Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The Avalanche: Extras and Outtakes from the Illinois Album
Sufjan Stevens
(Asthmatic Kitty)

Extras and outtakes don’t sound very enticing, do they? They’re generally marketed to the fanatic or the devoted. Sure, bonus footage on the Special Editions DVD may satisfy the curious, but when it comes to music, do you really want to hear a blooper? Perhaps then, The Avalanche is inaccurately subtitled as Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album because while the twenty-one songs are technically leftovers from folksinger Sufjan Stevens’ critically acclaimed record Illinois, there’s nothing haphazard about them. Originally planned as a double record, Illinois was wisely split into two--forty-two songs would have been a very serious Sufjan overdose--and The Avalanche is being touted as the postponed second half. There are few artists as consistent and enchanting as Stevens, but don’t expect a dramatic change from his usual literary chamber-folk. His newest release is an addendum in every sense of the word—in fact, Stevens himself claims that each track is a song-by-song counterpart to Illinois. There is bad news, though: the lengthy album hints at Stevens' potentially tiresome inability to self-edit. Besides the paragraph-long song titles ("The Vivian Girls Are Visited In the Night by Saint Dargarius and his Squadron of Benevolent Butterflies," or "The Perpetual Self, or "What Would Saul Alinsky Do?"), the Avalanche is a presumptuous record, albeit, a very generous serving much in the same way a landslide offers some mud. Nevertheless, you have to admire a talent that can churn out “extras and outtakes” almost as impressive as the perfection they were originally cut from.

- Stevens' label Ashmatic Kitty is streaming the first fourth of the record on their website.


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