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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Nicsperiment Takes on Illinois (and talks about music theory and other stuff in a slightly-too-serious manner)

The album, not the state!
If you read my favorite nine albums of 2005 post, you may have noticed a mini-discussion on Sufjan Stevens' Illinois. The jist of my comments was that I had not heard Illinois yet because I wanted to let the hype around it die down. Illinois was garnering number one on almost every Internet musiczine, and that was just a little too much for a contrite person like me.
That said, I have been following Stevens' music for a long time. I was into Danielson Famile (an extremely wacky band Stevens was in) at the end of the 90s (or as I like to call the 90s, 'the decade that almost made sense') and have followed his solo career throughout the 00s (or as I like to call the 00s, 'the decade where no one gets along that well, and a lot of people are kind of scared'). I was intrigued by the things I heard about Stevens' 2001 album, Enjoy Your Rabbit , thanks to a glowing review from Opuszine.
Somewhere around this time I started DJ'ing at KLSU, LSU's radio station. At KLSU I had access to just about any music I wanted. Steven's 'Michigan' and 'Seven Swans' came out during this period, and while I didn't buy them, I heard all the singles and whatnot and liked them, though Steven's voice, sort of a whispy moan, got on my nerves every now and then.
Upon news of Illinois' release, I came very close to pre-ordering, but decided not to. Unfortunately, the album was immediately recalled due to a dispute with DC Comics over a picture of Superman featured on the cover. Most everyone who pre-ordered got their album, though, and it became a collector's edition. This angered me because:
a. I was mad at myself for not pre-ordering
b. I was pissed that I was going to have to wait to get the album now
When the album finally came out, for whatever reason, I didn't pick it up. It garnered huge critical accolades, and at the end of last year, exploded. This automatically turned me off because I'm a jerk in this regard, and I freely admit that this is a character flaw that for some reason I embrace.
Anyway, as I said I would, I eventually picked up the album. I gave it a month, which is usually a good cooling down period for me.
So what do I have to say?
This is a very good album. Great even. Stevens' voice still irritates me a bit (my own voice irritates me a lot, though, so I think this is a fair statement), but like most items of personal taste, after prolonged exposure, his voice doesn't bother me that much.
If I had heard this album last year, it would most probably have made my top nine (Plus, I'm a sucker for concept albums, so even if the album was not as good as it is, I still would have mentioned it in my 'also' list).
Would I have given it my number one spot?
That spot still belongs to Coldplay's X & Y. I gave Coldplay the 1-spot because I think X & Y is universal, and I do not think Illinois is. Illinois is monumental, but it is not for everyone. The folkish style of the music and Stevens whispery vocals will surely turn off many listeners. While I believe four out of the five members of my family own and enjoy X & Y (and my father DOES NOT buy CD's, so really, I shouldn't even be counting him), only two own and enjoy Illinois.
And on this note, I should clarify that I do not think all music should be universal. That is just stupid. Being such a strange person myself (and certainly somewhat of a loner) I am very happy that there is music catered to my own tastes. I can't imagine many people I know enjoying Portishead, or GYBE!, or even Project 86, but I am so, so happy these bands exist and fill my own musical needs. At the same time, I find attempting to create something universal is also a high goal, and actually being successful at this goal is something I feel I should praise. This is, as I said in the original post, why I gave Coldplay the 1-spot.
And goodnight.


Jon said...

Dude, I've been listening to Portishead all week. That and Matisyahu. Seriously, that's it. That's all I've listened to. I really like your alternative names for the decades. I think you should do all the way back to the turn of the 20th. You can name one the Great Gatsby, but I can't remember which one. You're the english major; you figure it out. Dude, seriously, this semester is owning me, but we ARE going to go on a gangsta walk. Honestly, I want to go to Tunica Hills and hike through some serious foliage. Plus this amazing sprin weather in the winter is getting me in the mood to live outdoors, so we gotta do it soon. Maybe before Sigur Ros, which I'm definitely going to by the way. Ok I'm gonna listen to my Art History teacher talk about Egypt.

Lata gangsta,

Jon said...

Oh, and my friend Matt has puke on his sleeve from last night (he got drunk). I thought it was pretty funny.


John T. Meche III said...

Hmm...I don't know if blogger emails you when someone has responded to a comment you made, so I'll let you know here that I responded to the comment you left on my latest post.

As for Stevens, he's awesome. He didn't make my list because I have just very recently started listening to him. I also would advise you to check out The Beta Band. I just got "The Three EPs" from them. It's good stuff.

leslie said...

i wonder what it is (exactly) about coldplay that makes them so universal? perhaps it's not anything exact at all. in fact, now that i think about it, it's probably that they're able to cater to a few different tastes. or maybe that their sound is just so unlike anything else that their being the one and only makes them easy to enjoy. i don't know. something to think about.

oh and i figured out how to cheat at our puking game, mister. it involves the color green. bwahahahaha (evil laugh).

Nicholas said...

Yes, they are the one and only.
NO! Keep those green things away from me :[!!! (I just noticed it looks like the frowny face is puking the !s)

Jordan said...

The first day back on the internet at home, and I get this! Yay! I love talking about music. Someone once said "talking about music is like dancing about architecture." They meant that in a positive way right?

I really like Illinois. I think it would my number one for last. I think of CD's of last year and all I can recall is that album. I have to say though, I probably like Seven Swans better, just because of the more intimate, spiritual folk stuff. It makes more sense to me than Illinois. Sometimes Illinois requires a history book. Seven Swans just requires (at times) knowledge of the bible. I like the overall themes and setting and moods of it better probably, though Illinois is a lot more complex and masterfully arranged.

Dude, you know I ordered Illinois album on amazon, avertised and priced as the superman version, and I got the stinking re-print with just UFO's and a goat and some guy!

The album has increased my knowledge of the state. I don't necessarily want to go there any more than I did before, but I've always wanted to see Chicago.

I still haven't heard all of X&Y.

Just like steven's song labels, this message is

bye bye :)