Sufjan Stevens’s Illinois – The Story Behind The Sleeve

The Story Behind The Sleeve #8: Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

It may have been his h studio album, but 2005’s Illinois was the breakthrough release for instrumental polymath and genre polymorph Sufjan Stevens. It remains his best-known work and musically surpassed its precursor, 2003’s Michigan (he’d planned to base an album on each of the 50 States, an ambition he’s since admitted was “a joke”). Illustrator Divya Srinivasan’s cover art, featuring Al Capone and the Chicago skyline, reflects Stevens’ historically literate lyrics – referencing figures ranging from Black Hawk and Abraham Lincoln to John Wayne Gacy, Jr. The design also included Superman – according to 1972 State Legislature, Metropolis, Illinois is officially the superhero’s hometown. While some copies did go on sale, the artwork was altered to avoid infringing DC Comics’ copyright. The November 2005 vinyl release had a balloon sticker in Superman’s place, before he was removed altogether; the 10th Anniversary vinyl reissue instead features the Chicago-born Blue Marvel character… officially sanctioned this time.

Read more: The Story Behind The Sleeve #13: The Durutti Column – The Return Of The Durutti Column