Sufjan Stevens Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lake State

If you believe everything you read, soft-spoken songwriter Sufjan Stevens has plans to write 50 albums about all 50 U.S. states, beginning with his native Michigan. Of course, only four songs out of these 15 are explicitly about Michigan, with a couple of others making passing reference. But if he’s using a gimmick to grab your attention (the kitschy retro artwork helps too), he doesn’t need it after you’re subjected to his confident whisper of a voice, his haunting melodies and time shifting rhythms, and his lush and complex arrangements, on which he plays everything but the trumpets: guitars, banjos, drums, keyboards, reeds and malletted percussion. His musical map moves from broken folk to the bubbly percolation of latter-day Stereloab, always laced with melancholy and reflection detailing emotional disconnect or yearning for spiritual strength. The six songs that bookend the album, culminating with the tear jerking warmth of "Vito’s Ordination Song,” are nothing short of astounding. Yeah, I’d listen to another 49 records like this. (Sounds Familyre)