Michigan (album)

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Michigan
Studio album by Sufjan Stevens
Released July 1, 2003 (2003-07-01)
Recorded 2003 in multiple locations
Genre Indie folk, baroque pop
Length 66:11
Label Sounds Familyre, Asthmatic Kitty/Secretly Canadian, Rough Trade
Producer Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens chronology
Enjoy Your Rabbit
(2001)
Michigan
(2003)
Seven Swans
(2004)

Michigan (styled Sufjan Stevens Presents... Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lake State on the cover) is a concept album by American indie folk songwriter Sufjan Stevens, released on July 1, 2003 on Sounds Familyre, Asthmatic Kitty and Secretly Canadian in the US, and on Rough Trade in Europe. It is Stevens' third studio album and features songs referencing places, events, and persons related to the U.S. state of Michigan.

The album is the first in Stevens' "The 50 States" project, a planned series of 50 albums to encompass all 50 states of the United States. Stevens only released two state albums before admitting the project was a "promotional gimmick".[1]

Recording and production[edit]

The album was recorded and produced entirely by Stevens, using relatively cheap equipment for a market release. All of the tracks were recorded using 2 Shure SM57s and an AKG C1000, running through a Roland VS880EX,[2] at a sampling rate of 32 khz (lower than the rates typically used in recording). Michigan was produced in Pro Tools,[2] which Stevens has also used for his following albums.[3]

The instrumentation was recorded in various locations: a home in Petoskey, Michigan; Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts; the N. J. Rec. Room in Clarksboro, New Jersey; and throughout Brooklyn, including Stevens' apartment and those of his friends and St. Paul's Church.

Album art[edit]

Album art features original hand-paintings by Martha Stewart Living crafts editor Laura Normandin.

The two-disc vinyl edition of Michigan contains an inscription within the run-off groove of each LP side:

  • "Say YES to Michigan!": This was an old state tourism board slogan.
  • "Go! Tigers!": The Detroit Tigers are a Major League Baseball team based in Michigan.
  • "If you seek a Pleasant Penninsula, look about you": This is the English translation of Michigan's state motto.
  • "The Great Lake State": This is a popular nickname for Michigan.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[4]
Dusted Magazine Favorable[5]
Pitchfork 8.5/10[6]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars[7]
Uncut 4/5 stars[8]

Critical reception of Michigan was favorable. Brandon Stosuy of Pitchfork Media described the album as "a beautiful, sprawling homage" to the state, noting its "lush production", but criticizing the excessive length of some of the album's tracks.[6]

Legacy[edit]

Upon the album's ten year anniversary, Stereogum's Chris DeVille stated: "[Steven's] widescreen love letter to his home state was such a momentous leap forward that a decade later he still hasn’t surpassed it — not with the stark spiritual meditation Seven Swans, not with the brilliant but cartoonishly grandiose Illinois, and not with the striking digital freakout The Age Of Adz. Sufjan has produced a wealth of fascinating, deeply affecting (and sometimes deeply affected) music over the years, but none of it beats the record that literally and figuratively put him on the map. [...] Nowadays, aggressive guitar bands like Coliseum are considered punk or metal because indie rock is the kind of genre where neoclassical whiz kid Nico Muhly contributes string arrangements to seemingly every major record, where Régine Chassagne passionately rocks the accordion, where Bon Iver channels Richard Marx unironically. Michigan’s flurry of glockenspiels, oboes, trombones, and, yes, banjos had a lot to do with that."[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Sufjan Stevens and published by New Jerusalem Music, ASCAP

No. Title Length
1. "Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)"   3:43
2. "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!"   4:33
3. "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti"   3:57
4. "Say Yes! to Michigan!"   2:45
5. "The Upper Peninsula"   3:23
6. "Tahquamenon Falls"   2:18
7. "Holland"   3:26
8. "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)"   8:20
9. "Romulus"   4:41
10. "Alanson, Crooked River"   1:18
11. "Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie"   2:52
12. "They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For the Homeless in Muskegon)"   6:21
13. "Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)"   9:23
14. "Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)"   2:02
15. "Vito's Ordination Song"   7:06
Bonus tracks included on the double-disc vinyl release
  1. "Marching Band" – 3:41
  2. "Niagara Falls" (Final) – 2:22
  3. "Pickerel Lake" – 3:11
  4. "Presidents and Magistrates" – 4:16
  5. "Wolverine" – 2:10

The vinyl release also includes alternate arrangements of "Vito's Ordination Song" and "Romulus".

The European re-release of the album in 2004 also contains the bonus tracks "Marching Band" and "Pickerel Lake".

The song "Redford" was the inspiration for the name of the protagonist Redford Stephens of The Roots 2011 album Undun, who used the song as the opening to a four-part instrumental movement at the end of the album.[10]

Personnel[edit]

  • Sufjan Stevens – oboe, English horn, piano, electric organ, electric piano, banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, vibraphone, xylophone, glockenspiel, recorders, wood flute and whistles, drum kit, percussion, shakers, sleigh bells, tambourine, cymbal, singing, layout, art design, arrangement, mixing, production
  • Monique Aiuto – vocals on "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)" and "Vito's Ordination Song"
  • Vito Aiuto – vocals on "Vito's Ordination Song"
  • Alan Douches – mastering at West Westside Studios in New Jersey
  • Tom Eaton – trumpet on "Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)", "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti", "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)", and "Vito's Ordination Song"
  • Laura Normandin – artwork
  • John Ringhofer – trombone and vocals on "Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)"
  • Daniel Smith – vocals on "Vito's Ordination Song"
  • Elin Smith – vocals on "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!", "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti", "Say Yes! to M!ch!gan!", "The Upper Peninsula", "Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie", "They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For the Homeless in Muskegon)", "Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)", and "Vito's Ordination Song"
  • Megan Smith – vocals on "All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!", "The Upper Peninsula", "Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head! (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)", "Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie", "They Also Mourn Who Do Not Wear Black (For the Homeless in Muskegon)", and "Oh God, Where Are You Now? (In Pickeral Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Purcell, Andrew (27 October 2009). "Sufjan Stevens's symphony for New York". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Rafter (March–April 2009). "Sufjan Stevens: So Right and So Wrong". Tape Op Magazine 70: 45. 
  3. ^ Murray, Noel. "Sufjan Stevens | Interview". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  4. ^ McIntosh, Gregory. "Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State". Allmusic. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  5. ^ Tausig, Ben (July 25, 2003). "Midwest Magnificence". Dusted Magazine. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Stosuy, Brandon (July 27, 2003). "Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Chris (January 18, 2006). "Sufjan Stevens – Michigan". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Sufjan Stevens – Michigan". Uncut. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  9. ^ DeVille, Chris. "Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State Turns 10". stereogum.com. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Goodman, William. "?uestlove Explains How SPIN and Sufjan Inspired the Roots' 'undun'". Spin. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 

External links[edit]