Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz

Categories: Nothing Not New

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Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Title: The Age of Adz
Release date: October 21
Label: Asthmatic Kitty

The new record by indie-music deity Sufjan Stevens is an hour-and-12-minute endurance test, one who's raison d'etre is revealed in the closing seconds of the record's final song, "Impossible Soul." As that 25-minute suite comes to its merciful close, Stevens, he of the critically lauded and exceedingly precious state-themed records about the two states where I've spent most of my life, Michigan and Illinois, sings, "Girl, I want nothing less than pleasure / Boy, we made such a mess together."

The nothing-less-than-pleasure element comes from Stevens' self-indulgence, his utter adoration for his own considerable talent and creativity. The mess? Take a listen to this record and you'll know what he means. It is one glorious mess, a nuclear blast of musical exhibitionism in which Stevens shows you everything he's got, whether you need to see it or not.

This is the kind of disc that you listen to, then say, "Wow. That's quite an artistic achievement." Then you put it in your CD rack and never, ever listen to it again. I listened to it twice, just give it a chance. Once I got past marveling at the music, and everything that's going on it, I started to look for something I could latch on to. Beyond the opening track, nothing.

Stevens' talent seemingly knows no limits. And this is bravura music-making with ambitious string, horn, and choral arrangements, diverse instrumentation, multi-layered sounds, unpredictable melodies, and lyricism in which Stevens seems to bare all. Too bad most of it's obscured by over-the-top, always-distracting synths.

Are all the electronics meant to challenge his longtime listeners, who fell in love with his neo-folk sound? Are they there to hide his new lyrics (which he knew may alienate longtime fans) behind? Maybe he's simply a musician taking a new direction, tired of being Sufjan Stevens the brand, looking for new ways to push his own boundaries. Maybe he just wants to fuck with people.

Speaking of the f-word, much has been made about Stevens' repeating the phrase "I'm not fucking around" in the penultimate track "I Want to Be Well." Even though you really have to listen for it, he says it over and over, as if he everything that's come before The Age of Adz WAS just Sufjan Stevens fucking around -- that now he's going to do what he wants to do, make music on his terms, not his fans. I'll let the Stevens fanboys (and they are legion) fight over that. To me, all this record is is Stevens fucking around -- with his new synthesizer toys, with his own talent. The guy's a great artist, but The Age of Adz is damn near unlistenable.

Sufjan Stevens - Too Much by strikegently

Best song: Opening track "Futile Device." In which Stevens sings, "Words are a futile device." It's the only song on Adz that bears repeat listens.
Rotation: Low
Deja vu: Not giving the people what they want.
I'd rather listen to: Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Grade: D

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.


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5 comments
vesuvius
vesuvius

You're way, way off on this one. I'm just telling you. Give it a little more time maybe. This is starting to sound like a masterpiece to me, akin to perhaps this generation's "What's Going On?" I am not making that comparison lightly, it's just very obviously that good.

daef
daef

so an album loosely based and themed around the works of a schizophrenic artist and the apocalypse isn't supposed to sound "messy"? got it.

you're surely entitled not to like the album, but to suggest that musicians aren't permitted to 'make music for themselves' is completely off the mark. that's what art is. you do it for yourself. if you do it strictly for the 'bros' you're an effing poser. i suppose sufjy should have just plucked on his lil banjo and wrote 48 more state albums that sound exactly like illinoise...

sufjy should have wrote his next state album about 'arizona' and wrote a few tender acoustic tearjerkers about a failed forty-something musician who obv 'hates music' and 'kids' but attempts to 'remain relevant' by writing for a 'wildly successful music tastemaker' and jerks off to 'the hold steady', a completely safe-zone band with nothing whatsoever remarkable or distinguishable from any other indie garbage out there.

feel like the reviewer here is a 'trilobite' and isn't very 'relevant' and doesn't 'get' it. feel like he could be old enough to be most of these bands' father... feel like i should put age of adz on repeat to cleanse my palette from the terrible taste in music that this reviewer left with me. you just keep clinging to your shitty generation via 'yankee hotel dadcore' and your roger cline and some peacemaking bros.

in the spirit of the true 'music review' maybe you should consider 'stepping up ur game', showcasing your non-pretentious writing style by peppering your work with a myriad of unnecessary multi-syllabic words and self-indulgent overtones. you will probably be asked to move to chicago/brooklyn and write reviews for p4k. then you can 'beat ur peen' and 'flex your literary prowess/pecs/huge effing cock' to more wavves/anco albums that all suck/sound the same.

and wtf bro, did you write this review for yourself? about yourself? are you 'pulling a sufjan' and 'effing around' with us by masquerading/trojan horsing this 'music' review when it's really a review of your life as a failed ________?

grade of this review: fail

tony patiño
tony patiño

Age Of Adz is his best work to date. I've been a long time fan and holy fuck this album surpasses anything new over the last few years. Sorry it's not as hip and cool like Das Racist and New Age but maybe you should learn how to play an instrument instead of knocking those who are bored of minimalism which has been the theme of most new indie hipster bands in recent times. Get out of your comfort zone and expand your head. Listening to an album 2 times is not enough times to give it a fair review you pretentious fuck.

sho
sho

Actually, if you look at some of his earlier work, he clearly has had an electronic bent, even if he steered away from it for a long time. Just take a listen to Enjoy Your Rabbit. This is more an amalgamation between the old and the usual.

lukekarrys
lukekarrys

Why does someone who seems to hate most new music do a year long column of only listening to new musc? And why does someone who hates reading these columns keep coming back only to get angry over and over?I can only answer one of those questions.

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