Album Review: Sufjan Stevens ‘The Age of Adz’

Band: Sufjan Stevens

Album: The Age of Adz

Label: Asthmatic Kitty

Rating: 4 out of 5

By Aaron Binder

At our base level as humans we all have one emotion that we connect with the most.  For some it is anger, others fear; for seemingly few that emotion is love.  What is it about our personalities and exterior surroundings that influence us to feel these powerful forces at our core?

There are undoubtedly many different answers for each person out there, and yet, it takes many of us a long time to figure out what those answers are.  For a man like Sufjan Stevens, the answer seems to be passion, yet another powerful emotion that is directly related to creativity.

Stevens is possibly best known for his album ‘Illinois’ which won him critical acclaim and an incredible 90 rating on Metacritic, the highest of 2005.  The story doesn’t begin or even come close to stopping there as Stevens has managed to build on his existing following and has become one of the most prolific indie composers out there.

After his most recent project, The BQE, there was a noticeable shift in Stevens style of writing as he began to stray from melodic-style writing to more in-depth compositions with fast tempo changes and longer instrumental sections.  This is where The Age of Adz comes in and meshes the frantic style of The BQE with his earlier, more melodic work.It is difficult to compose music that is constantly changing, and Stevens does rely on some of his oft-seen conventions a little too often on the album.  The chanting background choirs are something that have been present on many of his albums and at this point it would be nice to have it change up a bit, especially with the rest of the album being a progressive step forward.  Aside from that, there are only a couple of other nit-picky things like the slightly excessive length.

If those are the biggest downfalls, then it’s safe to say that Stevens has done a great job composing this new album.  Words like lilting, springy and delightful jump to mind while listening to the recording.  The album is heavy on electronically manipulated sounds (following in the footsteps of The BQE) and strangely attractive vocal harmonies that have to be heard to be believed.

The Age of Adz is an ambitious project helmed by the perfect person to make a Summery album something that requires just the right amount of thought.  The depth of this album is just massive, going from minimalist vocal melodies backed by electronic undulations to auto-tune that ends up turning into a house style techno beat…all within the span of 40 seconds.  When Stevens first hit the scene with his first two albums, nobody could have expected that barely 10 years later he would be producing such expansive pieces that are second to none.

If you’re in for a listening adventure, this is a must-have album.  Heck, if you just like good music, this should be one of your top picks for October.

Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer for The BQE short video that was synced up with the album.


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