Illinois

User Score
9.0

Universal acclaim- based on 687 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 41 out of 687

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  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, seemingly simple yet undeniably brilliant. Chicago will be stuck in your head for days, The Predatory Wasp is heartbreaking and beautiful. Phenomenal stuff.
  2. Jul 10, 2011
    8
    Rich, expansive, deep, just a really really good record through and through.
  3. 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 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.
  4. Aug 16, 2010
    10
    I just listened to this again ... for maybe the 100th time. It just grows in depth and beauty. Steven's voice is haunting, delicate. The lyrics are touching, horrific, lifting. The arrangements are glorious, inspiring. Does it ever become unlistenable?
  5. Jul 1, 2011
    10
    One of the best albums of all time. This is a work that will be treasured by many for decades and centuries to come. If you disagree with this statement, I recommend listening more closely.
  6. Aug 6, 2011
    10
    The perfect record.. and it seemed to come out of nowhere. Michigan was fantastic and so was Seven Swans, but this just wasn't expected. I don't know. Sufjan can be a master at music and this is probably the best example of that.
  7. Apr 5, 2017
    9
    This is some of Stevens' best work and a staple for his music career. This would be the first album I would direct someone to if they had never previously listened to his work. The melodies, orchestral elements, and dense lyrics are something you will not find with any other artist in the music world. Sufjan delivers remarkably on an album that will stand the test of time for years.
  8. sophiep
    Jan 6, 2006
    0
    it is poo
  9. JackL
    Apr 4, 2006
    6
    From the first time I listened to this record, something was bothering me about it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Sure, it is, musically a very solid album; perhaps more than a little pretentious, but that wasn't what was bothering me. When I listened to it again this morning, it hit me; it was the emotion of this album that was getting to me. I have nothing against From the first time I listened to this record, something was bothering me about it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Sure, it is, musically a very solid album; perhaps more than a little pretentious, but that wasn't what was bothering me. When I listened to it again this morning, it hit me; it was the emotion of this album that was getting to me. I have nothing against melancholy music, but the emotion of Illinois strikes me as incredibly inauthentic in an extremely annoying way. Allow me to explain- When I listen to something like an Elliott Smith album, or a John Lennon album (Plastic Ono Band, specifically), I feel like the singer actually MEANS it; really pouring their soul into their work. When I listen to Sufjan, it's like he's phoning it in, never expressing anything beyond a vague, indifferent sadness with his kitschy lullabies about fictional people, or at least people he doesn't know "crying themselves to sleep" (A lyric that appears at least twice in the album... how cliche). Am I tearing this album apart over a completely superficial quality? Well, I suppose that is your call. This is a forum of public opinion after all. I really do want to love this album, and I feel it is quite well composed, but I find that the whole tone of the album bothers me to a point where it's hard to enjoy. Expand
  10. DavidO
    Jul 4, 2006
    2
    When I first threw "Illinoise" into my CD player it took me a couple of songs to form a reaction: wow...this is really bad. By the time I bought the CD Sufjan Stevens had received an ungodly amount of hype, and I was ready to sit back like in those decade old commercials and be blown away by my audio equipment. Too bad "Illinoise" wasn't up to the task. The first thing I noticed When I first threw "Illinoise" into my CD player it took me a couple of songs to form a reaction: wow...this is really bad. By the time I bought the CD Sufjan Stevens had received an ungodly amount of hype, and I was ready to sit back like in those decade old commercials and be blown away by my audio equipment. Too bad "Illinoise" wasn't up to the task. The first thing I noticed about the album is how the production makes much of it sound limp. The production reminds me of a Coldplay album where the songs have their rough edges sanded down. If you're going to make use of this many instruments, then I want to be reminded of Mahler and Prokofiev not Chris Martin. While there are a couple of standouts (I recommend downloading "Chicago") there's just not enough high points in the twenty-two tracks to recommend the album. The lyrics are too often overtly self-conscious and overwrought. One of the worst offenders is "John Wayne Gacy Jr." The idea itself is interesting: try and create sympathy for someone who has committed atrocious acts. However, Sufjan isn't clever enough to pull this off in a three minute pop song. When talking about Gacy's victims he directs a hushed "Are you one of them?" at the listener. The results are laughable at best. Imagine the following line delivered with utmost earnestness and a fist clutched to the singer's heart (at least that's how I picture it) and you'll get an idea at how ridiculous his songs can be: "And in my best behavior/ I am really just like him/ Look beneath the floorboards/ For the secrets I have hid." Trying to create a sense of connection and empathy with a monster is an interesting idea, but Sufjan Stevens just can't do it without being overly sappy. The amount of hype this album has gotten insures that Sufjan will have a few more albums critics can overhype and then forget. I'm just hoping that he gives the whole state theme up before he reaches my home state of Ohio. If you screw that one up Sufjan, then don't expect us to go easy on you. Expand
  11. RHCa
    Nov 30, 2005
    0
    The first hint is the 100+ word titles -- how clever; the second hint is the relentless keyboards; the third is the sophmoric lyrics -- this album is garbage. The critics pulled one over on the hipsters again....thekid.
