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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Avalanche - Sufjan Stevens
Another year, another Sufjan Stevens album. Which is a "good thing", what with Sufjan being one of the most original, most creative and most talented songwriters around today (not to mention the most eccentric).

So, outtakes from another album. Sounds like it would just be an album full of sub-standard rejects from the, frankly, brilliant Illinois album...
Published on 12 July 2006 by Alan

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Avalanche
The quality of this CD of cast-offs from the wonderfull "Can You Feel the Illinoise" has I think perhaps been a little overstated elsewhere although there are moments of undenying brilliance. However, Sufjan's electric guitar playing is so abysmal it sounds like a parody. Fortunately most of it (the guitar) was cut out of the superb Illinoise. Unfortunately it ended up...
Published on 15 Mar 2011 by Stalker


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Avalanche - Sufjan Stevens, 12 July 2006
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
Another year, another Sufjan Stevens album. Which is a "good thing", what with Sufjan being one of the most original, most creative and most talented songwriters around today (not to mention the most eccentric).

So, outtakes from another album. Sounds like it would just be an album full of sub-standard rejects from the, frankly, brilliant Illinois album. However, The Avalance could easily stand as an album in its own right, and if it wasn't for the fact that on the cover it says "Outtakes and extras from the Illinois album!" in fairly large text, it probably would.

If you like Illinois then, obviously, you're going to like this. That's it. End of story. I just wanted to say that some of the material on this disc is as good, if not better, than the material on Illinois. And some of it isn't. But hey, that's life.

Cheers, Sufjan.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Annoyingly good, 4 July 2006
By 
J. W. Bassett (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
It seems that while Sufjan Stevens was locked in his bedroom from an annoyingly young age honing his craft, he was never party to a vital lesson: no one likes a show off. So, not content with the arduous schedule of his ambitious state-by-state travelogue - Stevens first decided to take a detour with 2003's gorgeous Seven Swans album - he's also decided to give us a compilation of the off-cuts from last year's Illinois album.

A little known and not all that interesting titbit is that Illinois was originally conceived as a 50-track double-CD. Presumably to prevent it becoming utterly unwieldy, it was cut in half and originally ran as a relatively spare 23-tracks. The Avalanche, therefore, represents the musical debris liberally scattered from an abundant epic.

With most of the unused recordings in skeletal form, Stevens invited many of the original musicians back into his studio to fill in the gaps, while he plays banjo, guitar, drums and an English horn on many of the songs. There is nothing about the resulting album that sounds even relatively unwanted.

The titular song was originally housed as a bonus track on the vinyl version of Illinois and it could easily have formed the centrepiece of the original album. Positioned as the opening track, it sets the bar absurdly high for an album of outtakes and extras. Chicago, meanwhile, is dense and challenging enough to warrant the three supplementary versions on offer here.

Additionally, each track from Illinois seemingly has a counterpart on The Avalanche; Carl Sandburg arm-wrestles Saul Bellow, the aliens from Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois, salute a statue of Clyde Tombaugh and the loneliness of Casimir Pulaski Day deepens further into the despairing Pittsfield.

A compilation of outtakes and extras it may be but, as an exercise in form, The Avalanche reveals the working habits of one of the most productive songwriters around.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Sufjan thinks!, 2 Sep 2006
By 
M. A. Fraser - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
The Avalanche may not display the theatricality of Illinoise, but I feel it has its own soundscape, (let's call it Crosby Stills Nash and Young with trumpets etc) and that is the reason for many of these outtakes/extras rather than any quality issue that might be inferred by the subtitle of this CD.

For me, the heart of the CD is sequence of tracks 7-10, songs that CSN&Y (and their various combinations) would have killed for. For example Springfield - despite its infamous guitar solo.

Later in this CD comes the upbeat and tuneful No Man's Land, featured in the movie Little Miss Sunshine, and the very touching (and personal?) Pittsfield.

If you liked Illinoise, don't hesitate to acquire another 76 minutes of this most vital of modern American songwriters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The missing twin.., 20 July 2006
By 
Benjamin J. Whitehouse "Book geek" (Wrexham, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
75 minutes' worth of stuff that didn't get on the album proper. From a man whose already released seven albums and plans to do one about each of the 50 American states. Prolific doesn't even begin to cover it.

The Avalanche is all the music ideas/quirks/tropes he didn't have time to develop. It's a bit like discovering a long lost twin for the Illinois album. Ideas from Illinois get developed further, some of the songs start to make sense. And there's some wonderful acoustic stuff too. Check it out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He's an avalanche, 31 Aug 2006
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
Sufjan Stevens has reached a new level in his musical career -- the point where every shred of his art is of interest.

That's where "The Avalanche" comes from -- it's all the worthy leftovers from Sufjan's opus "Illinoise." While there are some that were cut for a good reason, most of them are delicate, original and well-written. Even the worst of Sufjan's scraps are better than whatever is playing on the radio.

