Waxing The Aughts (Poetically)… Rotch remembers Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens

We continue our little end of the decade series called clichely & probably often incorrectly “Waxing The Aughts (Poetically)“…



…where we eschew impossible decade compiling lists and have the wonderful members of our community think back to some of their favourite albums from this past decade and say as many (or few) words about it as they like. This time, rotch remembers Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens… Take it away rotch!


Note: First posted on his own blog here in Spanish and so it is reposted here in it’s original language as we love & respect all languages and cultures. BUT, since we do have large number of readers that are not “Spanish-inclined”, just below it is the English version translated by the waxer himself… enjoy!



Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)

Original Spanish Waxing:

Illinois es muchas cosas: es un retrato de folklore americano a la altura de los trabajos de Washington Irving, es un sonido tan único y una composición tan ejemplar que invita a comparaciones con músicos de la talla de Phillip Glass o Michael Nyman, pequeñas piezas narrativas tan ingeniosas que parecen salidas de la cabeza de escritores como Michael Chabon o cineastas como Wes Anderson. Un disco de principios e ideales tan clásicos que sólo puede ser clasificado como postmodernista.

En una década en la que el mp3 y los iPods parecían anunciar el final del “álbum” como “obra”, Sufjan Stevens sacó un disco que exigió ser escuchado de principio a fin, sin importar que te quita unos largos 75 minutos de tu tiempo. La experiencia es casi como leer un buen libro, y viene con un buen número de recompensas líricas. En Illinois, la voz de Stevens es la de un narrador culto, pero siempre amigable, que no es condescendiente y te cuenta historias como un tío cariñoso lleno de conocimiento.

¡Y vaya historias! Desprendidas del álbum, las principales canciones (haciendo un lado los interludios) son pequeños microcosmos en los que por ocasiones habitan personajes muy reales, y en otras paisajes fantásticos basados en lo más mundano. Tomen como por ejemplo “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” uno de los retratos más empáticos que se le han realizado a un asesino en serie, sin importar el medio. O “The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts” el afectuoso retrato la habilidad humana de crear mitos modernos. No importa si todo suena muy intelectual. Uno puede escoger ignorar el contenido y concentrarse en perfectas piezas pop como “Chicago”, cuya influencia sonora se siente en centenares de artistas indie de la década. ¿Y qué tan vasto es este sonido? Intente encontrar todos los instrumentos que conozcan en el disco y se sorprenderán.

Illinois es un disco al que fácilmente se le puede poner la etiqueta de “obra de arte”. La visión de un solo hombre con una voz distintiva. Al igual que The Royal Tenenbaums en cine o Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth en cómic, es una obra tan llena de detalles que rompe las reglas del medio para darnos algo completamente original y nuevo. ¿Cuántos artistas pueden presumir eso?

English Translation by Rotch:

For me, Illinois is the perfect marriage between aural and lyrical content. With his words, Stevens almost rivals Washington Irving as an architect of American folklore. Whether he tackles an infamous serial killer (John Wayne Gacy, Jr.), 20th century myths (The Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts), or architectural landmarks (The Seer’s Tower), he does it with equal amounts of heart and wit.

Each story in this epic album is epic within itself, mainly because he wraps them in the most generous and gorgeous sounds. This sound is so unique that it’s kind of hard to trace his influences, and will probably be hard to imitate by others.

By now we can probably guess he will never finish his 50 states project. But he more than makes up for it with Illinois. Within its 75 minutes, he gives us more than most artists do in their lifetime.

1. “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois”
2. “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!'”
3. “Come On! Feel the Illinoise!” (Part 1: The World’s Columbian Exposition — Part 2: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream)
4. “John Wayne Gacy, Jr”
5. “Jacksonville”
6. “A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, but for Very Good Reasons”
7. “Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!”
8. “One Last ‘Whoo-Hoo!’ for the Pullman”
9. “Chicago”
10. “Casimir Pulaski Day”
11. “To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament”
12. “The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts”
13. “Prairie Fire That Wanders About”
14. “A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze”
15. “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!”
16. “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!”
17. “Let’s Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don’t Think They Heard It All the Way Out in Bushnell”
18. “In This Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth”
19. “The Seer’s Tower”
20. “The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders” (Part 1: The Great Frontier — Part 2: Come to Me Only with Playthings Now)
21. “Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name a Few”
22. “Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run”

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Cheers,
Tsuru
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