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CRITIC REVIEWS

100
Slant Magazine

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

100
Paste
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.
100
Uncut

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.

100
Clash

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.

100
NOW Magazine

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

100
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.

94
Coke Machine Glow

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

92
Pitchfork

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

91
Spin
Stevens dissects civic character, questions an appropriately merciless God, and tells lean stories like the literary fiction writer he studied to be.
90
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.
90
Tiny Mix Tapes

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

90
PopMatters

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.

90
No Ripcord
These are adventurous pop songs with intricate arrangements and sophisticated chord structures.
90
Sputnikmusic

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

90
Prefix

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.

83
Entertainment Weekly

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

80
AllMusic
There's a distinct community theater vibe to the whole affair... but the majority of Illinois is alarmingly earnest.
80
NME
It’s his masterpiece so far; a staggering collection of unspeakably precious music.
80
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.
80
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.

morningsbell
100
I just cannot find anything wrong with this album man
KIDWITHGUNs
40
Ladies and gentlemen... I present to you my first controversial score
Craigold
100
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
exception
100
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
Pickle
75
In my opinion, Illinoise is more of it being impressive than being enjoyable. The strings are sonically beautiful and the texture is luscious and masterfully layered. However, I see this album as an art in a museum, it is admirable yet far from being my favourite. I’ve listened to this album for two times and hopefully it’ll grow on me after several listens.
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Track List

1Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
2:08
98
2The 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!"
2:14
93
3Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
6:45
99
4John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
3:19
99
5Jacksonville
5:24
97
6A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But for Very Good Reasons
0:47
91
7Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!
3:03
93
8One Last "Whoo-hoo!" for the Pullman
0:06
88
9Chicago
6:04
98
10Casimir Pulaski Day
5:53
98
11To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament
1:40
92
12The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
6:16
95
13Prairie Fire That Wanders About
2:11
92
14A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way In Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis In the Great Godfrey Maze
0:19
88
15The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!
5:22
97
16They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!
5:09
97
17Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All the Way Out In Bushnell
0:40
90
18In This Temple, As In the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the Earth
0:35
89
19The Seer's Tower
3:53
94
20The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders
7:02
94
21Riffs and Variations On a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name a Few
0:46
89
22Out of Egypt, Into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals As I Run
4:21
92
Total Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Year End Lists

#1/No Ripcord
#1/Pitchfork
#7/NME
#8/SPIN
#9/Rolling Stone
#23/Gigwise
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