Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
2005 – Asthmatic Kitty Records
Illinoise is one of my favorite records. With this being a double LP, there is much to dig into. This album is unique in that it mixes pop music with more sophisticated arrangements, instrumentations, and time signatures. Glockenspiel, vibraphone, string section, banjo, trumpet, oboe, and tons of other instruments mix to form a playful atmosphere for this outing. The use of trumpet throughout is great. Craig Montoro, the trumpeter, accents the compositions perfectly, whether that means playing a background line or doubling the melody. Without him, I don’t think this album would have worked half as well. Another aspect that I love, obviously, is the vibraphone. It is used in the arrangements in a way that accents its positive characteristics. The vibes shine through with moving lines that highlight the songs with its distinctive, cutting voice. If you know me, you know that I don’t ever listen to lyrics. I hear the voice just as an instrument so I have no idea what songs are about, even if I’ve been listening to them for years. A little while back, I read an article that highlighted some of the most disturbing songs of all time and “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” was on the list. After going back and listening to the lyrics, it truly is terrifying. I should dig into lyrics, but when I hear music, there is so much going on instrumentally to dissect that I can’t imagine analyzing the lyrics too. I know that is the opposite of what most people think, but that’s how I roll. Anyway, the artwork here is really cool as well. All around, this is definitely an album to own on vinyl.