Rolling Stone adds to the Illinoise
Rob Sheffield's review is mostly well done. He totally nails my favorite song on the record:
But, in the last paragraph, I think Sheffield's mind suddenly turns to pudding. For instance, what's up with this criticism?
"Casimir Pulaski Day" is a monstrously sad acoustic ballad about a friend dying
of cancer and leaving a lot of painful spiritual questions behind. The singer
prays for his friend, but his friend dies anyway; the singer is too young and
scared to ask God why, so the trumpet solo has to ask.
Illinois has some of the pitfalls you expect from literaryUm, what's wrong with flute solos? Granted, the flute players in my high school marching band tended to a little squeaky, but the woodwinds on Illinois are uniformly beautiful. Sheffield talks like there's something inherently wrong with them... perhaps he had a bad experience with a flute before?
singer-songwriter albums. Flute solos, for one thing.
His most nonsensical complaint, however, is this one:
For another, there's the inevitable song about the serial killer who
dresses up as a clown, which symbolizes nothing about American life except the
existence of creative-writing workshops.
Uh... the inevitable song about a serial killer who dresses up as a clown? What other albums have such a song?!? For one thing, the song is based on real-life events, and Sufjan's lyrics are remarkable in their detail and the ammount of research that obviously went into the writing. For another thing, the song adds so much more to the lyrical fabric of the album than Sheffield gives it credit for; indeed, it's final verse is as chilling and as convicting as any lyric I've heard all year.