I’m putting this in the “Album Reviews” category but really, this is more like early impressions type thing than a proper review. I’m only on my second listen.
For those with short attention spans who are likely to be put off by my rambling, let me first get to the point: I strongly recommend giving Sufjan Steven’s new album, The Age of Adz, a listen. This is a gloriously ambitious album that doesn’t take a bunch of listens to get into (I can attest to that as I’m absolutely loving it and I’ve only heard it twice.)
The first song, “Futile Devices,” is reminiscent of some of his earlier work (Michigan & Illinoise.) It’s a cool track but I must admit that I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of hearing him do an album full of stuff in this style (I’ve already heard it.)
The second track, “Too Much,” puts to rest that concern. It’s sort of an electronic indie pop song with classical influences. It combines an infectious melody with some crazy electronic noises. And then layer upon layer of fantastic orchestration (voices, rhythmic electronic noises, synthesizers, & classical style instrumentation) is built on top of the core tune. And then the track really takes a left turn and turns into, something that’s hard to describe. And I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. This sounds quite fresh to my ears. A very ambitious combination of styles and I think he made it work.
This ambitious combination of pop songwriting, synthesizers, studio manipulations, and classical style orchestration really sets the tone for the rest of the album. And that’s not to say it gets “samey” because I think these songs each have their own sound world, only that the rest of the album makes sense as a continuation of that left turn on “Too Much.”
I should also mention the lyrics. I’m not usually someone who notices lyrics that much, but quite a few of the lyrics in this album have caught my ear. I’m not quite sure what Stevens is talking about in these songs, but whenever I catch a line; it tends to give me the chills. This is some intense music.
I’m not going to give a song by song run-down of the rest of it although this album certainly deserves that kind of attention. I just think you need to hear it for yourself. I’m really having a hard time coming up with words to describe it or to say what it sounds like and I think that’s a good sign that it’s something really special. Get it. flat irons