Though last year’s Pitchfork– entrancing Illinois was originally intended as a double album, that might’ve been a bit ambitious even by Sufjan Stevens’s standards. So the orchestral indie-pop kingpin waited a year to unleash The Avalanche, 21 tracks of discarded tunes and alternate versions too good to let go. In many ways it’s more of the same: Illinois‘s John Wayne Gacy Jr. gives way to the (slightly) less creepy Henry Darger, while Saul Bellow and Clyde Tombaugh (he discovered Pluto, Google informs us) finally get their due. The themes are similar, and so is the sound: Stevens masterminds the same choral–marching-band backdrop provided by his Illinoisemakers, and brings his own sweet falsetto back for an encore. There are also three alternate takes on Illinois centerpiece “Chicago”: in “Acoustic,” “Adult Contemporary Easy Listening,” and “Multiple Personality Disorder” versions, to be precise. It only proves that Stevens’s pop quality and mix of the biographical and autobiographical lend themselves well to re-creation. More of the same, but we don’t mind.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 4, 2006