Brow Beat

Listen to Sufjan Stevens’ Previously Unreleased Demo of “Chicago”

If you’re a Sufjan Stevens superfjan, you’ve heard several renditions of “Chicago,” the breakout hit about a road trip from his 2005 album Illinois. In addition to the original—which gets its majestic energy from vibraphone, strings, and trumpet—Stevens released three alternate recordings on The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras From the Illinois Album: a melancholy “acoustic version,” a shimmering “adult contemporary easy listening version,” and a synth-heavy “multiple personality disorder version.”

Now, in a belated celebration of the 10th anniversary of Illinois, Stevens is reissuing the album on vinyl and including a previously unreleased version of “Chicago”: the original demo. The track has a hard-driving, almost aggressive feel (at least by Sufjan’s standards), thanks to some hard-strummed power chords on an acoustic guitar, and Stevens’ voice is uncharacteristically full of angst. I’ll probably always prefer the unforgettable original, but the demo version is appealingly gutsy. A 12-inch single of the “Chicago” demo shaped like a star from the Chicago flag will be included with the 10th anniversary version of Illinois, which comes out on April 1.