Release Date: Oct 12, 2010
Record label: Asthmatic Kitty
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Review Summary: Sufjan Stevens learns the meaning of life and turns it into an album.You all should have seen this coming, so stop blaming Sufjan for the fact that he caught you with your collective pants down.See, I've never paid much attention to Sufjan Stevens before. But even I heard the Dark Was The Night compilation released last year which contained a song that was full of bleep-bloops and orchestrations and weird vocal effects and general mind-fuckery. That song? "You Are The Blood," by Sufjan Stevens.
Is this the sound of a breakdown? Has America’s favorite indie son finally cracked? After listening to The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens’ latest astro-futurist-church-boy-monster-movie-freak-out, you might come to the conclusion that (a) he is genuinely losing his shit, in which case he needs get out of the studio and onto the therapist’s couch; (b) he’s exploring the “creative possibilities” of insanity and perhaps unfairly exploiting the cultural cred of American outsider art; or (c) he’s faking his own madness in order to deflect from accusations (inspired by recent interviews) that he’s losing his creative faith. I don’t know, and I guess it doesn’t really matter to me, because The Age of Adz is an outrageously fun and messy masterpiece. In fact, I can’t imagine a single social situation in which this album would be appropriate for a spin, but The Age of Adz, which ends with a 25-minute Auto-Tune funk jam, may be the best indie schlock party-of-the-damned album of the year.
Sufjan Stevens’s conceptual obsessions continue on his long-awaited sixth release, The Age of Adz, a trippy, orchestrated journey that is, in two words, beautifully neurotic. The marrying of vague narratives (this time based on the colorful, manic art of Royal Robertson) with symphonic arrangements is nothing new for Stevens; what sets the album apart is the ease in which the singer-songwriter deftly switches from the playful, organic instrumentation of The BQE to electronic mystique. From its half-spoken vocals to the purposeful crawl of its buzzing underbelly, The Age of Adz sounds like Stevens’s march into the musical domain of his fellow Brooklynites, particularly TV on the Radio’s Dear Science and St.
Most people would call The Age of Adz Sufjan Stevens' first proper album since 2005, when the much-lauded Illinois made him a household name—at least in recently gentrified neighborhoods. While his new legion of fans (including myself) eagerly anticipated odes to our respective states that were as gut-wrenching as they were exhaustively researched, Stevens instead gave us a Christmas series, a symphonic suite and the surprisingly abundant overflow of Illinois-themed songs. He seemed to be fleeing from the spotlight, willfully sabotaging the momentum built with a trio of records, Michigan, Seven Swans and Illinois that were tied together by an orchestral-folk style—a sound that only occasionally peeks through on the much noisier Age of Adz.
For at least five years, Sufjan Stevens has been treated as seriously as church in indie circles. Try this: Walk up to an attendee of any indie-centric concert and suggest the guy isn’t perfect. Maybe talk about how he had a song on Illinois (“John Wayne Gacy”) that’s central point was that everyone has the capacity to serial rape and kill children and bury them in their yard, and how that seems like a pretty reductive way to see serial killers.
Sufjan Stevens’ first proper album since 2005 (not counting the hour-long EP he dropped in August) features enough glitchy electronic beats to shock some fans, but don’t be put off: Aside from one ill-considered Auto-Tune gambit, the added layer of studio technology on The Age of Adz complements rather than distracts from the heartrending melodies and ambitious orchestration underneath. This noted history buff is finally moving toward the future, and it suits him splendidly. A? Download These:Hushed opener Futile Devices at amazon.comEight-minute epic Age of Adz at amazon.com See all of this week’s reviews .
With his sixth proper album, Sufjan Stevens does battle with what we've come to expect from a proper Sufjan Stevens album. This time, instead of painstakingly humanizing the locations, historical inhabitants, and trivia of a certain slab of America, he's more concerned with his own state of mind. Banjos are out; moody electronics, deep bass, and drums that burst like geysers are in.
On ‘Futile Devices’, the twinkling two minutes and eleven seconds that ushers in The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens sings of wandering through his lover’s apartment, of safety and security; sleeping on sofas and guitars and blankets and even crochet, but mainly of words. “I would say I love you,” he addresses his other half, “But saying it out loud is hard / So I won’t say it at all. ” It is an intimate, gentle introduction to Stevens’ sixth album proper, musically at odds with the washes of synth, beats and manipulated vocals that follow, yet indubitably offering a blueprint of sorts.
While there were releases in between (EPs, instrumental highway laments), The Age Of Adz is really the first Sufjan Stevens full-length since Illinois. A lot has changed in five years. Clearly his plan to make an album for each U.S. state didn't include this record, which loses more than geographic dedication.
Last year, Sufjan Stevens announced that he was abandoning his loudly trumpeted project to write and release an album about each of America's 50 states. He'd managed a grand total of two. It was hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy. We've all been there: you're at a party, everyone's had a few drinks, you're trying to impress someone or draw attention to yourself, and the next thing you know you've announced you're going to write a series of 50 albums, each using an American state as a jumping-off point for complex lyrical explorations of faith, love and location.
On the title track of The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens sings “I have known you for just a little while / I feel I must be wearing my welcome / I must be moving on.” The emotionally direct, apologetic quality of the song’s conclusion answers years of speculation concerning the direction the artist would take with the official follow-up to 2005’s critically adored Illinois. In the wake of numerous unofficial releases, side projects, and parsed interviews and comments, these lyrics best elucidate the album’s perspective on endings and beginnings. Changing course musically needn’t involve lyrical themes of death and rebirth, but Stevens has always made a virtue of earnestness.
I don’t know how it’s going to play with the young folks, but to these old ears, Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz is an exhausting listen. At about 33 minutes in, just when most albums from the 60’s would be wrapping up, Stevens is just getting started. After about 45 minutes, even though I liked a lot of what I heard, I couldn’t wait for it to end.
In many ways, it’s as if everything was planned for this kind of moment. For so many years people flocked the web and internet with supposed official news that Sufjan Stevens was never to make music anymore. He merely contributed stunning work for The National and for the Dark Was the Night compilation, while making time to write a documentary and still, working on various other projects.
The Age Of Adz is the first LP for winsome chamber pop folkie Sufjan Stevens in five years. The album’s strange title (its last word is pronounced “odds”) is a reference to the apocalyptic art of Royal Robertson, an artist who suffered from schizophrenia, and whose work depicts his dreams of space aliens, futuristic automobiles and eccentric monsters. Stevens’ experimentations with these themes rely far heavier on electronic and synth sounds.
If you couldn’t tell from the title, Sufjan Stevens’ first full-length album in five years is decidedly not an ode to a state. That project, which delighted the choir while exasperating the practical nonbelievers, seems to be pretty well buried. In fact, he admitted to the Guardian last year that it was an unabashed ‘promotional gimmick’ and told Paste that the project was ‘such a joke’.
Fragmentation and obliqueness are ever-present on Stevens’ latest LP. Sam Lewis 2010 It’s unusual for an artist to have wider renown for the scope of their ambition, rather than for a particular piece of work. Yet Sufjan Stevens’ place in pop culture consciousness revolves around his professed desire to write a record about every American state.