State Fair: there is commotion and wonder as the population is continually enchanted by progress, but to unknown purpose.
  16. A big leap from the already high elevation of Michigan.
  17. Vast in scope and breathtaking in its beauty, Illinois may very well be the album that heralds Sufjan Stevens as one of this young century’s most talented artists.
  18. It's easy to play a spot-the-Illinois-reference game, but it's just as easy to step back and marvel at the songs' musical range and sophistication.
  19. Illinois certainly isn't perfect, but it does do a couple important things: it proves that Sufjan has the skill and the talent to prove flexible and long-lasting, and that it's not much of a stretch to expect even better albums from him in the future.
  20. Someday the Smithsonian will file this sprawling musical celebration into their collection between Van Dyke Parks’ Discover America and Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers -- joyous, generous Americana filtered through a singular sensibility.
  21. A brighter, bouncier counterpart to its wintry predecessor "Michigan," "Illinois" contains some of the most beautiful pop you will hear all year long.
  22. These are adventurous pop songs with intricate arrangements and sophisticated chord structures.
  23. The 22-song epic marries Stevens' personal history to that of the state, as well as knitting spare emotional lyrics with lush orchestral and choral arrangements, upping the ante for singer-songwriters everywhere.
  24. But if the album feels less personally tied to Illinois than Michigan was to Michigan, the cost is worth paying: The style and overall sentiment of the new album are more sophisticated than those of its predecessor.
  25. It's a bit of Michigan redux, which works because it's so uniquely Stevens and so uniquely beautiful.
  26. Entertainment Weekly
    83
    Sounds quaint and even magical. [15 Jul 2005, p.71]
  27. There's a distinct community theater vibe to the whole affair... but the majority of Illinois is alarmingly earnest.
  28. A remarkable album that manages to pack in a state full of instruments... and sounds as simultaneously vast yet intimately detailed as Polyphonic Spree produced by Brian Eno.
  29. The New York Times
    80
    Even the most elaborate constructions come across as homemade, touched with an optimism that is by no means naïve. [10 Jul 2005]
  30. My only problem with the album is that it begins to devour its own tail about halfway through, at times sounding tedious, or worse, precious.
  31. Blender
    80
    A mesmerizing history lesson. [Aug 2005, p.114]
  32. For a musician like Stevens, going too far and trying too hard is the point, the way to get beyond where a more austere songwriter could get with a more naturalistic pose. So the most pleasurable music here is the most ambitious.
  33. It’s his masterpiece so far; a staggering collection of unspeakably precious music.
  34. Take away the album's conceit, and Stevens' artful songwriting -- and voice -- still remain.
  35. Q Magazine
    80
    Stevens's love for the region, its people and legacy is palpable and infectious enough to send the curious scuttling straight towards the bookshelves to discover more. [Aug 2005, p.137]
  36. [A] confusing but entertainingly eccentric package.
  37. Under The Radar
    80
    Illinois is not nearly as Schoolhouse Rock as it sounds, and the songs themselves are sincere, inventive and messily joyful. [#10, p.107]
  38. Mojo
    70
    A tendency to indulgence... undermines the album's overall potency. [Aug 2005, p.96]
  39. This song cycle is less about a particular state than it is about Stevens' elegant façade of cleverness.
  40. An expansive album that ultimately recycles itself.
User Score
9.0

Universal acclaim- based on 681 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 13 out of 345
  1. Sep 7, 2010
    10
    Sufjan Stevens finds his stride and then some with his second state-dedicated album. Illinois is fun and sad, catchy and haunting, seeminglySufjan Stevens finds his stride and then some with his second state-dedicated album. Illinois is fun and sad, catchy and haunting, seemingly simple yet undeniably brilliant. Chicago will be stuck in your head for days, The Predatory Wasp is heartbreaking and beautiful. Phenomenal stuff. Full Review »
  2. Nov 24, 2012
    10
    Illinois is Sufjan Steven's best work so far. From the disturbing ballad John Wayne Gacy, Jr to catchy tune of Chicago, Sufjan fullyIllinois is Sufjan Steven's best work so far. From the disturbing ballad John Wayne Gacy, Jr to catchy tune of Chicago, Sufjan fully exemplifies his extraordinary musical talent. It contains a multitude of instruments all playing beautifully together. This album exhibits Stevens best traits and is well worth a listen. Full Review »
  3. Jul 10, 2011
    8
    Rich, expansive, deep, just a really really good record through and through.