Sufjan Stevens is a musician on the move. For the last ten years he’s been in a constant state of re-invention and experimentation. While most people are familiar with a handful of his songs and, perhaps, his 2005 full-length Come On Feel The Illinoise!- a musical journey through the Land of Lincoln- Stevens’ newest work, The Age of Adz, is difficult to simply lump in to his previous catalog.
To begin on Adz, it is important to note the thematic elements at play. While previous works focused on states (Illinoise and Michigan), religious experience (Seven Swans), Zodiac signs (Enjoy Your Rabbit), or roadways (The BQE), The Age of Adz is about the coming apocalypse. Each song is a unique foray into self-reflection driven by the power of love and the brokenness of an unforgiving world. A certain strain of melancholy threads its way through songs as Stevens attempts to harmonize harsh-realization with the desire to find peace, rest, and wellness.
Musically, The Age of Adz stands as a culmination of sorts. For the first time Stevens has combined orchestral elements with electronic features, two often-opposed styles that have been previously explored in their own regards by Stevens. Fans of his folk records may be disappointed in the marked lack of banjo and traditional folk styling, however, the quality of the songs is certainly not diminished by the new musical techniques. Perhaps the most notable musical feature of The Age of Adz is its use of dynamics. On several songs (including my personal favorite “I Want To Be Well”) nearly everything except for hushed vocals are stripped away and built up to moving crescendos.
If the listener can get past the initial shock of the new sounds, a collection of amazing songs awaits. Highlights include “I Walked,” “Too Much,” “Vesuvius” and “I Want To Be Well.” Album closer “Impossible Soul” is a song of epic proportions; clocking in at over 25 minutes, it could very well stand on its own (listening through the entire thing, while a marathon, is well worth the experience).
For links to a full-record stream and downloads of the tracks “Too Much” and “I Walked” visit www.minesblog.com/music. The Age of Adz comes out October 12 on Asthmatic Kitty Records.