Illinois is a 2005
concept album by American songwriter Sufjan Stevens, with songs referencing places
and people related to the U.S. state of
is his second album based on a U.S. state, part of a planned series of
, that began with the 2003 album Michigan
. The album is often referred
to as Illinoise
, due to the cover's
listing of the extended title Sufjan Stevens invites
you to: Come on feel the Illinoise
was featured on top album lists for 2005 in
various publications. On Metacritic Illinois
is listed as
the best-reviewed album of 2005. It was also ranked "Album of the
Year" by Pitchfork
's editors, Entertainment Weekly
Willman, and The Los Angeles
’ Richard Cromelin, among others.
- On the iTunes version of the album, the titles are shortened to
fit within an MP3 ID3 tag.
"The Avalanche" (which would be the title track on Stevens' next
album The Avalanche
) is an
additional song on the vinyl edition of the album. On the vinyl
record, some of the track titles are different from those on the
- Track 8 is called "One last 'Whoo-hoo!' for the Pullman!!"
- Track 9 is called "Go! Chicago! Go! Yeah!"
- Track 11 is called "To The Workers of the Rock River Valley
Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament, and It Involves
Tube Socks, a Paper Airplane, and Twenty-Two Able-Bodied Men."
- Track 17 is called "Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because
I Don't Think They Heard It All the Way out in
The two-disc vinyl edition of Illinoise
inscriptions within the run-off groove:
- "Land of Lincoln": The motto of
- "Tribe of superior men": The English meaning of the Algonquian word illiniwek, the
origin of the state's name.
- "By the rivers gently flowing, oe'r the prairies verdant
growing": A line from the state song
- "Hog butcher for the world, toolmaker, stacker of wheat, player
with railroads": A line from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg).
There are two bonus tracks on the iTunes
version: "The Avalanche," and "Chicago"
(To Strings Remix). In addition, track 11 is entitled "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
In March 2009, a Montreal producer by the name of Tor remixed songs
from Illinois, along with several tracks from Songs for Christmas,
A Sun Came and Seven Swans. It was released online for free under
the name Illinoize.
As of 2009, there are now four iTunes bonus tracks in the US store,
which are 'The Avalanche', 'Chicago (To Strings Remix)' (now
renamed to Jon Galaxy's Remix), 'The Transfiguration (Home Demo)'
and 'Size Too Small (Live In Brussels)'. The album was also
available for a limited time with a bonus CD entitled 'An Album
Club Exclusive' which was available if you bought the album
directly from Rough Trade records. The track listing for it is as
1) The Avalanche2) Borderline3) The Dress Looks Nice On You4)
Sister5) For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In
Ypsilanti6) The Upper Peninsula
Track 1 is from the Illinoise LP. Track 2 is from The Dress Looks
Nice On You (Single). Track 3 and 4 are from Seven Swans and tracks
5 and 6 are from Michigan.
Lyrically, the album is dense with allusions and references.
towns and places mentioned on the album are Highland, Lebanon, Columbia, Jacksonville, Decatur, Chicago, Metropolis, Peoria, Bushnell, the Sears
Tower, the Great Godfrey Maze, and the Rock
Among the historical figures named are
Frank Lloyd Wright
, Carl Sandburg
Wayne Gacy, Jr.
, Andrew Jackson
Stephen A. Douglas
, Abraham Lincoln
, Mary Todd Lincoln
, Kazimierz Pułaski
, and a number of
musicians. Some of the songs
and titles contain specific historically accurate content, so
could also be associated with the historical album
category. Other Illinois
figures are referenced more obliquely, like the 8'11" Robert Wadlow
in "The Tallest Man, the
Broadest Shoulders." Many of the songs use real locations and
historical events as settings for fictional accounts or jumping-off
points for ruminations on more universal subjects such as family
has also been noted for its religious overtones,
which occur in greater frequency and explicitness than is typical
for the indie rock
genre. Nearly all of
the songs address Biblical
imagery or themes
in one way or another. For instance, the first song, in which a
2000 UFO sighting
related in terms that echo the Incarnation
, to the final song,
whose title evokes the Biblical Flight
, "Out of Egypt I called my son." Other examples
include the refrains of "Decatur" ("it's the great I Am
") and "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders"
/ the Carpenter
"); the explicit references to "the glory
that the Lord has made" in "Casimir
"; the Scriptural allegory informing "The Seer's
Tower"; and the apparent absolution Stevens finds in the final
verse of "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
This may not be a complete list of allusions, as many references
are very subtle. Also, some references may be incorrect, as many
lyrics are not entirely specific.
"All hostilities both by sea and land shall
of Ghent, "Article the First"
- "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois"
- "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 and Will Continue to Fight Them Until
They Are off Our Lands!'"
. Black Hawk, chief of the Sauk
(or oθaakiiwaki) nation, fought on the side of the
British in the war, but he had not been invited to sign the treaty
(nor had any other representatives from Native American
allies). He first heard the text on May 10, 1815, at Fort McKay in Alberta, Canada, whereupon
he immediately declared his vow to continue his fight to keep the
Americans (the "Big Knives") from his lands, located roughly where
Missouri and Illinois are today.
Black Hawk continued
to attack American settlements after 1815."Black Hawk went on
attacking the Americans even after the war with Britain was
Hostilities culminated in the Black Hawk War of 1832.
- "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!"
- "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
- "A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, but for Very
- "Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!"
- "One Last 'Whoo-Hoo!' for the Pullman"
- "Casimir Pulaski Day"
- "To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea
Concerning Your Predicament"
- "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts"
- "Prairie Fire that Wanders About"
- "A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in which Sufjan
Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze"
- "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is out to Get Us!"
- "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come
back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!"
- John A. Logan
- Ulysses S. Grant
- Ronald Reagan
- Night of the Living
- Buda, Illinois
- Caledonia, Illinois
- Secor, Illinois
- Magnolia, Illinois
- Kankakee, Illinois
- Evansville, Illinois
- Parker City, Indiana
- Green Ridge, Missouri
- Sailor Springs, Illinois
- Centreville, Illinois
- Shawneetown, Illinois
- "Let's Hear that String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They
Heard It All the Way out in Bushnell"
- "In this Temple as in the Hearts of Man for Whom He Saved the
inscription in the Lincoln Memorial (In this temple as in the hearts of the people for
whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined
- "The Seer's Tower"
- "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders"
- "Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl
Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name
- "Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the
Dirt from My Sandals as I Run"
The album cover reads, in bold print, "Sufjan Stevens invites you
to: Come on feel the Illinoise." This plays on the common
mispronunciation of the state's name as "ill-i-NOYZ" and is also a
reference to the song Cum on Feel
originally by UK band Slade
later covered by both Quiet Riot
Because of legal issues regarding the artwork, Asthmatic Kitty Records
stopped sales of the album and asked retailers to do the same.
Though not stated explicitly in the label's notice, the cover's
depiction of Superman
, a comic book
character which is the property of DC
, is assumed to have been the source of the legal
problems. On the vinyl edition released in November, Superman's
image is covered by a balloon sticker. The image of the balloon
sticker was also used on the cover to the compact disc and later
printings of the double vinyl release. Asthmatic Kitty were allowed
to sell the first print featuring the character.
However, because big-box retailers such as Best
did not comply with the order, Asthmatic Kitty allowed
continued sales of the album. The label distributed new versions of
the album, with updated artwork. The version currently on sale
lacks the picture of Superman in the artwork, but is otherwise
- Acclaimed Music - Illinois
- The 30 Best-Reviewed Albums of the Year
of Ghent, "Article the Eleventh" at Wikisource.