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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Sufjan Stevens
The Avalanche
Asthmatic Kitty

Rating: 7/10 ?


August 4, 2006
The Avalanche is a collection of the leftovers and fleshed-out scraps from the Illinois sessions. Upon first listen I was thoroughly satisfied, although subsequent plays have provided diminishing returns. Just as the Sufjan Superman on the cover of The Avalanche is frailer than the George Reeves Man of Steel on the cover of Illinois, so too are the songs on this collection considerably weaker than their counterparts.

The album's title track is worthy of a place on Illinois. The song begins as a mostly serene, banjo-laden affair with a choral crescendo closing the track in a perfect segue into the syncopated "Dear Mr. Supercomputer." "Supercomputer" offers up the first hint of the buzzing electronics and keyboard sounds woven throughout The Avalanche's 21 tracks. This is an interesting (although not surprising) addition to Sufjan's current bag o' tricks, a nod to the relatively mediocre electronic album (Enjoy Your Rabbit) from a few years back and The Avalanche seems like the first and best opportunity since Rabbit to revisit some of the electronic textures in his work.

The Avalanche contains multiple versions of the Illinois cut "Chicago" with "Chicago (Acoustic Version)," "Chicago (Adult Contemporary Easy Listening Version)" and "Chicago (Multiple Personality Disorder Version)." Remarkably, these are each extremely different songs. The "Acoustic Version" is spare, sad and lonely while the "Adult Contemporary Version" is uplifting and ethereal. "The Multiple Personality" version is a pastiche of folk, electronica, rock and hand clapping madness. These three experimental "versions" are indicative of the extreme perfection that Sufjan tries to achieve for his albums - nothing less than the best version made the final cut for Illinois and everything else is left for filler on cash grabs like The Avalanche.

I think the best thing about The Avalanche is the family atmosphere (which could be seen as ironic after the major duping of Pitchfork earlier this year). When Stevens toured last year, he packed up the studio musicians who worked on Illinois and took them on the road as his back-up band. The roster included a member or two of the Danielson Famile, Liz Janes, Shara Worden (who I have a crush on) and a handful of others, and to anyone who caught the "Illinoisemakers" performing live it was readily apparent that the ensemble loved to play together and loved what they were playing. Hearing these familiar voices and styles come together again is, for me, the highlight of The Avalanche.

Some folks will love this album and some will write it off as filler. Listening to The Avalanche is a lot like going back to visit old friends - familiar, cozy and safe. This isn't new territory but instead a pleasant and ultimately worthwhile homecoming.

Reviewed by Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LASís editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other reviews by Jon Burke

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