Here is what you need to know about this guy: He still rocks my socks off.

I saw him once, live, or maybe I should say, alive, because that is what the crowd became. A moving body tuning into one man. Not a lighter flicked or a glass clinked because we were all so enthralled and drawn in to this man.

Sufjan (pronounced "Soof-yawn") makes music that you will actually want to listen to. When I say listen to I mean turn all the lights off and just listen, really absorb it. You are going to have to keep it on repeat.

He's got funky songs that will send your head spinning. Make you want to just get up and dance. Or sad songs that will break your heart in more than one place-- example, John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Sufjan's got lyrics that will make you wonder if he's not the reincarnation of one of the great poets.

If you like jazz, or progressive rock, or have ever found yourself in a chain bookstore listening idly for hours to the little samples at the headphone station, you are bound to run into this man eventually. He's worth it.

Sufjan Stevens was born on Canada Day, that's July first, 1975. His story starts in Detroit, Michigan where he grew up. At shows he will tell people he was found in a milk crate. He was not. He was however named after Abu Sufjan Muhammad, whose significance I am not aware of. He's got three older siblings with names equally as awkward to American tongues as his.

Sufjan attended Michigan State University where he was encouraged by a jazz improv professor to pursue music as a career and thank goodness or we would not have his magical music. Instead he would be a business man (what a waste that would have been).

Okay, here is the key about Sufjan Stevens; you are going to like this. His goal is to release a record about every state in the United States. That means your state will have its very own soundtrack, thank you Mr. Stevens. So far he has hit up Michigan and Illinois. The songs on these albums are written for the states, about the states, about the people of these states.

His first three releases, Seven Swans, Enjoy Your Rabbit, and A Sun Came, did not have the state themes and are not equally as good. The albums themselves are very hard to come by, if you want to get your ears on anything from these three, your best bet is itunes or another downloading source. Most of the songs on these albums concentrate lyrically about the usual stuff: love, relationships, loneliness and happiness. Musically, they are set apart from what you will be used to but bland in comparrison to Michigan or Illinois. There is still heavy use of trumpets but Sufjan comes across much more poppish or even emo and less jazz, less beauty.

Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State kicks off his state theme. Excellent songs to listen to on this album are "Romulus" and "They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For the Homeless in Muskegon)". And any die-hard E2 user is going to need to pick up this CD just for the song "Holland". "Detroit, lift up your weary head" is an anthem to a city that just as well may be dying. Sufjan's musical energy of a wish to see this city thrive again is captivating. Will make you want to rebuild Detroit yourself.

Next is Illinois, which may just be the best thing I have heard about that state in a very long time. "Come on, feel the Illinoise", with its driving trumpets and flip flap drumbeat makes my heart race. Still; after having heard it millions of times on repeat. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr" takes the story of a serial killer and makes it hurt; makes you actually identify with a man who you would only think of as a criminal and makes him human. That is what Sufjan does lyrically-- makes everything human. "Prairie Fire That Wanders About" is also another very nice song to hear on this album.

Sufjan uses lots of different instruments in his work and while all his stuff is easily identifiable as him, it is still all different. Every song has a string quartet part layered in there somewhere, either plucking the main theme or buried under trumpets or guitars. It has a very soothing quality to it.

Stevens records for Asthmatic Kitty records and resides currently on the road. No plans have been made for his next record and he hasn't said which state he'll pick up this time. Let's hope for a great chronicle of Nebraska or Utah or someplace else that no one else ever sings about.

All the time we spent in bed
Counting miles before we said
Fall in love and fall apart
Things will end before they start
Sleeping on Lake Michigan Factories
--Holland



(because I think the song titles are just as interesting as the music)

Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State
1.Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)
2. All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!
3. For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
4. Say Yes! To Michigan!
5. The Upper Peninsula
6. Tahquamenon Falls
7. Holland
8. Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
9. Romulus
10. Alanson, Crooked River
11. Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie
12. They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For the Homeless in Muskegon)
13. Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackin?)
14. Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
15. Vito's Ordination Song


Illinois
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..."
3. Come On! Feel the Illinoise! Pt. 1. The World's Columbian Expedition/ Pt. 2. Carl Sandburg visits Me in a Dream
4. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
5. Jacksonville
6. A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, for Very Good Reasons
7. Decatur, or, A 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, and it involves an Inner Tube, Bath Mats, and 21 Able-Bodied Men
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!!
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 Shoulder, Pt. 1: The Great Frontier/ Pt. 2: Come to Me Only With Playthings Now
21. Riffs and Variations On a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstong, 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


http://www.asthmatickitty.com

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