  12. 42MinuteMan
    Jan 9, 2006
    4
    I find a few of the songs on this album absolutely brilliant and infectious. Then, I listed to all the lousy filler around the moments of brilliance, and I can't help but think this album is barely mediocre. I agree with the comments on the repetitiveness of the sound. This album doesn't go anywhere. It's cerianly worth a listen, but I doubt we'll be discussing the I find a few of the songs on this album absolutely brilliant and infectious. Then, I listed to all the lousy filler around the moments of brilliance, and I can't help but think this album is barely mediocre. I agree with the comments on the repetitiveness of the sound. This album doesn't go anywhere. It's cerianly worth a listen, but I doubt we'll be discussing the influence or brilliance of this album five years from now... especially since Sufjan will have released another record or two with the exact same sounds by that point. Expand
  13. PatrickR
    Feb 2, 2006
    2
    banal, pretentious, obscure (intentional or the result of lack of talent?), musically simplistic - overall very irritating
  14. GiuseppeR
    Jul 7, 2006
    3
    I recognize a certain originality, but this CD is terribly boring, repetitive, pale, dull, but also bombastic, baroque, pretentious and conceited. I tried many times, but it's impossible for me to listen more than five pieces nonstop and arrive to the end of the CD. I am terrorized from the idea that the author carry out the project to create so many CD as the number of the states of I recognize a certain originality, but this CD is terribly boring, repetitive, pale, dull, but also bombastic, baroque, pretentious and conceited. I tried many times, but it's impossible for me to listen more than five pieces nonstop and arrive to the end of the CD. I am terrorized from the idea that the author carry out the project to create so many CD as the number of the states of America. Expand
  15. RichardK
    Jan 8, 2007
    6
    Sample this album before you buy it. Its considered a masterpiece by many but honestly no matter how many times I played it I didn't enjoy it. While a very highly rated by Metacritic, many people will find it boring.
  16. JeffD
    Nov 11, 2005
    1
    What would happen if somebody took the Dream Academy, Nick Drake, the Flaming Lips, the local high school swing jazz band and the church choir from the local church and mixed them all together? You'd get Illinois. If that sounds like a good thing to you, they go right ahead. I've tried to listen to this album many, many times, as usually certain critical publications can give me What would happen if somebody took the Dream Academy, Nick Drake, the Flaming Lips, the local high school swing jazz band and the church choir from the local church and mixed them all together? You'd get Illinois. If that sounds like a good thing to you, they go right ahead. I've tried to listen to this album many, many times, as usually certain critical publications can give me a tip on something new that I might like. This time, though, I just don't get it. There's nothing that grabs me, and nothing that rewards repeated close listens. I find myself in "cringe" moments frequently; preciousness for preciousness sake apparently. He's no Stuart Murdoch, that's for sure. If you like this album, great. Enjoy. Personally, I find it tedious and annoying to listen to wish I would have spent my money elsewhere. Expand
  17. LF
    Nov 17, 2005
    0
    aaaaaaaaaaargh!! this is crap.
