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On the followup to their breakthrough album, Pollard & Co. eschew 'lengthy' tunes for the most part, instead populating the record with a string of pop/noise fragments that sometimes sound pretty okay, but probably wouldn't stand being stretched out to the standard 3-minute, or even 2-minute, length.

Twentyeight tracks in roughly 40 minutes makes for some mighty choppy listening, and by no stretch of the imagination do all or even the majority of these (I guess you have to call them) 'tunes' deserve release. It's as if Bob and the boys got drunk one evening in their 4-track studio, bashed out a handful of solid full-length songs, goofed around a lot, and threw the whole shebang together unedited as Side One. And then did the same for Side Two the next night.

Wait, now that I think about it, that scenario's more than likely very close to how this album was actually produced. The thing is, there are enough fully-realized tunes to keep the listener frustrated at Pollard and Sprout for not spending more time and releasing an entire album of tunes as bright as "Game of Pricks" (rushing power-pop with a misleadingly vulgar title), or the potential Boy Scout anthem "My Valuable Hunting Knife".

I realize anti-professionalism is these guys' whole schitck, but much of this doesn't seem so much rough-edged, as lazy and sodden. Not that some of the fragments aren't interesting - the one introducing the 'giggling faggots' does indeed always make for a giggle, and the one where the ex-supermodel's boyfriend now writes music for soundtracks has a cool little storyline.

Just throw this puppy onto a cheap Walkman, slap on the headphones, so that when you're walking around it all mushes together into its sub-Side Two Abbey Road gestalt. Music like this was meant to be listened to on the shittiest equipment possible.

by Reviewer: Creative Noise

Posted: Monday 22nd Dec 2014 9:46 PM

After the excellent sideline of 2004's Seven Swans, Sufjan moved one state south of Michigan to Illinois. While the two albums are similar in style, this time round it's a lot more confident, and the more overblown pieces come alive in a way that their counterparts on Michigan never did.

There's no let-up in the quality of the introspective Folk material either, and this album is more potent than its predecessor to such a degree that in hindsight it makes Michigan look like a mere dry run for this. Stylistically, it covers similar ground to Michigan, although it's infused with touches of Chicago Jazz (and presumably other aspects of Illinois musical heritage as well), giving the state its own sense of musical identity, yet still obviously the product of Sufjan Stevens.

The album's 22 tracks are somewhat misleading, as many are either extended introductions, outros, or short instrumentals, leaving 13 songs proper. And despite a 75-minute running time, there's little that needs cutting, the album only tailing off right at the end with a couple of experimental instrumentals, but after seventy minutes of unmitigated entertainment it's difficult to begrudge them.

Of the introspective material, highlights include the charming piano opener "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois", the paean to one of Illinois' most notorious citizens "John Wayne Gacy" (with the perceptive line in my best behavior I am really just like him - look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid), and the honest "Casimir Pulaski Day", which throws around questions of interconnected suffering, spirituality, and sexuality, though raising more questions than it answers.

"Decatur" pulls out a myriad of amusing rhymes, and the peppy / breezy "Jacksonville" would be a hit single in a less image-conscious world. Among the epics, the string-laden groove "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!" is the standout, while "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Heart" alternates between abrasive guitar and soothing balladry.

Stevens reached a level of popularity where his albums could actually be found in mainstream stores in New Zealand, and this album's been pretty much unanimously praised already. So I'm merely adding my voice to the chorus. If you're not turned off by Sufjan's preciousness and long songtitles, this is some terrific and sensitive songwriting, topped off by some amazingly creative arrangements.

by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia

Posted: Tuesday 23rd Dec 2014 1:16 AM