Illinois

User Score
9.0

Universal acclaim- based on 668 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 41 out of 668

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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. 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.
  8. Danielle
    Jul 10, 2005
    10
    I LOVE THIS ALBUM. I cannot stop playing it. Sufjan is one of my favorite artists.
  9. KeithR
    Jul 9, 2005
    10
    I was first exposed to Sufjan's music about two years ago when the shockingly good Michigan disc was released. Who else out there was self-mixing and composing banjo, acoustic guitar, Trumpet, xylophone, vibraphone, drums and god knows what other instruments into lush, vibrant tone poems? Michigan was a breath of fresh air and unlike anything else I had ever heard. It told a story as I was first exposed to Sufjan's music about two years ago when the shockingly good Michigan disc was released. Who else out there was self-mixing and composing banjo, acoustic guitar, Trumpet, xylophone, vibraphone, drums and god knows what other instruments into lush, vibrant tone poems? Michigan was a breath of fresh air and unlike anything else I had ever heard. It told a story as big as the Great Lakes but with all the personal detail that tied everything together and drew the listener into the state and into a state of mind. Could anyone possibly listen to Romulus and not empathize with Stevens as a child or feel the intimacy of "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti?" These stripped down compositions contrasted fantastically with the orchestral "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!" and "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" which gave the listener a sense of the mighty industrial power of the great mid-west. Next came last year's deeply spiritual Seven Swans release. I haven't been to church in at least 10 years (not counting weddings and funerals) but this collection of musings on the Bible (in particular Revelations) led me to contemplate my place in this world and the possiblity of an almighty creator (anyone want to discuss the Big Bang Theory or the theory of Evolution with Sufjan?). Oh yeah, and the music was out of this world as well. See "The Transfiguration" and "Seven Swans" for examples of that. So it was with great expections (No, I haven't been reading Dickens for the past seven months) I awaited the release of Illinois. Would it match the splendor and personal emotion of Michigan? Would it capture the religious themes of Seven Swans and translate it into palpable everyman's music? Where to begin? I'll begin simply and state that this is hands down the release of the year so far. No it doesn't have the catchiness of Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On" off the very good "Gimme Fiction" disc or the splendid imagery of the Decemberists on "Picaresque," but is both more intimate and more grand than either of these fine records. Illinois keeps me rapt throughout its 77-minute-plus running time, each time I pick up some new instrument or sound that only adds to the disc's grandeur. You may be a skeptic like I was when I first heard about Steven's plan to do an albumn on all 50 states. How could you possibly capture the essence of a whole state ( and more than 200 years of history) in one release? Without question Steven's only skirts the surface of the entirety of the state of Illinois but through songs such as unweildy titled, ""The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience But You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I have fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!,' "Jacksonville" and "John Wayne Gacey" he manages to cover quite a bit of ground. Highlights of the disc include what may prove to be Sufjan's breakout hit on Indie radio, the eminately singable, "Chicago," a song that is more about our need to travel to try and escape our problems and lethargy than about the broad shouldered city it is named after. Don't fret, The City of Chicago more than gets its due in the third track on the disc, "Come on, feel the Illinoise, Part II"" and "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts." two mind-blowing compositions that weave Steven's hushed vocals with numerous brass instruments, electric and acoustic gutars, strings, percusion instruments and choirs to convey the gravity of the great city. Perhaps it is in the use of these strings and choirs that this release differs the most "Michigan" and "Seven Swans." Steven's ability to draw us into his personal experiences can be found on this release as well, as the deeply moving "Casimir Pulaski Day," "Decatur" and "The Predatory Wasp of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!" draw heavily on his formative years in both imagery and content. Time to wrap this review up as I've rambled on enough and frankly I'm at work and desparate to get in my car and listen to this for the 30th time in less than a week. Buy it now!! This man is a musical genius and needs to be heard by those in the know! P.S. I strongly encourage everyone to check out Pitchfork Record's glowing review of this masterpiece for further confirmation that this disc is well worth the purchase price and is one of the best of 2005. Expand
  10. JoshB
    Jul 7, 2005
    10
    Wow wow wow. Nothing says it better. This is an amazing album from start to finish. Beautiful music, beautiful songwriting. Sufjan is a true wonder.
