Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois Album (Cover Artwork)

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens: The Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois AlbumThe Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from the Illinois Album (2006)
Asthmatic Kitty

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: danperroneDan Perrone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

If I were you, I wouldn't get too comfortable with the lull in hype surrounding everyone's new favorite folk-pop act, Sufjan Stevens; with The Avalance, things are sure to heat up again, as opinions will once again be split on the Detroit native's new album, reminiscent of a year ago when the specta.

If I were you, I wouldn't get too comfortable with the lull in hype surrounding everyone's new favorite folk-pop act, Sufjan Stevens; with The Avalance, things are sure to heat up again, as opinions will once again be split on the Detroit native's new album, reminiscent of a year ago when the spectacular Illinois dropped to some criticisms, mainly surrounding the length of the album (which goes hand in hand with the numerous interludes) and the fact that some people just found the man and his music to be flat-out boring. Don't expect the conversations to waver much this time around: The Avalanche is the B-sides record to Illinois, and could very well be labeled as "more of the same" with the added stigma of "not as good as the original" which comes with the B-sides label. Even to the trained ear, the new album isn't too much of a departure from its predecessor -- in fact, the two were originally supposed to be packaged together as a double album. If you liked Illinois, there's no reason you shouldn't like The Avalanche.

Stevens' new release picks up where his last one left off, boasting folky tunes with an accessible, pop sensibility without sounding too watered down. In fact, a lot of the songs found here (and on the previous record) are rather dense, with a whirlwind of instrumentation taking place as acoustic guitars, banjos, drums, and numerous brass instruments create memorable songs unlike anything you've ever heard before. The subtle differences between The Avalanche and Illinois lie in two types of songs: ones where the horns take center stage (moreso than on previous efforts) and drive the song home, and ones where Sufjan and his guitar are featured prominently, creating a sad and almost lonely atmosphere. Tracks like "Adlai Stevenson" and "The Henney Buggy Band" are led by huge trumpet and trombone pieces, some of which are too strange even for the eccentric Illinois (it will take you a few listens to get a firm grasp on all that's happening in "Adlai Stevenson"). "Dear Mr. Supercomputer" is interesting due to the fact that some parts of the song actually do sound like a computer processing commands and doing whatever else computers can do these days. On the other hand, songs like "The Pick Up" and "Saul Bellows" do not fare nearly as well as they serve as the counterpart to Illinois' "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.," only with less emotion and more drone, ultimately leaving these tracks skippable.

The Avalanche is also much more to the point than its predecessor: Tracks will rarely exceed five minutes in length, which contributes even further still to the feeling that this album is most certainly the "B-sides" record in every sense of the term. While this prevents the songs from dragging, it also limits their growth. "The Mistress Witch from McClure (Or, the Mind That Knows Itself)," the album's best song, could have been something even greater than it already is (Sufjan himself has said that this would be the only song from the album that he would play live), and the dark "Springfield or Bobby Got a Shadfly Caught in His Hair" would sound great as an eight-minute epic with a little buildup. However, I can't fault Sufjan for the "could have beens," as these songs are excellent in their current forms. The three versions of "Chicago" are interesting and fun for a few listens (the "Multiple Personality Disorder Version" being the most intriguing), but they too grow stale after a while, as it proves to be a little too much. Buried towards the end is the emotional "Pittsfield" with its autobiographical nature, and the climax of the tune is fantastic and would have been a perfect way to end the album; it is instead followed by one of Sufjan's noisy interludes, serving as a rather anticlimactic closer.

I apologize in advance for the constant references to Illinois, but I suppose it's inevitable; the two go hand in hand and both have relatively the same sound. However, as traditional as B-side records are, The Avalanche is indeed a step down from the original, albeit not a very large one. It's a solid album with some great songs, and you should listen to it as that, nothing more. It's not as coherent, moving, and out-and-out fantastic as Illinois, but it gets the job done. If you can't get enough of Sufjan Stevens, then listen to this album.


