Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Critic Score
Based on 21 reviews
2005 Ratings: #1 / 456
User Score
2005 Ratings: #1
Liked by 96 people
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Slant Magazine

Perhaps most remarkable about Illinois is that Stevens's exceptional lyrics are surpassed by his diverse, ambitious compositions.

If the value of individual compositions is a bit lost, the landscape is open, a flowing anthology of stories whose characters’ dreams and morals reflect freely off one another from across county lines.

Illinois is an extraordinary achievement, all the more so when one considers that besides researching and writing the album, Stevens also played most of the parts himself.


It’s easy enough to let the heavyweight themes wash over you, so marvellous are some of these tunes. But really sink into ‘Illinoise’ and its depth is evident.

NOW Magazine

It's an ambitious and unwieldy experiment that could've gone terribly wrong but Stevens pulls it off with grace and gusto.

God Is in the TV

It's incredibly diverse, both in its exploration of Illinois and in its exploration of music ... This is truly incredible music to immerse yourself in, an absolute essential.

Coke Machine Glow

It’s all true. Everything that made Michigan great is here, but the layout of Illinois is more focused.


Musically, Illinois is strange and lush, as excessive and challenging as its giant, gushing song titles.

Stevens dissects civic character, questions an appropriately merciless God, and tells lean stories like the literary fiction writer he studied to be.
Drowned in Sound
There's a conviction and a reverence that fluidly runs through these songs - there are so many minute nuances to pick through and convince you that this is not a project taken on lightly.
Tiny Mix Tapes

Most of the songs on Illinois are meticulously put together and well thought out, resulting in some very gorgeous music.


The bittersweet twists and turns of a lifetime eloquently described in a folk-pop song—it really doesn’t get much better than this; these songs that must be heard to be believed.

No Ripcord
These are adventurous pop songs with intricate arrangements and sophisticated chord structures.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you’ll find a lot of yourself in Illinois.


Vast in scope and breathtaking in its beauty, Illinois may very well be the album that heralds Sufjan Stevens as one of this young century’s most talented artists.

Entertainment Weekly

Thanks to Stevens' penchant for illustrative instruments like glockenspiel, flute, and sleigh bells, his Illinois sounds quaint and even magical.

There's a distinct community theater vibe to the whole affair... but the majority of Illinois is alarmingly earnest.
It’s his masterpiece so far; a staggering collection of unspeakably precious music.
Rolling Stone
For a musician like Stevens, going too far and trying too hard is the point, the way to get beyond where a more austere songwriter could get with a more naturalistic pose. So the most pleasurable music here is the most ambitious.
The Guardian

Come On ... is a remarkable album that manages to pack in a state full of instruments (flugelhorns, choirs, presumably at least one watering-can solo) and sounds as simultaneously vast yet intimately detailed as Polyphonic Spree produced by Brian Eno.

I just cannot find anything wrong with this album man
Ladies and gentlemen... I present to you my first controversial score
EDIT #2: i cant find anything unenjoyable about this album. the concept is a terrific idea, and it was executedly so perfectly, which is something extremely difficult to do with music. i can cry to this, dance to it, and just listen to it whenever. illinois is as well rounded as an album can possibly be in my taste. also, despite the title and subject matter being the state of Illinois, there is something very New York about this project, and i always think about Manhattan when listening to ... read more
We are living in an oppressive, anti-drug society. The way the government prohibits the use of narcotics is simply dictator-like, and if you don't believe me, then we'll take a closer look. As you can see, projected on the 15' by 28' wall behind me, there is clear evidence of drugs actually boosting creativity, and happiness. Further, if we look at more graphs and lines, you can clearly see that people who are on drugs are considerably more sociable. If you still don't believe the benefits of ... read more
[Genre: Chamber Pop]

What was I SMOKING when I dropped the score for this thing??

Illinois is just an... incredible album through and through. The instrumentation is simple yet luscious, vibrant, fun and colorful. The album is unbelievably well-textured. The sound is grand and beautiful. It's albums like this that make me think to myself, "Damn... music is great." You never know what you're going to get with this album. Either it'll be an extremely fun and bright track like Come On! ... read more
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Year End Lists

#1/No Ripcord
#9/Rolling Stone

Track List

  1. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois 
  2. The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, 'I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!' 
  3. Come On! Feel the Illinoise! (Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition – Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream) 
  4. John Wayne Gacy, Jr
  5. Jacksonville
  6. A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, but for Very Good Reasons
  7. Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!
  8. One Last 'Whoo-Hoo!' for the Pullman
  9. Chicago
  10. Casimir Pulaski Day
  11. To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament
  12. The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
  13. Prairie Fire That Wanders About
  14. A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze
  15. The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!
  16. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!
  17. Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All the Way Out in Bushnell
  18. In This Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth
  19. The Seer's Tower
  20. The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders (Part I: The Great Frontier – Part II: Come to Me Only with Playthings Now)
  21. Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name a Few
  22. Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run
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