|Preconceived Notions: I read about this album while skimming the 50 best albums of the decade list by Paste Magazine. Take from that what you will. I’ve listened once, but wasn’t overly impressed. I’m curious to see if, especially having listened to some other concept albums, and things slightly out of my norm, if I’ll like it more or less. There were a couple of good songs and I really liked the idea that someone would write a song called John Wayne Gacy Jr. and I remember thinking when I listened to that song the first time, “this is not what I would have thought it would sound like at all”. When I read that Stevens wanted to make an album for all 50 states I thought it was one of the neatest ideas I’d heard in a long time. He has yet to follow through.
As Listening/After Listening: Come On! Feel The Illinois!- Something about this sounds a little like Sondheim, but more upbeat. I like it. Actually, concept albums are pretty similar to musicals, aren’t they?
John Wayne Gacy Jr- Still weirded out that this song sounds like it should be played during a scene that basically is playing out everything in the song, in a movie, in slow motion, directed by Sam Mendes. I like it though.
Jacksonville- The strings, the brass section. I’m fine with the total deal here.
Decatur: I realize that this is just a chance to rhyme things with “Decatur” and, again, I’m ok with that. I like that this is so much sparser, musically, than the couple before it. It’s a different town so a different style; more “countrified” but not strictly country. Although the applause at the end seems a little self-serving. If I want to clap, Sufjan, I will.
Casimir Pulaski Day- I’m torn on this one. My brain says “trying too hard” but I am tapping my foot a little. Why am I such a sucker for brass instruments?! Is that a trumpet?! I like the music about a bajillion times better than the lyrics.
The Man of Metropolis Steals our Hearts: I’m a fan of the play on words for the Man of Steel.
The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out To Get Us – I love this song for some reason. Love it. The name is pretentious, which is a shame. Just call it “The Wasp” or “Out to Get Us”. It doesn’t stop me from falling into this song. Although it goes one for about 20 seconds too long. Undoubtedly, this will be someone’s least favorite song.
They Are Night Zombies- ok, not nearly as cool as its name though, it’s full name, that is, which I’ve shortened here.
The Seer’s Tower-Ok, I get it, you’re clever, Sufjan, and I liked it, for a while. This is not my bag.
The Tallest Man- This song legitimately sounds like it made a stealthy escape from the Hair soundtrack. Not awful, but not wonderful either.
Alright, I’m prepared to say that this album goes on for at least 5 songs too many. In fact, if it had stopped with track 17, I would have been fine. However, I really did enjoy most of what was on here, when he wasn’t trying to be too cute that is. Sufjan’s one of those people who take being an artist extremely seriously, and I respect (and like that) in most instances, but sometimes it can just wear a bit thin. I do think it is a carefully crafted album though and I really like the last track as the last track (Out of Egypt) but it could have been shorter and I could have done without about the four that preceded it. I listened to the bonus tracks as well, and I have to say that I preferred all of them to the last couple of tracks on the album.
Overall, 4.3. The stuff I like, I really liked. The stuff I didn’t, I rolled my eyes at.
Favorite track: The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out To Get Us