It opens with the title track, a folky little number that blossoms out with the inclusion of tense piano and a woodsy flute. It's a basic little song about homesickness and travel, which becomes something slightly odder by the end. "Come on, Snow!/Come on, Car!/Come on, Hands!/Come on, Feet!" Sufjan exhorts happily.

Then we get some new twists and turns -- he dabbles in electronica-edged pop in the peppy "Super Computer" and the shimmery "Inaugural Music," effervescent folkpop, quirky indiepop to dance to, bluesy balladry, and some concept tunes such as the eerie, spacey expanses of "Pluto." They ought to use that in a sci-fi movie.

The most amazing song on here is the delightful horn dance tune of "Henney Buggy Band," where you can only imagine people frolicking in the streets. It just overflows with fun. "Let the bugles play the sermon on the raid/I kissed you on the face/I kissed you on the playground!"

Sadly, not every song on here is a masterpiece. Most of them are excellent pieces of work, sweet and musically adept. But there are some that just noodle around, like the ambient "Kaskaskia River." It starts, never goes anywhere, and just fades out. And it's not the only one that just sort of rambles.

With a few songs trimmed off, however, this would be a glorious collection of oddments. And for stuff that didn't make the cut, these songs are very polished musically and lyrically -- we get ripples of blippy synth, little acoustic songs, and all of it is trimmed with horns, banjo, tambourine, deep piano, flutes and other instruments. Who knows what else is in the mix?

Stevens himself sounds like he's having fun in many of these songs, especially "Adlai" and "Henney Buggy Band." His soothing voice croons, "Oh life, with your colorful surprises/Eleanor, how you put one on disguises/Oh Father John, you cannot tell me/What's right and wrong/You cannot tell me!" And he's backed by some very pretty backing vocals.

"Avalanche" is not on the level of the album it springs from, but it comes close enough to be worth treasuring. A little gem, with some flaws.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Bside Collection, 22 May 2006
By 
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
The avalanche is the Bside collection of Illinois outtakes. Ive been listening to an advanced bootleg copy and think that the album is indeed very good. The alternative renditions of Chicago (multiple personality, adult contermporary and acoustic) offer a nice variation on a theme. At the same time, the music is not drastically different from the songs found on Chicago, so anyone who expects an "original" sound may be disappointed. Overall though the record is fun and worthy of purchase. Some of the best tracks Ive found:

Dear Mr. Supercomputer which has elements of electronica thrown in. Think Enjoy your rabbit meets Illinoise.

The Palm Sunday Tornado- great piano orchestration somwhat eerily layered with electronica

The Mistress Witch from Mcclure- the most personal song on the album. The lyrics are very sweet and the tune itself is gentle. Similar to the feel one gets from listening to Romulus on Michigan
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Illinois, you'll love this, 22 Jun 2006
By 
A. Williamson (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
First things first: the 21 songs on The Avalanche were culled from the Illinois album. Therefore we shouldn't expect them to measure up, let alone surpass their brilliant parent album. Having said that, as substitutes go, they'd give the starting 22 tracks a run for their money.

The Avalanche kicks off with the title track, first released as a bonus on the vinyl edition on Illinois. It was originally cast to be the lead on Illinois but fell from grace and now perfectly serves as a meditation for the process of cleaning up and dusting down the b-sides for the album: "I call ye cabin neighbours," the song bemuses, "I call you once my friends."

As Illinois was originally planned as a double album before common sense kicked in, the mood and feel of The Avalanche is identical. Almost every song on the Illinois album has a counterpart on the outtakes. Carl Sandburg arm-wrestles Saul Bellow. The aliens landing near Highland salute Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. The loneliness of "Casimir Pulaski Day" deepens even further in the foreboding soundtrack to the autobiographical "Pittsfield."

I want to reconstruct the Illinois album as the double-epic it should have been. One song that definitely should have made the cut is "The Mistress Witch from McClure (or, The Mind That Knows Itself). It's a haunting song based on some personal experiences that Sufjan would rather not elaborate on. With as many as 21 tracks, there are bound to be a few filler tracks; the three (!) versions of Chicago spring to mind. The acoustic version is better than the original, the 'adult contemporary easy listening version' is an in-joke from Sufjan at the accessibility of his music, while the third 'Multiple Personality Disorder version' is fun to listen to once, but not more than that.

In summary, if you yearned for more from the Illinois album, then this is an early Christmas. If you haven't heard Sufjan, check out his other work first, but other artists will labour in vain to create anything as good as the scraps from Stevens' table.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Avalanche, 15 Mar 2011
By 
This review is from: Avalanche (Audio CD)
The quality of this CD of cast-offs from the wonderfull "Can You Feel the Illinoise" has I think perhaps been a little overstated elsewhere although there are moments of undenying brilliance. However, Sufjan's electric guitar playing is so abysmal it sounds like a parody. Fortunately most of it (the guitar) was cut out of the superb Illinoise. Unfortunately it ended up here.
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Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens (Audio CD - 2006)
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