By Christiana Bartolini | October 18th, 2010
Brace yourselves, fellow Indie Shufflers, Sufjan Stevens has reinvented himself into a wizard. His new album, The Age of Adz, has proven that he has stepped — no, jumped — into another realm.
If you’ve been looking forward to a new album that is reminiscent of his older creations, you will not find that here. This album is certainly out of his fan’s comfort zone. It is more sonically galactic, sporadic, and emphatic than anything he’s ever done. He dapples with auto-tune, people! Need I say more?!
I’ve been finding that the people who don’t enjoy this new album are the ones who depended on Stevens’ gift of making such whimsically magical and penetrating tracks to once again grace their ears in the form of his new album (after 5 long, torturous years). I believe that a lot of his fans had gotten very comfortable with his previous style of music, and then here comes this album: a straight-up slap in the face (and ears) to what everyone became so used to expecting. At first listen, I was confused. I thought, “Really Sufjan? Is that you? Where’s the…. this is… well… alright, I’ll roll with it.”
Imagine all of his past work taken apart, reconstructed, and doused with a serving (or five) of a hallucinogenic drug. It has most of the qualities of his past records, but these tracks are just coming from a completely different direction and proceeding to take you to this new realm of mind-fuck. Don’t fight it.
The emphasis on electronics of all sorts is unavoidable. I feel that if the electronics on this album were to be turned into a light show, epileptics would not be allowed entry, for good reason. Just when the synths begin to subside, up rises a bass beat accompanied by a flute or electric guitar, some choral singing, and then it starts all over again in a completely different approach.
The layers on The Age of Adz are mind-blowing. Some tracks remind me of mass chaos; then I give it a second or third listen and I begin to fully appreciate the construction. Let’s not forget about the last track, a 25-minute mini-album in and of itself. Out of control.
Sufjan Stevens hasn’t forgotten about his roots though; there are still very sweet, delicate, quiet sections with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. It’s at those moments that I imagine him in a darkly lit room, wearing a maroon cloak, stirring a huge steaming crock-pot while tossing in his old musical styles and his new musical styles, eyes wide and madly laughing, calling out, “This new concoction! It may be my best work yet!! Muaaahahaaa!”
But these songs weren’t just sporadically thrown together to make a statement. It’s clear that Stevens has gone in a direction that has no direct path, no consistent structure, and no restrictions — and I commend him for that. It’s almost like there’s a science to it. Make no mistake, The Age of Adz was made with much conviction. You have to let it grow on you. If you can’t take it, then your horizons may have some expanding to do.