These are the out-takes? Further insights from the Dylan of anti-folk
Sufjan Stevens can never be accused of a lack of ambition. Having set out to refract the American psyche via a series of 50 albums dedicated to each state in the US, he recently conceded that, unless he lives to 200, time may be against him. In the meantime, we get ‘The Avalanche’ – a 21-track collection of out-takes from last effort, ‘Illinois’.
The range is worthy of the Smithsonian Institute. While his British soap-pop peers remain pre-occupied with the nightly horrors of closing time, Stevens derives inspiration from the roots of such disquiet and the effect of man on his environment. So we get electro ballads about man-made reservoirs (‘Carlyle Lake’ – a nod to Elvis Costello’s exquisite ‘Hoover Factory’), interludes referencing meteorological phenomena throughout history (‘The Palm Sunday Tornado Hits Crystal Lake’) and lyrics such as “Hiding the bills in the kitchen on the floor/And my sister lost her best friend in the Persian Gulf War”, which work on levels unknown to, say, Milburn.
Suffice to say, the influence of Gang Of Four or The Libertines is negligible. Instead, we are welcomed into a continually shifting musical landscape where bleeping electronica, squawking birds and breezy trumpets decorate Stevens’ aching acoustic laments to time and place.Less personal than ‘Illinois’, but no less impressive.