RIYL: Sufjan Stevens

Photo: Sufjan Stevens press
Sufjan Stevens

It's been ten years since singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens set the indie rock world on fire with his "Illinois" album, which found its way to the top of countless year-end lists in 2005.

It was the second, and to date final entry in Stevens' farcical "50 States Project," in which the eccentric songwriter claimed he would compose an album for each state starting with the release of a 2003 record dedicated to his native Michigan. "I have no qualms about admitting it was a promotional gimmick," he later said of the statement.

But there's plenty more to Sufjan than meditative indie rock based on two Midwest states. He's composed an album of pure electronica ("Enjoy Your Rabbit"), a classical piece about a NYC expressway ("The BQE") and numerous Christmas-themed albums over the course of 16 years.

Stevens' next album "Carrie & Lowell," out next week via his own Asthmatic Kitty label, is of course something completely unique to the rest of his discography. The album is full of minimalist and confessional folk based on childhood experiences with his late mother and stepfather.

If you're a Sufjan Stevens fan, here are a few other artists you might like.

My Brightest Diamond

Shara Worden, who performs as My Brightest Diamond, has lent her tremendous vocal efforts to several of Stevens' albums. She's a wondrous songwriter in her own right, and her potent blend of contemporary and classical music led Stevens to sign her to the Asthmatic Kitty label.

Lost in the Trees

North Carolina indie folk collective Lost in the Trees employs soaring orchestral arrangements to sublime effect, much like Stevens does on tracks from "Michigan" and "Illinois."

Arthur Russell

Late cellist and songwriter Arthur Russell's work covered genres from disco to country to experimental pop. Stevens paid tribute to the fellow musical maverick by covering one of his most popular songs "A Little Lost" for last year's "Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell" compilation.


Dan Snaith's project has undergone some serious changes (including a name change from Manitoba) in the last decade, but his folktronica proclivities have remained intact. His "debut" as Caribou, 2005's "The Milk of Human Kindness," has a lot in common with Stevens at his most robotic.