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The Avalanche is a 2006 album by indie rock singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, consisting of outtakes and other recordings from the sessions for his album Illinois, released the previous year.
The title song "The Avalanche" was also a bonus track on the Illinois vinyl and iTunes release
Sufjan Stevens' plan to release an album titled after each of the 50 American States goes a little off course on The Avalanche, although it should be noted that this is a collection of outtakes from Stevens' 2005 album, Illinois. Clocking in at an impressive 21 tracks, it's clear this Michigan-born Christian folk-rocker doesn't lack the inspiration to tackle such an ambitious task. Part psychedelic bluegrass, part extra-terrestrial electronic ambience, and part tribal percussion-fest, The Avalanche is every bit as piecemeal and confusing as you'd expect from an outtakes disc. A couple of enjoyable electronic numbers (see: 'Dear Mir Supercomputer') prove Stevens is working on another dimension from more traditional folkies like Devendra Banhart or Joanna Newsom, but what's really startling here is how so many excellent, lyrical songs have been carried over for this disc: the elegant, minor-key 'Springfield, Or Bobby Got A Gadfly Caught In Hair', or the serene, acid-folk vision laid out on the title track. Meanwhile, fans of Illinois should be delighted by three mischievous alternate versions of 'Chicago' - a acoustic version, a syrupy, Coldplay-style version titled 'Adult Contemporary Easy Listening Version', and the electronic-tinged 'Multiple Personality Disorder Version'. --Louis Pattison
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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... Read morePublished on 15 Mar. 2011 by Stalker
Sufjan Stevens has reached a new level in his musical career -- the point where every shred of his art is of interest. Read morePublished on 31 Aug. 2006 by EA Solinas
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... Read morePublished on 22 Jun. 2006 by A. Williamson