it’s an instrumental tribute to New York’s (kind of) infamous Brooklyn Queen’s Expressway. Asthmatic Kitty’s press release described the piece as being “inspired by the programmatic symphonies of the Impressionists, but it aspires to the pageantry of Copland and the melodrama of a John Williams movie score.” Musically, it owes some obvious homage to Phillip Glass, of whom Sufjan has never been cagey about his admiration for. And there’s not a little Brian Eno sprinkled throughout either, but those are only vague inspirations. Really, The BQE is its own thing. It jumps tones and moods with abandon. There are strings. There are wind instruments. There are brass instruments. There are choirs. There’s the electro blitzkrieg that’s been prevalent on his offerings for the I’m Not There soundtrack and Dark Was the Night compilation. There’s every instrument you’ve ever heard of. There’s a few you haven’t. In short, there’s simply no reservation or modesty employed whatsoever. The BQE is a marvelous experience, one of the year’s finest albums, and one more heretofore unexplored side from one of this generation’s most gifted and imaginative artists.
The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is an incidental 12.7 miles of urban roadway built over the course of several decades (1939-1964), spear-headed by the master architect Robert Moses to accommodate for the increase of commercial and commuter traffic in New York City's outer boroughs. The roadway was a painstaking piecemeal project, poorly planned, badly built, and relentlessly encumbered by the obvious obstacles of the era: red tape, neighborhood protests, World War II, and a congested borough whose sequestering layout proved ill-fitting for the automobile. The resulting expressway-a pockmarked, serpentine, congested BQE-has become one of Brooklyn's most notable icons of urban blight. And, for Sufjan Stevens, an object of unmitigated inspiration.