CD Review: Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
- Written by Jessica Sommers
- October 12, 2010
Sufjan Stevens is really something else, isn’t he? His sound crosses genres like not many can do, or would think to do, and he’s achieved tons of acclaim from all sorts of people. His Illinois album garnered much media attention and success, his Michigan album is musically impressive and is perfectly representative of the soft beauty that is The Mitten. And even his Christmas album is unique, interesting, and still nostalgic. Not trying to get sentimental here, but Sufjan’s got some depth. So what the hell is The Age of Adz (pronounced odds)? It’s awesome, interesting, and if you can start to dig the weird, it’s just as beautiful as his past albums.
At first glance – and I encourage you to give it a second, third and fourth glance – Sufjan’s latest full-length album, and last in five years, is a clusterfuck of bizarre electronics and heavy orchestration. It’s techy, and it’s whimsical, so sure maybe it’s a little weird, but it’s the good kind of weird that only Sufjan can pull it off. Soulful Sufjan is the type of singer who comforts the listener with his familiar soft voice, no matter how much you don’t “get” it. The Age of Adz is definitely not like his other albums, it has practically no chance at radio play or mainstream success, but that doesn’t discount the originality and the talent that is put into this album. And since when was mainstream-anything good anyway, hmm?
There’s plenty of listenable tracks, if you can prune away the scratchy weirdness that bombards the listener at first. “Too Much” was a single that was released on his Bandcamp website in September, and it keeps the listener engaged, interested, and ultimately satisfied. “Now That I’m Older” will make the average-Sufjan listener rest a bit easy, as this song is him at his finest, albeit a bit more grown up (no pun intended, except maybe that’s what he wanted.) It’s melodic, emotional, and still you’ll be humming the tune later in the day. The last conventional song on the album, “I Want to Be Well” is fast-paced and full of exciting woodwind instruments, it’s catchy and Sufjan-esque and techy and rocky and all that is good.
But the real last song, 25-minute long “Impossible Soul” is something that I get (I think) but don’t like (I’m pretty sure.) The song has its moments, and could pretty much stand alone as an album in and of itself. It consists mostly of laser beams, strange sounds effects, brass instruments… and Autotune. Sufjan in Autotune (around 10-minutes in) is something that I don’t understand and I know I definitely don’t like it. He is so good on his own that he doesn’t need to get into the kitsch that is the demise of hip-hop music (although I’m sure he isn’t trying to be like that), but it’s unsettling and it’s annoying. But regardless of the mess at the end, The Age of Adz is a unique album that is definitely worth listening to.
Sounds Like: Videogame music, in a good way.
Download: Now That I’m Older, I Want To Be Well, Too Much
Listen to it When: You’re tired of the music you have and need something new and weird.