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Sufjan Stevens’ COME ON FEEL THE ILLINOISE Turns 10; We Pick Our Favorite Tracks

This week is a big one for indie folk songwriter Sufjan Stevens. In addition to today being his 40th birthday, this week marks the ten year anniversary of his most widely acclaimed album, Come On Feel The Illinoise, the second record in his oft-discussed, forever unfinished 50 States project.

A born emotionalist, Stevens has an unparalleled acumen for the craft of storytelling in song. Virtually every album he has ever recorded, including Illinoise, arcs like a great novel with complex, compromised characters and immersive scenery. And this is to say nothing of his gifts as a vocalist, orchestral composer, and versatile musician (he can play piano, guitar, banjo, among several instruments)

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Illinoise was a special album for me and many of us here at Nerdist–perhaps it came at a time when many of us were going through those ineluctably difficult transitions into adulthood, when you are not sure if mistakes are productive or not. Superficially, this is an album about the relatively unsexy state of Illinois. From the tracklist, you glean that Stevens takes a look at several geographical locations and customs that typify the state where Abraham Lincoln was born. What is unclear without listening all the way through is just how meticulously researched the LP is, and how all that historical information becomes secondary to the expertly emoted narratives of both real and fictional people. Stevens is able to elevate the historical into the fantastical, and ten years after its initial release, this is an album that sounds every bit as beautiful as it did when it was released.

If you aren’t familiar with Stevens’ work, worry not! We’ve also created a playlist with a few of our favorite tracks that will do a better job making the case for his work than my praise. Thanks for all the music, Sufjan and happy birthday!

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