  11. SansB
    Sep 15, 2005
    10
    This album is pure bliss
  12. TJT
    Jan 30, 2007
    10
    I love this CD. It is by far one of my absolute favorites. The whole CD flows and half the time songs progress into oneanother without you even realizing it. GENIUS is not strong enough but it will have to do. Great CD, everyone should have a copy.
  13. AustinS
    Nov 10, 2005
    10
    predatory wasp of the palisades! - the best thing to write a song about ever
  14. DaveF
    Nov 7, 2005
    9
    Simply superb.
  15. JamesC
    Jul 12, 2005
    10
    Best album of the year, by a mile.
  16. TorM
    Jul 12, 2005
    10
    Just magical. Hard to believe that 'Michigan' could be matched or bettered but this album would seem to do that. The arrangements are staggering, the harmonies are heart-breaking and the lyrics are inspired. Stunning.
  17. TH
    Jul 6, 2005
    10
    Absolute best album of the year. Everybody, regardless of personal taste or interests, should be made to listen to this album at least once, but preferably until they love it -- which will probably only take one listen, anyway.
  18. LeahT
    Jul 6, 2005
    10
    One of the most beautifully crafted albums I've ever heard. It can't top "Seven Swans" but that's completely off the chart. Sufjan creates pop symphonies and delicate folk songs. He speaks of serial killers, cancer, night zombies, predatory wasps, youthful ignorance and freedom, and God with such an honest and telling nature that hardly any one else possesses. Lord, One of the most beautifully crafted albums I've ever heard. It can't top "Seven Swans" but that's completely off the chart. Sufjan creates pop symphonies and delicate folk songs. He speaks of serial killers, cancer, night zombies, predatory wasps, youthful ignorance and freedom, and God with such an honest and telling nature that hardly any one else possesses. Lord, it's fantastic. Plus, Sufjan plays about a million instruments and even employs a string quartet this time around! You must hear it for yourself. Expand
  19. mkf
    Jul 6, 2005
    10
    stunning!
  20. matta
    Jul 6, 2005
    10
    One of those rare cd's that is absolutely perfect and deserving of a ten. Everything on this album contributes to it's brilliance and grandeur-yes, even the little five or ten second "tracks" that detractors might refer to as uselss filler. Not a single misstep, but standouts include the title song, which makes me want to cry every time I listen to it, John Wayne Macy Jr., One of those rare cd's that is absolutely perfect and deserving of a ten. Everything on this album contributes to it's brilliance and grandeur-yes, even the little five or ten second "tracks" that detractors might refer to as uselss filler. Not a single misstep, but standouts include the title song, which makes me want to cry every time I listen to it, John Wayne Macy Jr., Jacksonville, etc. I can't listen them all, but please, get this album. Hands down the best album of the year so far. Expand
  21. TynanD
    Jul 7, 2005
    10
    The finest album of the year, clasped-hands down.
  22. DavidW
    Jul 7, 2005
    10
    Album of the year, for sure. I would rarely give out a rating of 10, but this album is most deserving of it. Sufjan Stevens is the best singer/songwriter alive today. This album is so ambitious, beautiful, haunting, expansive... just wonderful. It is similar to Greetings from Michigan, which is not a bad thing. The arrangements have surely improved since that album. I can't stop Album of the year, for sure. I would rarely give out a rating of 10, but this album is most deserving of it. Sufjan Stevens is the best singer/songwriter alive today. This album is so ambitious, beautiful, haunting, expansive... just wonderful. It is similar to Greetings from Michigan, which is not a bad thing. The arrangements have surely improved since that album. I can't stop playing this album. Expand
  23. MarioT.K.
    Jul 8, 2005
    10
    This is utterly huge and reminds me of nothing because I haven't heard anything like e.g. "Chicago" before. Just give it a listen to "Casimir Pulaski Day" and have a good time.
  24. peterd
    Jul 8, 2005
    10
    unbeleiveable.
  25. RJ
    Jul 8, 2005
    10
    Amazing music that just keeps going and going. Best I've hear this year.
  26. vincentx
    Jul 9, 2005
    10
    At the moment there are only 2 names that matter in music: Rufus Wainwright and Sufjan Stevens. With this albums Sufjan is a notch more genius than Rufus. What a perfect album, what gracious music, what splendour! 48 more "States" albums to go...if he keeps this up, the future is bright indeed....
  27. JoshH
    Jul 9, 2005
    10
    This album is astounding. It's the musical equivalent of movies like Magnolia, Short Cuts and Crash -- it's all over the place, but makes sense when taken in context of the entire work. Highlights include Casimir Pulaski Day; John Wayne Gacy, Jr.; Chicago; and everything else. Well worth whatever you pay for it.
  28. JeffR
    Jul 9, 2005
    10
    Brilliant. While similar in tone to his Michigan album, Illinois represents a leap forward in both songwriting and arrangement. This year's best.
  29. PoloP
    Aug 16, 2005
    10
    This album is amazing. Brilliant.
  30. AmandaP
    Aug 4, 2005
    8
    Very nice, but the more expansive it gets, the more I miss the quiet intimacy of Seven Swans, which I still consider his most personal, and best, work.
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.