Album Review: Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Dear Gosh, where to begin?  Okay.  Sufjan Stevens, indie critic’s darling, has a new album.  It is a serious departure from his other work.  I think it is incredible in every way imaginable, period.  I don’t want to write one more review to add to the dozens of others describing every song and how it makes me feel.  This album was made as a cohesive whole and should therefore be treated as such.  The Age of Adz has blown my mind multiple times now, and I don’t expect it to ever stop.  I might be slightly biased because I love his other work, but this is seriously a gigantic step forward into a new genre and, dare I say, a new era of music.

This as-of-yet unnamed genre is being toyed with by multiple groups in multiple forms, from artists like Yeasayer to the likes of Animal Collective.  It’s an odd merging of pop and electronica that doesn’t rely so much on hooks as it does on emotion.  It seems that this is Sufjan’s response to all of the recent musical developments in the past five years, from the explosion of said Collective to the mainstream blending of hip hop and pop.  This is his statement to the new “indieverse,” and his statement is bold.  Sure, he said he didn’t believe in the song anymore, but these new works are indeed songs at heart.  They just benefit by having the added structure of a compositional genius…

Sufjan has such an ear for music and sound that the conventional form has bored him and, much like Radiohead did after their masterpiece OK Computer, he has delved into the one area that truly eluded his work.  Not only did he figure it out, but he also carried it over into all the work he’s already done.  The classic orchestration, his stunning voice, and the emotion which started his career now have the added bonus of the “electronicverse” to expand into and thereby create a world of new musical territory.  This is why the album is so good, not from the electronics, but by the heartbreak of the songs themselves.

Like I’ve written before, a well written song is good in any genre, and the genre it’s performed in can only add new feelings or take it from good to exceptional.  The songs on The Age of Adz are incredibly well written, and could be done in any genre to varying degrees of success.  What Sufjan did that is so remarkable is make sure that the songs themselves weren’t overshadowed by the music.  They consistently weave and intertwine with one another, creating the effect in the listener’s mind that they do indeed belong together.  This is what makes the work so striking.  He uses the electronics and vocal effects to create emotion that couldn’t be created in his other styles, and he does it perfectly.

Other critics have noted that some songs either don’t sound finished or are too complicated to be enjoyable.  I think they are flat out wrong in every way.  Every part of this album sounds calculated and meaningful.  Every bit was made to entertain and expand what the listener thinks they are hearing.  The only other album I’ve ever heard that did this exact same thing, though in another genre, was Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.  Sufjan Stevens has indeed made an album that entertains casually, attentively, and psychedelically, just as Floyd’s does.  It is a grand and extensive statement, and most likely will be held as a footnote in music history for generations to come.  Hope you enjoy my sentiments, here’s a song for your thoughts…

Sufjan Stevens – Too Much

The myspace is there  for you to buy a little piece of history…

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4 responses to “Album Review: Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

  1. Right on brotha. This stuff is amazing. Great Review.

  2. Couldn’t agree with this review more! Love Sufjan and his new album is awesome. Can’t stop listening.

  3. Pingback: Top 20 Albums of 2010: Part One (20-11) | racecar spacecar

  4. Completely agree with you. This is a refreshing critique, since most critics often times have the tendency to pick out something wrong with an album and just elaborate on that. Thanks for actually appraising the music for all that it is.

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