Happy 10th, ‘Illinois’

It was recently pointed out to me that Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinois” is now 10 years old. Illinois came out just after I had graduated high school. I have never been to Illinois. I didn’t understand many of the references. But the lush arrangements, the depth of the lyrics and the vulnerability in Stevens’ delivery struck me and stuck with me, and have for a decade.

I’ve pointed this out before, but I’m acutely aware that all the music I loved in high school is now aging. I can remember the feeling of time fading away when I first heard Pearl Jam on the classic rock station, but I was never a Pearl Jam fan; it was just like seeing a Buzzfeed post about Tamagotchis; a moment of remembrance, nothing more. But now it’s happening with art I felt a connection with, that moved depressed teenage Myles.

Illinois, unlike some of the other music I was listening to 10 years ago, has deeepened for me over the years. Whereas in my first year of college I gravitated toward the raw hurt of Casimir Pulaski Day, a story about a seemingly random loss, now my favorite might be The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us. People have been arguing about the song for years on songmeanings.com. The prevailing theory seems to be that the narrator is a boy whose romantic feelings for his friend drives a wedge between them. Whatever the reason, it too, is a story of loss, not because of “cancer of the bone,” but because of love, and how that loss can linger.

Anyway, they’re all great songs, and they’ve all stood the test of time. I should note—I’m visiting Illinois later this month. Luckily, I’ve had my travel music picked out for a decade now.

And yes, I realize I haven’t written here for months. I’ll try harder.


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