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CD Review: Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz
Asthmatic Kitty

At first listen, The Age of Adz sounds like it’ll be a moodier continuation of the stylistic folk that Sufjan Stevens has been perfecting for the better part of the last decade. “Futile Devices,” the first track on the album, starts with delicately finger plucked guitars and subtly orchestrated accompaniments, all supporting Sufjan’s fragile but beautiful voice.

First impressions, though, have rarely been so wrong.

On the whole, The Age of Adz is as much of a game-changer as Beck’s Odelay was. “Too Much” signals the sea change in Stevens’ approach to the best effect. Full of synthesized beats, sci-fi sound effects, and oddly syncopated rhythms, “Too Much” delivers the pop goods and a wicked flute solo. The album veers into several directions at once, delivering everything from the spooky horns and robotic beats of the title track, to an unsettling chanting chorus and breakbeat in “I Want to be Well,” to the auto-tuned, 25-minute magnum opus, “Impossible Soul.” Some of this doesn’t work, but amazingly – most of it does.

After several listens The Age of Adz begins to almost coalesce into a definitive Sufjan Stevens album. The bombast of Illinois is present, but the much more serious lyrical approach and the general downtrodden vibe reminded me of Seven Swans. If this album isn’t as successful as either of those albums, it’s only due to Stevens’ ambition, a quality that is always welcome from someone with as great of pop sensibilities as he has.

Matthew Blackwell
Contributor

Featured tracks

Too Much

I Want to be Well

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