State Songs

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State Songs
John Linnell State Songs(cover).png
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 26, 1999[1]
Recorded1994, 1999
GenrePop rock, avant-pop[2]
LabelRounder / Zoë
ProducerJohn Linnell
John Linnell chronology
House of Mayors
State Songs

State Songs is a concept album released by John Linnell (of They Might Be Giants) in 1999. It was Linnell's third solo project and first full solo album. It consists of tracks that are named after, and are at least partially inspired by, 15 of the 50 U.S. states. The album is surrealist in nature, suggesting that there is another West Virginia inside of the state, that one can drive a house to Idaho, that Montana is a leg, Iowa is a witch, Oregon chases after people, and Arkansas has sunken and is to be replaced by a ship of its exact shape and size.[3]

"Montana" was released as the single for the album. Rather than a standard 7" or 12" vinyl record, the disc was green and die-cut into the shape of the 48 contiguous states. It was pressed by Erika Records.[4] The single also featured the non-album track "Louisiana" as the B-side. Originally, "South Carolina" was the album's single, but the track was too long for the grooves to fit in the small area between the labels and the edges of the United States.[3] The labels were marked with no text, instead only showing silhouettes of their respective states.


State Songs originally existed as a short EP that John Linnell released through the Hello Recording Club.[5] The album is notable for its use of the carousel organ, featured in four tracks. Linnell has stated that the organ was used to add variety among the standard human musicians. Two different band organs are featured on the album.[6] The paper rolls for the organ were cut by Bob Stuhmer[7] and adjusted by Linnell.

Linnell used a Gretsch accordion in recording the album.[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau(2-star Honorable Mention)(2-star Honorable Mention)[9]

State Songs received positive reviews from critics. Matthew Springer, writing for Allmusic, praised the album's surrealism and eclecticism.[1] Music critic Robert Christgau cited "The Songs of the 50 States" and "New Hampshire" as highlights from the album.[9]

The album spent four weeks on the CMJ 200 chart, peaking at #18.[10]

Track listing[edit]

2."The Songs of the 50 States"2:24
3."West Virginia"3:32
4."South Carolina"3:46
15."New Hampshire"2:50
  1. ^ The actual song "Nevada" is only 34 seconds long; the rest of the track is a recording of an increasingly distant marching band.


The Statesmen
Additional musicians


  1. ^ a b c Matthew, Springer. "State Songs - John Linnell". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-06-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Cury, James Oliver (December 1999). "Reviews". CMJ New Music Monthly. 79 (7): 26. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Linnell, John (1999-10-12). "State Songs". All Things Considered (Interview). Interviewed by Noah Adams. NPR.
  4. ^ Gallery of Shaped Vinyl. Erika Records. Retrieved 2012-11-22.
  5. ^ Atwood, Brett (13 August 1994). "No Joke". Billboard.
  6. ^ Hay, Carly (13 November 1999). "Popular Uprisings". Billboard.
  7. ^ State Songs (album notes). John Linnell. Rounder Records. 1999.
  8. ^ Rapa, Patricia (July 2000). "Squeeze Play". CMJ New Music Monthly.
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "State Songs". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2012-11-22. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ CMJ Network, Inc. (22 November 1999). CMJ New Music Report. CMJ Network, Inc. p. 13. ISSN 0890-0795. Retrieved 14 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]