‘The Age of Adz’ | Sufjan Stevens
If Sufjan Stevens has an existential breakdown, and no one is there to hear it, does he really make twisted, electro-R&B jams? Thanks to “The Age of Adz,” we have an answer.
After announcing that he would not complete the Fifty States Project—a project in which Stevens stated he would release a titled album for every state in the country—Stevens went on hiatus for several years and suggested his growing disillusionment with music, only to return with the gloriously erratic “The Age of Adz.” Calling it a stylistic departure would be putting things lightly. Alas, there’s not a single banjo to be heard here. The instrumentation is a blend of immaculately lush orchestration, questionable sub-Postal Service beats and synth squelches that, to Stevens’ credit, works more often than not.
Stevens has done away with most of his signature preciousness, but in the process eliminated some of the emotional immediacy that made songs like “Casimir Pulaski Day” so heart-wrenching. This aesthetic experimentation culminates in the sprawling, 25-minute, auto-tuned “Impossible Soul,” which nearly reaches “Trapped in the Closet” levels of epic R&B insanity.
Sufjan is talented enough to make all of these dubious propositions worth your time. However, let’s hope this is more of an interesting misstep than it is a musical manifesto for future Sufjan Stevens albums.
For fans of: Belle & Sebasian, The Postal Service
Tracks to download: ‘Too Much,’ ‘The Age of Adz’