In what’s sure to be one of the most massive and eagerly anticipated releases of all time, Sufjan Stevens has concluded his long-overdue Fifty States project in one fell swoop! The entire project will be released in a massive box set that he’s calling “Fifty Nifty You-Nited States.”
The release comes as a surprise to fans of the prolific songwriter, who announced in 2009 that the Fifty States project was a joke. And in the years since, it’s felt like he was serious: no one’s quite sure what The Age of Adz was about, but it wasn’t geography. Similarly, Carrie and Lowell and The Ascension showcased his intimacy and grandeur respectively, but besides some rumors that Carrie and Lowell was kind of the Oregon project, they didn’t spend much time talking about tourist traps, regional holidays, or notable criminals.
Fans will be delighted by songs such as “The Night Mark Twain’s Moustache Flew Over Hannibal” from Missouri Loves Company, “Garfield vs. Bobby Knight in a Steel Cage” from Indie-ana, or “Florida Man, We Lift Our Prayers To You for the Healing of Our Nation. May Your Vengeance Be Swift” from Florida: Land of Theme Parks, Land of Swamps, Land of Bath Salts, or “The Ballad of the Tree That Owns Itself” from Georgia (The State, Not the Country). Just like the songs on Michigan and Come On! Feel the Illinoise, there’s no shortage of obscure references that even locals will struggle to identify, such as “The Lament of the Egg Harbor Pizza Rebranding” off of Wisconsin, Don’tcha Know, “Porque No Los Dos Girl and the Conundrum of Truth or Consequences” from New Songs For New Mexico, or “The Evil Dead Cabin Burned to the Ground and All That is Left is Chimney Rubble” from You’re the Only Tennessee.
In an interview with Pitchfork, Stevens explained the sudden release, saying, “I had to ask myself: is anyone actually going to care if the songs are good? Or are they just going to care that I wrote an album for all fifty states? I think it’s definitely the latter. Once I squared away with that, the rest was easy: I just googled ‘weird thing about (whatever state)’ and basically just sang the results into my phone’s GarageBand app while I idly plucked on a banjo.”
While that method seemed to work for most of the project, giving us instant twee classics like “Fumbling My First Kiss Behind the World’s Largest Ball of Twine” off of Our Kansas Not Arkansas, it seems he might have run out of steam when it comes to tracks like “Didn’t Richard Gere Fight Some Sort of Moth Monster Thing?” on How Come There’s a West Virginia but No East Virginia? or the single-track Alaska album, which is just an audio recording of Sufjan plunking on a toy piano while he listens to the audiobook of The Call of the Wild by Jack London and audibly reacts to it.
The set also includes a bonus 10″ with Puerto Rico on one side and Washington DC on the other.