People who liked this also liked:
Sufjan Stevens - IllinoisThe Postal Service - Give UpBrand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside MeAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitStrung Out - Twisted by DesignSublime - Sublime [Deluxe Edition]Refused - The Shape of Punk to ComeModest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even SankNOFX - Punk In DrublicNirvana - In Utero

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
newfoundmichael (February 25, 2007)

Stupid that this got a higher review than "Illinois" when this is the B-side to it...

red_eyed420 (January 6, 2007)

illinois is great this is just simply a b side that is for the hardcore fan which even if u are you really shouldnt be too impressed with this. Someone should do a review for Michigan cuz there are some trippy ass songs on there

greyicewater (September 23, 2006)

"the day pitchfork reviews a punk cd is the day this belongs on this site."

pitchfork reviews a lot of punk bands dude.

Anonymous (July 17, 2006)

just listen to "chicago." if you say that song is bad, i question your fucking taste in music.

swingline (July 16, 2006)

pitchfork gave a pennywise album a good score. yea, what the fuck.

uobrock (July 16, 2006)

I probably won't get it as I'm not too crazy about the original Illinois. The first half is really, really good but like many have said before, the second half drags on a bit. Casimir Pulaski Day is a great song though. I may check this out, but I don't figure I'll enjoy it near as much as Illinois.

Anonymous (July 16, 2006)

um....pitchfork reviews stuff like converge so......

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

UGH i hate this Bright Eyes type shit.

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

the day pitchfork reviews a punk cd is the day this belongs on this site.

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

Do you guys know Sujfan? Yeah, he and I were in a band or something.

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

For this being a b-sides release, is really good. A lot of b-side/demo albums are almost unlistenable and have little to no replay value. This in my opinion stands on its own as a release well. I wonder if there were any more songs Sufjan wanted to include on Michigan?

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

Sufjan Stevens is a joke.

mjg (July 15, 2006)

Although his Illinois lp dragged a bit at the end with all of the instrumentals, Seven Swans was fucking amazing. I'm interested in hearing this one.

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

"sufjan stevens is just boring. this genre is being played out at the moment. there are a few people doing folk right now that are good."

Sufjan Stevens is quite a bit more than just "folk". You'd know this if you listened.

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

hey. good for you that you liked strung out, rise against, and conor-shakey voice, whiney, depressed oberest. I like someo of his stuff, but good god most of it is awfully boring. Sujfan's voice is MUCH better if you want to compare and I never find myself bored with Sujfan who seems less concerned with being so dramatic and of the "tortured artist" persona. God damn, I don't want to hear Conor crying all the time and bitching. wha wha wha.

Anonymous (July 15, 2006)

how could you not love this shit!

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

im gonna get flamed for this, but why do people hate conor oberst so much? i listen to bands like the larry arms, d4, strung out, rise against etcc... but i still have an appreciation for his music. some of it is downright amazing. sufjan stevens is just boring. this genre is being played out at the moment. there are a few people doing folk right now that are good. and one of them is zack bolotin. seriously, check him out. www.myspace.com/zackbolotin

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

Wow, all this hate for Sufjan. I don't find his stuff boring.

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

Sufjan Stevens is better than Conor Oberst. Now THAT is boring. We also dont need "song" tracks of your friends talking in their car.

Not-To-rEgret (July 14, 2006)

"I listened to Illinois once. i really liked it, but i had no desire to evey hear it again.

thats my twe cents on Sufjan"

My thoughts exactly, and I bought the CD... (thousands of dollars on CDs i only listen to once a year... sigh). I have that problem with so many good albums, I never listen to them? I have to stop buying into hype and just stick with what I truely like.

This music is draining to listen too. Sure it's pretty music, but it just sucks the life right out of the room to quote peter griffin.

Mixhail (July 14, 2006)

Interesting review, although the reviewer seemed to have pointed out nothing but bad things about Sufjan and the album and still gave it an 8. It is worthy of the score (illinoise is a 10 even with the filler) and i would make the point that some of these songs should have been on Illinois... "The Henney Buggy Band", "The Avalanche" and "Springfield (minus the shitty solo)" would have been great on it... just take out half the fillers, "Seers Tower", and "Prarie Fire." And "the Perpetual Self" would have made a great closer for the album right after "Out to Egypt"... i just wish it was longer.

i guess that this "album" just makes you want to make a mix cd between the two.

