Friday, October 22, 2010
Album Review: The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
The Beatles are my go-to foursome, and Death Cab for Cutie will always represent my quintessential college semi-angst-filled journey, but deep-down, Sufjan may be my favorite. From the moment I first heard Illinois in 2005, the man from metropolis may have stolen my heart (in a strictly plutonic way...don't worry Robyn). I anticipate each post-Thanksgiving earbud session when I reward my year-long iPod discipline with a fresh dose of Songs for Christmas albums I-V (I hold that "Sister Winter" is the greatest Christmas song, ever). Sufjan offers so much that resonates with me: a slow musical build-up, simply gorgeous instrumental layers, ear-tickling lyricism, and deep, self-reflective, often spiritual themes. And the whiteness in me cannot resist that banjo.
What do I think of The Age of Adz?
The album is certainly new ground for a Sufjan-gone-electronic. At first impression, this album is more dirty, messy, and complex than the simple elegance of Michigan and Seven Swans. While the album does not measure up to Illinois (and how could it? Paste named Illinois the album of the decade), I am excited about Sufjan's experimentation. Now having broken a mold he himself created, Sufjan has given himself new creative frontiers to explore.
Sufjan explores deeper and darker themes, both musically and lyrically, in this album. I appreciate the honesty of "I Want to Be Well", gutturally crying the song-title statement as a plea each of us have uttered in the dark. The Age of Adz has moments that remind me of the Postal Service or Bono (like in "Too Much" and "Age of Adz," respectively) and even verges on Hip-Hop (robot voice! "Impossible Soul"). But of course it would not be Sufjan without the addicting repetition of happiness ("Vesuvius," the clear pop attention grabber of the album). And perhaps the prophetic "Get Real, Get Right" is Sufjan's clearest expression of faith since Seven Swans. All that said, my favorite track is "Impossible Soul," essentially 26 glorious minutes that showcase the breadth of Sufjan's talent.
All you Sufjan Steven's fans out there, I would love to hear what you think about The Age of Adz!