Don’t you hate when someone asks what kind of music you’re into? If you are anything like me, it’s a bloody hard question to answer and one which would take some considerable time to get to the bottom of. With that in mind, I can only imagine the horror on my Elba colleagues’ faces when I emailed them and said, ‘look I’m putting together a blog post, mail me back with a couple of words explanation to the above question’. The question in question…
“what’s your favourite Sufjan Stevens album?”
…for this is a question with no discernible answer.
We have tried though, battling with different parts of our musical persona, giving full listens to albums, making cases with ourselves about the merits of different tracks, and I think, we’ve come to a conclusion of sorts. The conclusion being that there is no ‘favourite album’. However, in the interests of not leaving this post hanging on that very note we’ve noted down some ideas, gun to our head, here’s our favourite Sufjan albums. (remember, not really favourite, I mean don’t hold us to that or anything!).
My love and allegiance to Sufjan Stevens is known far and wide. This is not an over-reaching statement. I receive email, facebook and textual (heh) updates on nigh his every move from a number of sources. Therefore, when asked to pick my favourite album of his, I found myself incredibly torn. This is because I have a sonic love, a lyrical love, a love for songs independent of which album they originate. That being said, each of his releases offers something individual as a body, whilst still undeniably being so very Sufjan. After much consideration and inner turmoil, I present to you my favourite Sufjan Stevens album:
Illinois is the obvious choice, yes I’ll admit. Critically, it is his most well received work. It is, however, very easy to see why. The album honours the state so vastly and features locales, incidents, individuals, whether real or fictitious and of the best and worst moral incline, religious reference and personal prose. It may not be an true representation of The Land of Lincoln but I have not a qualm with that. It is a beautiful portrait. There is a careful balance of the Sufjan seen before and development into something more. The piousness of Seven Swans and solomness of Michigan are still felt but something quirkier and more playful became a undeniable part to making this his most treasured release. This is felt with the wider instrumental range involved, playing nicely to Stevens’ scoring. Holistically, it is more accessible than any other full length release from the artist.
To put it simply, Illinois fills me with a sort of wonder. Tales weave through this work. Even the saddest songs make me want to sit down cross legged, wide eyed with my hands propped under my chin and listen intently. The most joyous make me break into full smile. The most personal, one in particular that is shared with a dear friend in our mutual love for it, can reduce me to tears. Come on, feel the Illinoise!
And another vote for this particular opus from Chris
Ok, so firstly this wasn’t easy. My real answer is his fictional ‘Greatest Hits’ playlist that I have on my iPod which contains 3 to 4 tracks from all albums. However, Illinois was the first of his albums that I bought, combine that with the Oran Mor gig months later (hands down one of my favourite gigs ever) and your onto a winner. My favourite thing about music is lyrics and Illinois is quite simply an album of stories…flawless! Notable mention to Seven Swans which was a close 2nd.
We’ll add a little variance to this post I think, my pick is…
The BQE. It was my instant reaction to the question which then clouded my judgement seconds later when I thought, no wait, what about ‘The Dress Looks Nice On You’ or ‘Decatur’. The thing is though, I love the whole idea and concept behind The BQE and the fact that he chose to release an album which in his own words ‘refused to incorporate his strongest weapons, the song’. The notion of scoring a film depicting the Brooklyn Queens Expressway is something which very much appeals to me and as an album it is one which I was instantly taken in and captivated by even before it was released. Sure it doesn’t have the stories that Illinois or Seven Swans has but I still think he manages to capture the storytelling essence so prominent in his previous work without uttering a word.
It is with our obvious fondness for Sufjan that we have recently been getting pretty excited by the forthcoming release ‘The Age of Adz’ and have been muchly enjoying the All Delighted People EP, ‘Heirloom’ is a biiiiig favourite. He’s also touring the US at the moment and almost on a weekly basis my heart flutters slightly when I notice a headline announcing yet more Sufjan live dates. Sadly, these have all been North American thus far but we live in hope that he will visit our little corner of rain in Scotland. All is not lost though, we have found a Sufjan fix to tide us over until that time.
‘Widows in Paradise’ is a celebration of all things Sufjan and they’ve pulled together a fine roster of local musicians to pay homage to our favourite winged singer. The line up includes The Last Battle, Randolph’s Leap, Open Swimmer, Washington Irving, Esperi and Julia and The Doogans (who you can also catch, helping us celebrate our birthday next month). This all takes place on Wednesday 22nd Sept at 7:30pm in Stereo, Glasgow, and you can get your tickets here. There is also the promise of homebaking! Yum!
*Kim would also like to offer a personal apology to The Dress Looks Nice On You, A Winner Needs a Wand, For The Widows in Paradise, Vito’s Ordination Song and many, many others for betraying them and going for Illinois.