  18. EddieT
    Oct 24, 2005
    5
    Gosh, don't get me wrong, I like Sufjan a lot, I've been on the wagon for a few years now. But isn't "Illinois" kind of boring? Doesn't it fail to have a singular knockout like "Vito" or "For the Widows in Paradise" or "Size Too Small"? Don't most of the songs sound the same, even after 5 months of listening plus a concert? I'm not giving up hope on him, but Gosh, don't get me wrong, I like Sufjan a lot, I've been on the wagon for a few years now. But isn't "Illinois" kind of boring? Doesn't it fail to have a singular knockout like "Vito" or "For the Widows in Paradise" or "Size Too Small"? Don't most of the songs sound the same, even after 5 months of listening plus a concert? I'm not giving up hope on him, but I don't understand what all the fuss for this album is about. Expand
  19. John
    Dec 5, 2005
    5
    I agree with Louis L. This album is ridiculously pedantic and is extremely repetitive with its use of styles, especially given the lengthy running time. I like a few of the songs a lot, but a great heap of them offer little, if anything, exciting or refreshing at all. This is one of the more overrated albums of the year. It's ambitious, sure, but not very engaging.
  20. ChrissieS
    Jul 9, 2005
    3
    This album is recycled and boring. You hear one track and you've heard them all.
  21. BrianC
    Mar 5, 2006
    6
    Ambitious recording that lacks two important qualities. One, cohesiveness of the music & two, addiction to melody after the second listening. To be sure, there are other shortcomings. Not the "must die for" record of the year by any means.
  22. adriC
    Jul 13, 2006
    3
    hyped
  23. MihaiV
    Sep 17, 2006
    7
    While he is capable of delivering brilliant songs, the album as a hole feels dissapointing. It's to long with little varity. There's no fire in this album.
  24. GregB
    Jun 25, 2007
    4
    It will only appeal to those misunderstood kids, who are the ones rate albums like this "masterpiece".
  25. louisl
    Nov 22, 2005
    2
    nice subject matter but the music is pendantic.the themes tend to sound similar and there's no development within.
  26. Jacob
    Nov 25, 2005
    5
    I love Sufjan, but this album is HUGELY overrated. Precious, overly ambitious, and ultimately irritating, there are only a few songs that I can stomach now after a few rotations of the disc. Seven Swans is my favorite of his, by a LONG SHOT.
  27. garyz
    Dec 29, 2005
    0
    crap
  28. ACritic
    Oct 31, 2005
    2
    Not convinced at all. This isn't an album about Illinois--it's yet another album about Sufjan, his favorite subject, and now he's trying to convince us he has something in common w/Gacy? Oh man, please... The songs are dull piano noodling that remind me of Roger Waters after The Wall. Writing songs about historical figures can be interesting (Dylan did this well) but Not convinced at all. This isn't an album about Illinois--it's yet another album about Sufjan, his favorite subject, and now he's trying to convince us he has something in common w/Gacy? Oh man, please... The songs are dull piano noodling that remind me of Roger Waters after The Wall. Writing songs about historical figures can be interesting (Dylan did this well) but Stevens just cannot move past his own private world and seems incapable of doing anything beyond songs whose titles carry more weight than the actual music. Look for him to stop writing music and become a poet soon. Thank god. Then I won't have to fast forward through his next record (which will sound exactly like this one which sounds exactly like the one before that) looking for some actual substance beyond the wimpiness. Go ahead. Keep giving it 10s. You'll listen to this thing at most twice, maybe three times, until your fellow hipsters have moved on to the next big thing, and you can quietly file it next to the first Strokes record, another substanceless over-hyped ultimately hollow artist. Expand
  29. LucusG
    Dec 6, 2006
    6
    It's not bad...but not great. There are some good tunes beneath all the overdone production, which not only gets in the way but annoys as well. He screwed up by being too prententious, should've just recorded the songs minimally and cut half a dozen useless filler tracks, and its a decent album.
  30. dudeguy
    Apr 25, 2006
    0
    I don't get it. Does nobody else find the whole albums-about-states bit a little cheap? To be honest, I was relieved to find that the music was equally unthoughtful. Other comments: extra instruments don't make your music profound, the songs are repetitive, depressive does not imply touching ... aaeh, it just makes me squirm. This album was unnecessary.
Metascore
90

Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 39 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
  1. There's a distinct community theater vibe to the whole affair... but the majority of Illinois is alarmingly earnest.
  2. Stevens is simply one of the most talented artists creating music right now, period.
  3. Exhausting, enthralling, disorientating, celebratory, and contemplative, Sufjan Stevens has delivered another album that will keep us listening and educated till Christmas.