Age of Adz (Vinyl)
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Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
|1. Futile Devices|
|2. Too Much|
|3. Age Of Adz|
|4. I Walked|
|5. Now That I'm Older|
|6. Get Real Get Right|
|7. Bad Communication|
|9. All For Myself|
|10. I Want To Be Well|
|11. Impossible Soul|
U.S. double vinyl LP pressing. 2010 release from the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter. The Age of Adz (pronounced Odds) is Sufjan Stevens' first full-length collection of original songs since 2005's conceptual pop opus Illinois. While the sounds on this record are distinctly "artificial" (drums machines and analog synths reign supreme), the proclamations of the songs are unabashedly visceral, sung loudly, with a backdrop of insistent orchestration. The result is an album that is perhaps more vibrant, primary and explicit than anything Sufjan has done before, incorporating themes that are neither historical nor civic, but rather personal and primal (if even a little juvenile).
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The new album by the "coolest musician in America" (Sunday Times) starts off by flattering to deceive. "Futile Devices" the opening track to Sufjan Stevens new set of songs could have happily appeared on the outstanding "Seven Swans" and is a gentle bubbling track with a fragile folksy beauty which Stevens can appear to evoke with consummate ease. So then Stevens is clearly going to compensate for his abandonment of his 50 state album cycle promise with a return to earlier glories?
No such chance, indeed while the ""he Age of Adz" has many transcendent moments, this is primarily an album of electronic soundscapes, whose trajectory can be loosely traced back in Stevens musical past to 2002's largely electronic Chinese Zodiac concept album "Enjoy your Rabbit". It is therefore not surprising that the critical reception to this album thus far has been in places bemused and quizzical (and in Uncut's case characterised by outright hostility questioning whether our hero is "a genius or just a show off").
The line between originality and over indulgence is of course a thin one but in Stevens case his ability to make his music soar is the special ingredient. For example the second track "Too much" is Sufjan Stevens meets Yeasayer and a joyous electronic concoction. The funky electronica of "I walked" revolves around a trip hop big synth loop, combined with Stevens trademark angelic vocals and surreal lyrics where he asks "Lover, will you look from me now/I'm already dead/but I've come to explain/why I left such a mess on the floor". Other highlights also include the gently rolling 'Vesuvius' which concentrates on giving self advice and messages to himself plus "Bad communication" a short beautiful fragment of a song. The title track is alternatively; erm what's the word I'm looking for, yes thats it ....mental! A tribute of sorts to the weird abstract art of Louisiana based Royal Robertson it starts off with great Wagnerian voices then Stevens singing through cat calls and symphonic whistles over an eight minute hodgepodge powerhouse that has to heard to be believed not least the lovely acoustic end.
And then we have the final track the 25 minute (I kid you not!) "The Impossible Soul" which is a mini album in its own right and a sort of Tubular Bells for the Twitter Generation which wanders far and wide. It starts conventionally and then leads into a strange exhortation where Stevens cheekily pleads with us "Don't be distracted", has a lovely vocoder section, at 13 minutes sounds like Kraftwerk for 30 seconds and then has one of those "Illinois" style chants for a further 8 minutes around the refrain of "boy we can do much more together" underpinned by all sort of beeps, electronic synths and weird machinations. It finishes with a fairly straightforward but gorgeous Stevens song with the "boy" lyrical refrain back again. Oh look, listen to it yourself and begin to connect with a song which has sections which will variously bore you, amaze you and often leave you in tears.
The "Age of Adz" is album devoid of discipline, restraint or brevity. It is a smorgasbord of ideas some of which work brilliantly, others fail gallantly and a few never get out of the starting gate. Certainly this a very different proposition to the mix of orchestrated packed bravado combined with the wintry acoustics of "Michigan" and "Illinois". Yet if the masterful experimentation of both those albums left you gasping for more "The Age of Adz" should hold no fear for you for this is pop or rock music in its loosest sense. Last year Stevens wrote a Stravinsky inspired album dedicated to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and only two months ago he released an EP entitled "All you delighted people" which extended to well over an hour. Stevens is a composer packed with musical ideas some great, some claptrap, some challenging and some sublime. What is the truth is that there no one else out there working this distinctive seam in this manner. Thereby "The Age of Adz" is full testimony to Stevens uniqueness and it should be a cause of great celebration and rejoicing for this is not so much an album release as a musical event.
Technically Sufjan Stevens has released several projects since his earth shattering Illinois album, but this is the first one people are truly looking at. It's not outtakes, remixes, a compilation, an EP, or symphony. It's a bonafide, brand new, traditional album with lyrics, music, and interesting cover art. This album does exactly what it needs to do.
Though to most people it will probably not hold up in comparison to Illinois, in terms of importance I see the two albums of equal. As if he needed to do so, this album PROVES Stevens' unending skill at songwriting while at the same time exploring new territory. Do many other musicians maintain the balance between creativity and originality as well as Sufjan? I can't think of an example.
I'm not going to go through each song or award the album a number out of ten; there are probably 9000 websites you can go to for that. I am going to say, however, that this album is a spectacular work of art, one of the best albums I have ever listened to, and does not disappoint at all. It's different, but in the sense that each Jones soda flavor is unique yet equally satisfying. The five minutes or so starting at 13:00 of the track "Impossible Soul" are possibly the best five minutes my ears have consumed in years.
How to describe it? Not sure. It's electronica, to be sure, but it's also accessible and melodic. It's a wall of sound textures overlain atop Stevens' sensitive and poignant songwriting. It's cosmic and spacey, almost like a new genre of progressive rock. And yet it's also earthbound, mining emotional responses you don't expect. There are drum machines, orchestral arrangements, angelic choirs, and hooks galore. "Orchestral electronica folk songs" is the best way I can describe it.
As for the negative reviews posted here, I'm befuddled. The nay-sayers must not be very adventurous with their musical tastes.
I've been listening to the album non-stop for three days now and I'm still blown away. It's addictive. It's new. It's brilliant.