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Sufjan Stevens
The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album
Asthmatic Kitty Records

Sufjan Stevens is for sure one insanely creative soul. His massive masterpiece of last year, Illinoise, held some 74 minutes of music. And here's The Avalanche - another 21 songs, and even longer with more than 75 minutes of "Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album" (sic - seems like the noise is taken out of Illinois this time...). Shamelessly compiled by Sufjan Stevens as the front cover states.

Since his solo debut six years ago with the more than decent A Sun Came Stevens has put out another 4 albums in prior to this release. Enjoy Your Rabbit (2001) was a far more challenging listen with its electronics and sampled sounds in instrumental-land. In 2003 his 50-state-project started with Michigan. Was this a joke, some publicity stunt or what? A regular album, Seven Swans, which was a darker album of style and nature. Then, last year the blistering Illinoise arrived. Proofing Sufjan Stevens enormous talent, and that his United States project wasn't a hoax. I wonder which state will be next.

Till then, here's some extra material with The Avalanche. Its title-track (which was included as a bonus track of the vinyl edition of Illinoise) continues the Illinoise feeling. Sort of natural when these songs are material recorded during the Illinoise sessions. Besides three alternate takes on Illinoise's fabulous main song "Chicago" - called 'acoustic version', 'adult contemporary easy listening version' and 'multiple personality disorder version'. What else brings The Avalanche? A lot more twisted stories, strange lyrics, peculiarly, long song titles and name-dropping of famous people from (and places in) the state of Illinois. Such as: Adlai Stevenson, politician, once a governor of Illinois (and beaten by Eisenhower running for the presidential throne); Saul Bellow, author; Jane Margaret Byrne, Chicago's first female Mayor; Clyde Tombaugh, astronomer; Saul Alinsky, radical. Then there's Carlyle Lake, Springfield, Kaskaskia River, Pittsfield. You name it. Sufjan's head must me the head of a historian. Or he's simply a wandering encyclopaedia. Just check his lyrics (don't bother read and understand everything) and google off to see what shows.

And the record? The music? It's a lot of good stuff. It's more of the same of what we're used to from Stevens, including his most poppy moment ever, "The Henney Buggy Band". He's a shamelessly skilled singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, and it seems like he's not able to do much wrong. Nevertheless, I really hope he could go one step further next time. Do something a bit different. Cross some borders. Maybe bring some noise? I'm sure he's capable to thrill and 'enthuse'. Again. And again. Maybe 48 times more?

Copyright © 2006 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Sufjan Stevens articles/reviews: All Delighted People EP, Blue Bucket of Gold (remix), Carrie & Lowell, Come on feel the Illinoise, Greetings From Michigan - The Great Lake State, No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross, Seven Swans, Silver & Gold, The Age of Adz, The BQE.

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