While our friends up north are celebrating Canada Day, July 1 also marks the tenth anniversary of one of the most ambitious concept albums in the history of music. Originally marketed as the first release of a planned “Fifty States” series, Sufjan Stevens‘ Michigan is a gushing love letter that explores themes of hope, family, faith and love, but not without acknowledging personal struggles as well as the hardships the state itself has experienced.
To say that Stevens pulled out all the bells and whistles on the multi-layered album would be putting it mildly, as the talented musician played no less than twenty-three instruments (twenty-four if you count his voice), in addition to handling the art direction, arrangement, mixing and production duties. That doesn’t account for the other eight musicians who contributed to the project.
While in some cases less is more, Michigan doesn’t suffer from overproduction, nor do the instruments or vocals overshadow one another. What you find instead are lush canvas for the soft-singing, yet passionate Stevens to paint his pictures upon, as he takes the listener on a journey throughout the Great Lakes State.
Consequence of Sound does a nice job explaining why Michigan is much more than a tribute from one of its native sons in their feature, Five Reasons Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan Gave Us Hope.
This might be the first mention of Sufjan Stevens on this blog, but it most certainly won’t be the last. Until next time, I will leave you with the sprawling, eight+ minute call to action, “Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!”