Age of Adz

The critically acclaimed Detroit-born artist Sufjan Stevens has long been a cult favourite and he has remained unwavering in his ability to produce high quality music. With his new album, The _Age of Adz_ Sufjan Stevens only consolidates this position in my mind, as with _Adz_ Stevens has immaculately pulled off another album of immense scope.

Taking elements of the banjo-laden, acoustic tracks of _Michigan_ and the orchestral grandeur of _Illinoise_ on _Adz_ Stevens mixes these elements with a myriad of electronic beats and synths – creating probably his most experimental album to date. _Age of Adz_ is very different to Stevens’ previous work so even though you can still pick out the rich orchestration of trumpets, violins, guitars, piano and the other instruments that have come to typify his music, but on _Adz_ they are often carefully layered or hidden behind an electronic haze. This dramatic change could shock some die-hard fans, but if you invest your time generously into listening then you will see the true beauty of the songs and arrangements.

Lyrically, Sufjan has taken a different approach to his previous albums – before, the emotion in the songs would be rooted in geographical or historical context, whereas in _Adz_ we tend to see the raw feeling untempered by context. This is neither enhancing nor depreciating to his music – it is just, perhaps, a hint as to how he is evolving and experimenting, how he is not willing to stay static for to long.

The first single ‘I Walked’ is an electronic, emotional lament with Sufjan’s gentle voice rising and falling over the beat. It’s catchy yet meaningful, each layer combining to drive the song gently forwards. However, this is just a taste of things to come, there are some album tracks which far surpass it. The title-track is a writhing, dramatic number where you see all of the usual orchestral components combining with heavy beats, cascading synths and a catchy chorus-sung hook. ‘I Want To Be Well’ maintains a swift tempo yet slowly builds into an emotional crescendo – the chorus repeating the title and Sufjan, as far as I know, swearing for the first time on a track : ‘I’m not f***ing around’. There is something so earnest about this that it seems to exude emotional charge. ‘Impossible Soul’, is a twenty-five-minute tour de force at the end of the album, which in many ways sums up the collection of songs on _Adz_ as a whole.

It may seem like a large investment at first, but you will find yourself more and more willing to return – each listen granting new revelations making any investment more than worth the effort.


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