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Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz

by on October 24, 2010

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Let’s get a few things out of the way. This is NOT the Sufjan that you knew back in 2005. This is not even the Sufjan that released the All Delighted People EP last August. This is a brand new Sufjan. Pretend that Emeralds got together with early Grizzly Bear and you begin to have what this album is. And yes while it is electronic, it still has the enormous instrumentation that Mr. Stevens loves to use. This album is interesting, exciting and really really good.

But first, a little background. After releasing his 2005 chart-topping Illinois, Sufjan took a break from what he referred to as his “Fifty-State Project” (making an album about all fifty states, although he only got through two of them). He then released an album of unreleased tracks from Illinois, as well as a Christmas album and a purely orchestral album. However, last August, after the unexpected release of All Delighted People, Sufjan announced that a new album would be released in October to the surprise of almost everyone in the indie rock community.

The album is set up in a very interesting way. It begins with “Futile Devices”, a nod to his earlier stuff. With a laid-back feel and arpeggiated guitar, it opens with album with familiarity. However, the song ends abruptly and the sound of industrial samples and effected drum kits take over the mix: a signal of the end of the sound that we all know.

The rest of the album is essentially spacey/electronic jams. “The Age of Adz” features this style but with a full horn section, and “I Walked”, the album’s first single, features droning synthesizers layered on top of one another. “Now That I’m Older” even calls on some early Grizzly Bear influences, sounding like a more melodic version of their classic, “Colorado”.

And while there really aren’t too many stand-out track, the album just flows together very nicely. However, one interesting track is the final one, “Impossible Soul”. A twenty-five minute track, it’s an upbeat, happy track-something that is noticeably missing on The Age of Adz. Stevens even uses an autotuner towards the end of the track! Talk about changing musical directions.

The Age of Adz is, to put it in one word, different. I have honestly never heard anything like it before. If you are expecting acoustic Sufjan, you will certainly not find it here. It is new and exciting, and stands out among the rest of the amazing music that has come out this year.

*Gems: “The Age of Adz”, “I Walked”


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