The Age of Adz Confronts The Modern World Head-On
- Monday, October 25, 2010
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Title: The Age of Adz
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
He immortalized Michigan and Illinois in song, and promised to do the same with each of the 50 states. Instead, The Age of Adz - indie singer-songwriter Sufjan ( pronounced SOOF-yahn) Stevens' first LP since 2005's Illinois - is a travelogue of his own consciousness, intensely personal and still as inquisitive and celebratory as Stevens' best work. Adz is a thematically introspective and artistically ambitious piece of work, bearing little resemblance to the two LPs which preceded it. It's electronic, multi-faceted, and very, very long. It deconstructs traditional song form, and even deconstructs Stevens himself. Many of the lyrics, delivered in Stevens' haunting, whisper-soft vocals, are buried. In fact, the songs themselves are sometimes secondary to the way they're arranged. In Stevens' world of dense, multi-layered arrangements, the songs are blankets draped over the album's electronic furniture. As with any drape, sometimes they cover up what's beneath. Other times, they enhance it, bringing out nuance and detail, connecting at odd angles to the songs below. Always, the album is jarring, a meditation on life in the disjointed modern age that occasionally sounds like a Disney movie soundtrack invaded by a room-full of droids.
"Futile Devices," the album opener, is the track that sounds the most similar to anything from Illinois, reaching a gorgeous, understated climax as Stevens sings, "You are the life, I needed all along/I think of you as my brother, although that sounds dumb/but words are futile devices."
It's a perfect album opener, marching directly into the liquid puddles of electronica Stevens stomps through on "Too Much." Underneath the chirping and scratching are layers upon layers of strings, choral vocals, handclaps, horns, programmed percussion, and a chorus vocal that begins in the neighborhood of ‘70's R&B but ends deconstructing itself. Here, the madness finds method: after finding inspiration in others' stories, Stevens is confronting the modern world head-on. Is it any wonder the result is complex, ambiguous, confused, and, ultimately, strangely beautiful?
Elsewhere, Stevens presents "Get Real Get Right," a marching piece of robot hip-hop, and the eight-minute title track, which takes its inspiration from the apocalyptic artwork of Royal Robertson, and is presented with appropriate epic flourish: trilling flutes and a synth sound mimicking a jet engine starting up. "Now That I'm Older" is one prolonged groan. The album closer, "Impossible Soul," is a 25-minute magnum opus which defies description in so limited a space. Stevens has said his band will attempt it live; I'd like to hear that. The piece could be an EP in itself.
Adz should be most praised for its celebratory spirit. There's ebullience behind the creation of this record that is effervescent and addictive. Whatever Stevens touches turns to joy, even when he's drowning himself in a pool of chaos and deconstruction. The modern world may suck, but there's a joy to be found in the creative process, and in anything Stevens produces.
**This Review First Published on Oct. 25, 2010
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content