in Review

The Wonderful Land of Adz

Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Straight up, the only Sufjan Stevens album I ever listened to was Illinoise and in recent years even that has been reduced pretty much to just the track “Chicago.” For his part, he hasn’t really done a proper followup to that 2005 album, instead releasing lengthy EPs, bizarre experiments and collaborating with other artists (such as an appearance on the latest from The National). But now he’s put out The Age of Adz and called it the legitimate followup to Illinoise. It’s not named after a state, but does that mean Stevens can never achieve greatness again?

Normally it makes sense to talk about an album from the beginning, but I’d like to start discussing The Age of Adz with the last song. Called “Impossible Soul,” the track is 25 minutes long. Normally when you see something like that, it’s because there’s a bunch of silence then a hidden track tacked on. But Stevens has actually put together a little symphony to compliment the rest of his album. With a number of distinct movements, the song features everything from horns to auto-tuned vocals. In the age of playlists and a la carte music purchases, it’s incredibly brave to put something together like “Impossible Soul,” and that is probably the most remarkable feature of this package.

But it’s not just the last song that makes this album great. The whole album seems huge. I don’t know if any of these songs are going to be the next “Chicago,” but I have no doubt anyone could listen to The Age of Adz and find something they love. The way Stevens combines classical and electronic instrumentation is fun to listen to and he often lends emotional credibility to his songs. This has to be heard to be believed.

Like I said, I haven’t been following Sufjan Stevens for the last half decade, I don’t really know what the work he’s been putting out is like. What I do know is that this new album is kind of amazing, and will probably stay in my album rotation for a while. For an album that’s an hour and 15 minutes long, that’s pretty serious.

Favorite Tracks: “Too Much,” “All for Myself,” “Impossible Soul”