The Age of Adz First Impressions

By Sam.

Click {here} for the album stream from NPR.

So I’m actually a little late on this one, but my preorder download opened up today and I was able to grab Sufjan Steven’s new album, The Age of Adz. It’s a bit of a doozy. Adding my impressions may be a bit redundant considering how many other sites have done this. You should probably read up on those too.

Firstly, the album’s bookended by traditional sounding Sufjan. Banjo, soft crooning, etc. This is a fairly bad indicator for the sound of the rest of the album, full of electronic beats and schizophrenic orchestration. Basically, if you expected the easy sweeping beauty of Illinois or Michigan, don’t expect to find it here for more than 4 minutes. The album, by the way is about 84.

There are also very few catchy songs, or even songs that are easy to sing along to. “Too Much” fills this niche well, thankfully and is the most openly catchy song on the album.

As for my actual impressions:

  • It’s an album you really have to hear.
  • If you had told me that one of my favorite parts of Sufjan’s new LP would be him singing in AutoTune, I might have reacted violently. That said, “Impossible Soul” may just be Sufjan’s magnum opus. Well, that might be going to far, but it’s definitely incredible and perhaps my favorite song by him.
  • “The Age of Adz” comes in a solid second though, for the album.
  • There are some missteps–the middle of the album simply isn’t as strong as its ends. “Futile Devices” to “I Walked” and “Vesuvius” to “Impossible Soul”, specifically.
  • Those middle songs aren’t bad, per se, though on first first listen they did drag for me.
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  • The album’s full of great lines, but the one that stuck out to me was “Though I know I will fail/I cannot be made to laugh.”
  • This album requires focus and isn’t well-made for casual listening, which is good and bad in itself. It’s perhaps his strongest artistic statement, but hard to place with his other works.
  • The definite highlights and favorites: “Too Much,” “The Age of Adz,” “Vesvius,” and “Impossible Soul.”
  • The Age of Adz is dense musically, for certain, but it’s also more focused and personal than almost anything else Sufjan’s put out. It’s easy to focus on the drastic departures Sufjan’s made from his States-project persona (“He uses AutoTune!” “He swears!”) but the sound isn’t that unexpected if you’ve been following his work. The electronic beats and rythms can be heard on Enjoy Your Rabbit and the orchestra sometimes sounds exactly ripped from The BQE. And while he might eschew the banjo and soft acoustics that made him an indie-darling, the lyrical poetry and songcraft is still definitely there. If you’re at all a fan of Sufjan, this album might be hard to get into immediately, but ultimately should be rewarding.
  • I can’t exactly recommend this as a day-one purchase to the casual listener who liked Illinois because it was pretty, because The Age of Adz decidedly isn’t. That said, the preorder may be the best $25 I’ve spent this year. Ultimately, you should buy it if you like “Too Much” and “I Walked,” because those are good steps in the door.
  • And really, this is an album worth its depth and density.

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