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He's an avalanche,
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.