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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 88 - 12/08/03

Sufjan Stevens
Greetings From Michigan - "The Great Lake State"
Asthmatic Kitty/Sounds Familyre

Not a familiar name to me but Sufjan Stevens (also a graphic designer, an amateur seamster, a crocheter of ski caps, and a writer of short fiction) Presents Greetings From Michigan - "The Great Lake State" is a very fine album indeed. As a fact it must be one of the better pop albums of the year. Michigan is Sufjan's third full-length album. Better get the other two quickly!

Michigan is a theme album, with all the compositions dealing with (surprise!) Michigan, which is Stevens' birth-state. The songs are mostly soft and fragile sounding. Brittle pop, with tasty vocal harmonies, and lots of spicy instruments - Sufjan Stevens operates: oboe, English horn, piano, organ, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, wood flute, whistles, guitars, bass, etc. Among the helpers Daniel, Elin, and Megan Smith (of The Danielson Famile, where Sufjan acts as organist, toy pianist, banjo player) guests on vocals on some of the songs.

Stevens sings about the history and heritage of Michigan, and through the songs we're brought along on a geographical journey around the state, as the songs relate to various cities, places, regions around Michigan. There's even a map inside the cover. The journey starts in Flint (home town of film director Michael Moore), with "Flint (For the Unemployed and the Underpaid)". A sad ballad of course, but the touch of sweetness within his melancholic songs as well as the cunning arrangements keeps head above water all the way through. Lyrically the album is quite fascinating. As his home site says: "Stevens mixes social and political grievances with songs about snowmobiles, Henry Ford, the Detroit race riots, and love."

The music is a mish-mash of genres. Amongs the names dropped to describe what he sounds like are Vince Guaraldi, Terry Riley, Nick Drake, Stereolab, The Sea & Cake. The Village Voice has said (on his former album): "Arthur Lee meets the Book of Psalms." And XLR8R called his Enjoy Your Rabbit album: "...a transgressive, majestic album conjuring an academic jam session of Stereolab and Luke Vibert conducted by Steve Reich." I recommend you to check for yourself.

This is said to be the first of a series of albums covering ALL 50 states!? A joke or what? Well, after listening to Michigan this could really be something.

Copyright © 2003 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Sufjan Stevens articles/reviews: All Delighted People EP, Blue Bucket of Gold (remix), Carrie & Lowell, Come on feel the Illinoise, No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross, Seven Swans, Silver & Gold, The Age of Adz, The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album, The BQE.

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