US - New York - Full Moon 88 - 12/08/03
Greetings From Michigan - "The Great Lake State"
Asthmatic Kitty/Sounds Familyre
Not a familiar name to me but Sufjan Stevens (also a graphic designer, an amateur seamster,
a crocheter of ski caps, and a writer of short fiction) Presents Greetings From Michigan - "The
Great Lake State" is a very fine album indeed. As a fact it must be one of the better pop albums
of the year. Michigan is Sufjan's third full-length album. Better get the other two quickly!
Michigan is a theme album, with all the compositions dealing with (surprise!) Michigan,
which is Stevens' birth-state. The songs are mostly soft and fragile sounding. Brittle pop, with
tasty vocal harmonies, and lots of spicy instruments - Sufjan Stevens operates: oboe, English horn,
piano, organ, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, wood flute, whistles, guitars, bass, etc. Among
the helpers Daniel, Elin, and Megan Smith (of The Danielson Famile, where Sufjan acts as organist,
toy pianist, banjo player) guests on vocals on some of the songs.
Stevens sings about the history and heritage of Michigan, and through the songs we're brought
along on a geographical journey around the state, as the songs relate to various cities, places,
regions around Michigan. There's even a map inside the cover. The journey starts in Flint (home
town of film director Michael Moore), with "Flint (For the Unemployed and the Underpaid)". A sad
ballad of course, but the touch of sweetness within his melancholic songs as well as the cunning
arrangements keeps head above water all the way through. Lyrically the album is quite fascinating.
As his home site says:
"Stevens mixes social and political grievances with songs
about snowmobiles, Henry Ford, the Detroit race riots, and love."
The music is a mish-mash of genres. Amongs the names dropped to describe what he sounds like
are Vince Guaraldi, Terry Riley, Nick Drake, Stereolab, The Sea & Cake. The Village Voice has said
(on his former album): "Arthur Lee meets the Book of
Psalms." And XLR8R called his Enjoy Your Rabbit album:
"...a transgressive, majestic album conjuring an academic
jam session of Stereolab and Luke Vibert conducted by Steve Reich." I recommend you to check
This is said to be the first of a series of albums covering ALL 50 states!? A joke or what? Well,
after listening to Michigan this could really be something.
Copyright © 2003 Håvard Oppøyen