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Sufjan Stevens 

Illinoise

Sufjan StevensIllinoise(Asthmatic Kitty)So much research and original thought drips from this tone poem to the state of Illinois, just grasping it requires several listens. Through sympathy for serial killer John Wayne Gacy, dreamed pep talks from Carl Sandburg and a sense of the state’s loss of status, what sticks is soaring arrangements that evoke minstrel shows, Philip Glass and Arcade Fire in equal measure. “They Are Night Zombies” uses snare drum and staccato vocal harmony to illustrate the idea of Ronald Reagan wielding his axe in an army of undead, the most startling union of imagination and execution in recent memory. The weight of America’s past is made palpable. One might doubt Stevens’ plan to pay tribute to 48 states (he did Michigan earlier). Given Illinoise, anything is possible.—Doug Taylor

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