It was with this wisdom that I realized why Sufjan Stevens' "Illinois" is the best album of the year. His dynamic range of instruments and his ability to create such poignant music puts him in a class of artists that can be appreciated by many different kinds of fans. "Illinois" is an album overflowing with little numbers about the history of the state of "Illinois". I know this sounds mind-numbingly lame, but that is what makes Sufjan such a genius. Nearly every song has a melody that is irresistible. Even the mood shattering "John Wayne Gacy Jr" is a masterpiece. Who else can write a song about a brutal serial killer and make it one of the most stunningly beautiful songs you've ever heard? Songs like "Casimir Pulaski Day" and "Jacksonville" exhibit Sufjan's folk roots and really add character to this impression album. Trombones, saxophones, trumpets, flutes, banjos, strings, and choirs make up what "Illinois" is. It's an album abundant with narrative historical harmonies. As most of my top 5 of the year are, this album is not a first time charmer. It took me a few listens to really capture the essence of this cd. Writing about everyone from Superman to Abraham Lincoln to Carl Sandburg, Sufjan has found a way to make history interesting. This twenty-something guy has come to impress with his latest concept album. His initial plan was to make an album for every state in the United States. After "Michigan", he sidetracked and made "Seven Swans". Something must have pushed the concept back into his mind when he made "Illinois".
I think I have finally found the puzzle piece to my Merkey problem. Sufjan Stevens is a conductor and a singer whose insight and intelligence has been able to create a musical work of art complete with staccatos, crescendos, decrescendos, and many other band terms that I can no longer remember. Sufjan Steven's "Illinois" is a wonderful journey that starts as soon as put it in your stereo and doesn't end until the last note comes out. I hope you've enjoyed reading this list as much as I've enjoyed writing it. Keep checking up to see what else is coming out.