FuckYouOiOiOi (July 14, 2006)

who could have possibly found Illinois boring???!?

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

haha. Illinoise was bad enough, now you want me to listen to the outakes of the album? pass

JCrackUp (July 14, 2006)

by JonnyCrackUp on Tuesday, July 11, 2006 at 9:48 AM (EDT)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

7:44 PM - I wish I was retarded Category: MySpace
I remeber back in the mid 90's when I first started getting into punk rock. I was in 5th grade. My mom was working at a "School for the handicap and mentally Ill". She woke me up one morning in a frenzy and told me I had to walk all the way down to the school and roll the retarded kid in a wheelchair back to our house and put the dude in our garage which was leaking and smelled like dead rat. My mom had some stuff to do I don't know what It was. Maybe she had another job, so she put me in charge of this handicap guy. Before you continue reading this( I have no problem with handicap people, I'm just using this for my story) Anyway, the drumset was in the garage all sparkling and, not so sparkling. It was filled with Operation Ivy stickers and holes were kicked in to the sides of it and the and everything was duck-taped together. Matt Crack Ups amp to the side and his guitar was sitting there also. So I wheeled over the handicap guy and put him beside the drumset. I plugged in Matt's amp and handed him(Handicap guy). We'll say his name is R.J.! I handed R.J. the drumsticks and he just started playing. The cold air from outside hit like a ton of bricks and I started strumming powerchords. It sounded like complete crap. I made a phone call to Matt and told him to bring his mom's piece of crap car over and the microphone. Dave was on his way too. R.J.started playing faster beats on the drums without me even telling him how to play the drums. Where did this wheelchair man come from? How did he learn to play a "Punk rock beat" on the drums so quickly? I was confused. Matt's mom's dildo looking car swarved into the driveway and Matt was blasting" Here comes the sun" by The Beatles. I hate that song. It makes me feel like a homosexual when I listen to it. I think the Beatles bring out some sort of homosexual feeling in everyone. Matt whipped the microphone out of the trunk and paused when he saw a man in a wheelchair sitting behind my drumset and me with his guitar in my hand telling R.J. to play it faster and stop messing around. Matt set up the microphone and we played "I need therapy" by Screeching Weasel". Billy shouted 1-2-3-4! and we begun. Pretty soon the cops rolled around the corner and told us to stopp playing. This is was walking around the side of the house with a leather jacket drinking a 40 oz. of Mickey's. So we had one cop, one handicap drummer, one drunk in public, Matt had to go to work in an hour, and I was all to blame.Officer friendly was curious. He kept asking If we were nazi's? I don't know why. He probably thought we were skinheads that were trying to beat up poor R.J. We were ticketed with some kind of "Noise Contol" keeping the peace in the neighborhood type deal, so people could watch there football games all day and make sure there grass is cut neatly, and make sure they dont miss the weather on T.V. We were ticketed 30 dollars! 30 dollars! For playing I need therapy! Officer friendly wrote the ticket with a smile. I think people should just start playing shows in there garages for christ's sake. Make the neighbors angry! I loved making the neighbors angry. Sometimes we would throw greta big bricks through peoples front windows in Chicago on Thanksgiving. Just to make them mad while they were eating there turkey. This was of course after me and all of my punk rock friends ate our own dinners at our homes. We were the definition of complete ignorant teenagers. Born in a generation of no end. The 1990's were a generation that is filled with punks, new wavers, hip-hoppers, b-boppers, rude-girls and boys, wanna be hippies, college graduates and druggies. Same as the 70's people go to college and get there degree and then they roll it up and smoke it in a doobie and tell you that "Punk sucks!". I don't regret throwing any rock at anything. I don't regret putting poor R.J. on the drumset and making him play punk at all. R.J. probably enjoyed it. He's probably at the record store now looking through all of the punk section. As for Dave the cops turned him in for public intoxication. Threw him in the squad car. Dave says that the cops tore his leather jacket and that they haven't reimbursed him yet. He still complains about it until this day. The price you pay for showing up to band practice drunk! Cops have nothing else to do but to mess with suburbanites who want to play music. Cops should be out investigating rapists and criminals, why can't they let us play our music. I blame cops for alot of the shows that went wrong. Yeah, they are good for big warped tour events where the dummy street punks think that they are overthrowing the government. But they do no good in the suburbs I swear.


Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

I really want to pick this up, because I love everything this guy does. It took me a little while to get into his music, but I can't get enough of it now. I think it's ridiculous and also unfair to use "overproduced" and "fucking sucks" with anything having to do with Sufjan Stevens. Overproduced is Kelly Clarkson, Simple Plan, Story of the Year. Fucking Sucks is Good Charlotte, Hawthorne Heights and Aiden.. you get the idea.

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

This guy fucking sucks.

People who like bad music everywhere rejoice in their ability to pretend to like something good.

PretentiousLikePitchfork (July 14, 2006)

while listening to his illinois album, i thought it was clever and the musicianship was fine, but i felt empty after listening to it. it feels like stevens is all ideas and ambition, but when he sings, i feel like he's putting us all on.

branden (July 14, 2006)


brixtongunman (July 14, 2006)

I listened to Illinois once. i really liked it, but i had no desire to evey hear it again.

thats my twe cents on Sufjan

Dante3000 (July 14, 2006)

Eh. I think I'm among the people who find this guy boring. Maybe I'm just not deep enough.
I'll go along with the need for there to be a W/IFS review. If one hasn't been written I'll write one but I'd hate to write another one as I'm sure it would be fairly similar (as the posts seem quite positive). The album lags a little bit at first but picks up steam and just keeps rolling. Considering ECSSOPT was only 8 songs it's amazing that they can put down 15 and still make it seem so fast.

feeeding5000 (July 14, 2006)

Is it still pretentious to call something pretentious? 'Cause, I mean, look at the fuckin' cover art. "Aww, it's soooo cute! He must be such a nice guy!" Sufjan Stevens is like a kid trying to show everyone how smart he is by writing (admittedly) catchy, overproduced pop songs with over-specific lyrics and "Aren't I Clever?" song titles.

baseball (July 14, 2006)

i went to my local non-chain record store on Wednesday to get World/Inferno and Dead To Me and they had neither

talk about disappointment...i thought they'd at least have Dead To Me

i might make it my quest to find those two albums tonight

danperrone (July 14, 2006)

that dude is FUGLY

Jesse (July 14, 2006)

Every once in a while I'll catch a song by him on The Current (MN NPR run radio station) and I'll sort of like it, but when I put his albums on at home, I just don't dig on it.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy captures a whole lot more in this type of genre in my opinion.

jamespastepunk (July 14, 2006)

God, that World/Iferno disc is so good.

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

Adlai Adlai!

danperrone (July 14, 2006)

well, depends on what you consider filler

i don't mind the interludes on illinois, at all...that's a five star album in my book

and even if you're talking about actual songs, each one is absolutely fantastic...

Crookedsuperhero (July 14, 2006)

As if the album itself didn't have enough filler on it....

Vincent_M (July 14, 2006)

I agree with the first comment: if you take this for what it is, it sounds alot better, but still, there's not a single track on Illinoise that I would have bumped for one of these.

niveK82 (July 14, 2006)

Since there is no World/Inferno Friendship Soceity review i shall write one.

It is fantastic, go buy it... go buy two!

Josiah (July 14, 2006)

i friggin' love everything this guy has done.

...other than maybe the 'enjoy your rabbit' album.

Anonymous (July 14, 2006)

wheres the world inferno review

chickswithdicks (July 14, 2006)

I find him slightly overrated, but good none the less. This little 'not good enough for Illinois' collection however, is simply that; not good enough.

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